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Head to Head: Purdue vs. Notre Dame

| Thursday, September 11, 2014



As of Wednesday, Purdue had not decided who would be its starting quarterback. Sophomore quarterbacks Danny Etling and Austin Appleby got equal snaps during practice, according to Purdue coach Darrell Hazell. Etling, who has started nine consecutive games dating back to last season, completed 55.8 percent of his passes as a true freshman in 2013.

Etling was pulled in the fourth quarter of last week’s game, a 38-17 loss to Central Michigan. He went 17-for-32 for 126 yards and threw two interceptions. Appleby relieved Etling for his second career appearance and fired a 23-yard touchdown strike but finished only 7-for-17 for 78 yards.

Combined on the season, Etling and Appleby have a completion percentage of 49 percent.

The Boilermakers are not shy when it comes to throwing the ball, averaging 43.5 attempts per game and 192 passing yards.

Notre Dame’s pass defense still has some work to do, but the young Irish looked solid in the secondary against Michigan. Cornerbacks Cody Riggs and Cole Luke shouldn’t have significant issues on the outside while Matthias Farley and the Irish safeties have been successful ranging all over the field and making open-field tackles.




Senior running back Raheem Mostert has burst onto the scene to start the season, rushing for 199 yards through two games. In his first three seasons, Mostert tallied just 230 yards on the ground.

Mostert has breakaway speed. He won the Big Ten Championship in the indoor 60-meter and 200-meter dashes and was a second-team All-American in the 100-meter dash. His 10.15-second 100-meter dash was the fastest track time by a football player last season.

Fellow senior Akeem Hunt posted 78 yards on 15 carries in the season-opener against Western Michigan.

Both Mostert and Hunt bring dynamism to the Boilermakers offense. But how will the rushing attack fare against a Notre Dame defense that, for the most part, stymied Michigan? Purdue averaged less than four yards per carry against Central Michigan.




Boilermakers offensive coordinator John Shoop drew praise from Irish head coach Brian Kelly on Tuesday for his experience and success last year in “scheming up” Notre Dame. Kelly pointed to Shoop’s success against Notre Dame’s bracket coverage in the red zone.

Saturday, however, presents a new range of challenges for Shoop and the Boilermakers. Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has multiple looks ready to deploy against Purdue, and Notre Dame likely will keep adding to its arsenal throughout the season.




Kicker Paul Griggs has drilled four of five field goals this season, including a 51-yarder against Western Michigan and two from at least 40 yards out.

Punter Thomas Meadows has averaged only 37.7 yards on nine punts, but Ian MacDougall has been booming his kickoffs. Mostert and Hunt are always threats in the kick-return game, and Frankie Williams returned two punts for a combined 63 yards last weekend.

Notre Dame’s coverage units, however, have been improving. Purdue will aim to control field position against the Irish better than Rice and Michigan did through the first two contests.

         EDGE: EVEN



Aug. 30   Western Michigan (W 43-34)
Sept. 6      Central Michigan (L 38-17)                  

Sept. 13    vs. Notre Dame        

Sept. 20   Southern Illinois                  

Sept. 27    Iowa                                      

Oct. 4        @ Illinois                  

Oct. 11      Michigan State                        

Oct. 18      @ Minnesota

Nov. 1       @ Nebraska

Nov. 8       Wisconsin

Nov. 22    Northwestern

Nov. 29           @ Indiana



Everett Golson has proven himself through the first two games of the season, completing 66.1 percent of his passes for 521 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. His accuracy has been particularly noteworthy, as he delivers a variety of passes with precision to his receivers.

Speaking of those targets, receivers Will Fuller and Amir Carlisle posted strong performances against Michigan. Fuller followed up his 85-yard showing in the season opener with nine catches for 89 yards and a score against the Wolverines. Carlisle hauled in seven grabs — two touchdowns — for 61 yards.

There’s still a wealth of options beyond those two, with C.J. Prosise, Corey Robinson, Chris Brown and tight end Ben Koyack factoring into the receiving game so far.

It’s difficult to envision Purdue’s defensive backs — experienced as they might be — hanging with Notre Dame’s passing attack all night. Kelly said Purdue’s secondary likes to play aggressively, often opting for tight coverage on the perimeter. Kelly said the same thing about Michigan last week, and Golson, Fuller, Carlisle and company were able to torch the Wolverines secondary on multiple occasions.




One of the only aspects of Notre Dame’s entire squad that didn’t click against Michigan was the rushing attack. The Irish were limited to 54 yards on 31 attempts (1.7 yards per carry).

Still, Kelly wasn’t too concerned with the struggles on the ground following the game. The head coach cited Michigan’s propensity to stack the box, and the Irish continued going to the ground despite the loaded fronts. Kelly certainly showed a commitment to the running game, which could indicate Notre Dame will look to stay balanced even if Golson continues to pick apart defenses through the air.

Kelly also noted Purdue’s strong performance stifling the Irish ground game in last year’s matchup. Notre Dame amassed only 91 yards on its 37 carries (2.5 yards per attempt). Seniors Ryan Russell and Jalani Phillips control the defensive end spots for the Boilermakers. If these two can hold the edge, Purdue could have success forcing the Irish between the tackles, toward linebackers like fifth-year seniors Sean Robinson and Joe Gilliam.




Notre Dame’s offense has been impressive and explosive through two games, and there likely still is more in the Irish repertoire. Notre Dame hasn’t called too many designed runs or zone reads for Golson, and these options could open up another dimension of the playbook.

Boilermakers defensive coordinator Greg Hudson will have his hands full Saturday night. Kelly said Hudson and his unit gave the Irish “fits” in 2013, and Notre Dame didn’t come together offensively until the fourth quarter when it posted 21 points en route to the come-from-behind victory.




Notre Dame’s special teams have improved mightily in just two games, to the point that Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell praised this third of Notre Dame’s squad and called it a well-balanced group in general.

As long as Kyle Brindza remains steady, the kick- and punt-coverage units stay fast and hungry and Cody Riggs and Greg Bryant keep making men miss when returning punts, Notre Dame has turned its special teams into a definitive strength.




Aug. 30     Rice (W 48-17)              

Sept. 6      Michigan (W 31-0)                   

Sept. 13    vs. Purdue                 

Sept. 27    Syracuse

Oct. 4        Stanford                                 

Oct. 11      North Carolina                                 

Oct. 18      @ Florida State                        

Nov. 1       vs. Navy                     

Nov. 8       @ Arizona State

Nov. 15    Northwestern

Nov. 22    Louisville

Nov. 29           @ USC

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