Boilermakers excited for the challenge, look to pass attack for upset
Colin Capece | Friday, September 17, 2021
Both Notre Dame and Purdue head into Saturday’s matchup at Notre Dame Stadium sitting at 2-0, but the Irish certainly haven’t played like the Boilermakers have. Notre Dame has escaped with a pair of three-point victories that resulted from a missed field goal in overtime and a final-minute game-winning drive. The Boilermakers, on the other hand, have used their early non-conference slate of games to pick up steam heading into this showdown with the Irish. Purdue overpowered Oregon State 30-21 in their opener and shutout UConn 49-0 last week.
Despite the Irish looking far from dominant to start the season, Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm isn’t discounting Notre Dame’s pedigree as he prepares his team to face its first ranked opponent of the season.
“It’s a great opportunity, and our guys are looking forward to going out and cutting it loose against a proven, veteran playoff football team,” Brohm said in a press conference Monday.
“They’ve proven they can play at a high level,” he added. “They’ve had to work for their last two wins, which from their standpoint really is a good thing because it gives them a chance to see the few things they need to work on to get better. They found a way to win and that’s what winning football teams do.”
Purdue will head into Saturday’s game touting a potent passing attack led by quarterback Jack Plummer. The junior from Gilbert, Arizona, has thrown for more than 550 yards in two games and has yet to turn the ball over. Brohm seems to like where the passing game is at, but he acknowledged that the explosiveness has to continue against a strong defense on the road.
“We’ve got a lot to prove still, but we’ve been able to execute in the passing game. Creating big plays is a big part of our offense, whether that’d be throwing it over the top or a screen, or sometimes a run that we surprise with at times,” he said. “We want to make sure that it’s not all on the quarterback and that all of the skill positions get involved as well. It’s just about executing. The fact that we haven’t turned the ball over in two games is great. We’ve done a good job of doing the small things to help us move the ball down the field.”
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly explained that limiting Plummer will be crucial to the game plan and that the secondary will be tested if the Irish will get picked apart if coverage breaks down the way it did at times against Toledo.
“[Plummer] is so accurate but if you try to get too aggressive, he can put the ball over your head,” Kelly said. “He’s got great receivers and tight ends to throw to. We can’t just line up and play man the whole game. We have to do some things to disrupt him, give him multiple looks and throw off his timing with the pass rush.”
Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman hasn’t been shy about dialing up the heat late in the fourth quarter through Notre Dame’s first two games, and the Purdue offensive line may have to handle some extra rushers when the game is on the line. The Irish have gotten to the quarterback consistently so far, picking up 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Brohm spoke about the challenge his offensive line faces this weekend.
“We’re facing a real front four on the defensive line,” he said. “The first thing you notice when you watch them on film is that they can get off blocks and play hard. This will be a huge test for us to see how we stack up. We’ll have to figure out how to get the job done in the trenches but have some creativity with our offense if we’re not getting the push that we want.”
The Irish have had their own challenges along the offensive line, losing starting left tackle Blake Fisher for at least two months to a knee injury he suffered against Florida State. His backup Michael Carmody also may not be at full throttle on Saturday after an ankle sprain against Toledo. Kelly affirmed his confidence in his unit but spoke briefly about how the Irish offensive scheme will focus more on providing support in pass protection.
“We’re playing our best five right now, but the load on those young players [on the offensive line] is a lot,” he said. “You’re going to see more of a rotation inside with our guard to help the left tackle. He’ll also get help from our backs and tight ends. The protection is moving that way.”
Notre Dame has played Purdue more than any other school except for USC and Navy, but this is the first meeting between the two schools since 2014. The Irish lead the all-time series 56-26-2. Brohm described the anticipation that has built around this in-state tilt and expressed his excitement for the challenge ahead.
“I’ve heard it for the last six months from our fans that they’re excited to go up to Notre Dame to watch us play,” he said. “I respect the tradition at Notre Dame, and it’s a special place for a lot of people. We want to get this game going again in the next 5 to 7 years. It’s a great opportunity for our kids to play against a recent top-four program in the country. I know our guys are jacked up about playing against this high-caliber team.”