The Irish will bus down south to West Lafayette to take on the Purdue Boilermakers for the third night contest ever between the two teams at Ross-Ade Stadium. The night game kickoff is slated for 8:06 PM EST. This game marks the 83rd renewal of the interstate rivalry that began in 1886. The rivalry ties USC for the second longest continuous series. The game is played for the Shillelagh Trophy. The weather forecast is for low of 42 degrees, partly cloudy, and with a 10% chance of rain.
The Irish lead in the series by a 54-26-2 advantage. At home the Irish are up 28-11-0 and are 26-15-0 away from South Bend. Of note is that the Irish have only played at Ross-Ade Stadium, which opened in 1924, since 1947. At Ross-Ade the Irish are 20-12-0 although since 1981 Notre Dame only has a 9-6 advantage in the home of the Boilermakers.
Last year the Irish defeated the Boilermakers in South Bend 23-12 in the season opener and the inaugural game in the tenure of Irish coach Brian Kelly making the Irish mentor 1-0 versus Purdue in his career.
The Boilermakers of Purdue, a charter member of the Big Ten and a member of the Leaders Division, are headed by third year head coach Danny Hope. Hope’s overall head coaching record is 46-38 which includes a five year stint as the head man at Eastern Kentucky where he was 35-22. At Purdue Hope is 11-16 and is 2-1 this season. Last season, beset by injuries, the Boilermakers finished 4-8 as Hope had to start four different quarterbacks, lost his leading runner before the season, and lost his leading receiver during the season. Hope is 0-2 versus the Irish.
A college coach since 1985, Hope’s resume includes assistant stops at Louisville, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Purdue, and at Louisville again prior to the Eastern Kentucky job. Hope was primarily an offensive line coach during his days as an assistant.
The Boilermakers enter the contest after an off week. Prior to being off they have defeated Middle Tennessee 27-24 and Southeastern Missouri State 59-0 at home while losing to Rice on the road 24-22.
Against Middle Tennessee the Boilermakers went ahead with forty-nine seconds to go in the game but had to block a 47 yard field goal as time expired to assure the win and avoid overtime. In a touch of payback by the football gods the following week, in the loss to Rice, Purdue had a game winning field goal blocked as time expired. The following week the Boilermakers annihilated Missouri State leading into the week off.
Purdue enters this game after an off week which they devoted to preparing for the Irish. Off week teams often use the time to go back to the drawing board or stress fundamentals, but the Boilermakers worked on the schemes for Notre Dame.
The Boilermakers run a spread offense similar to Pittsburgh in that the coaching staff favors the run. The Boilermakers are the 19th ranked team offensively averaging 441 yards per game, 11th in rushing at 259 yards per game, and 73rd passing at 212 yards per game. They score an average of 36 points per game to rank 33rd.
Purdue is 59th in third down conversion efficiency making 19 out of 44 third downs for 43 %. The Boilermakers have given up 1 interception, 2 lost fumbles, and have allowed 8 sacks. In time of possession the Boilermakers are 53rd averaging 33:23 per contest.
In the Red Zone Purdue is ranked 67th with 14 scores on 17 drives consisting of 8 rushing TDs, 3 passing TDs, and 3 FGs.
Purdue’s Projected Staring Lineup and Major Contributors
QB #19 Caleb TerBush, 6-5, 225, RS junior, 4 games, 3 starts
RB #23 Ralph Bolden, 5-9, 190, RS junior, 23 games, 14 starts
RB #24 Akeem Shaver, 5-11, 203, junior, 3 games, 1 start
FB #25 Brandon Cottom, 6-4. 255, freshman, 1 game, 0 starts
WR #4 O. J. Ross, 5-10, 192, sophomore, 11 games, 7 starts
WR #13 Antavian Edison, 5-11, 175, junior, 20 games, 7 starts
WR #2 Justin Stiller, 6-4, 215, RS senior, 17 games, 10 starts
TE #82 Crosby Wright, 6-3, 248, RS junior, 15 games, 2 starts
LT #68 Dennis Kelly, 6-8, 306, senior, 32 games, 27 starts
LG #67 Peters Drey, 6-6, 310, RS junior, 27 games, 15 starts
C #76 Rick Schmeig, 6-3, 320, RS junior, 15 games, 6 starts
RG #62 Nick Mondek, 6-5, 307, RS senior, 28 games, 15 starts
RT #51 Justin Kitchens, 6-4, 275, RS sophomore, 11 games, 3 starts
Purdue’s offensive continuity has been set back these past two seasons by having to use five starting quarterbacks in less than a calendar year. Last year’s starter against the Irish, Robert Marve, tore his ACL and had surgery last season and is still recovering, although he saw action in a mop up role last week. His replacement at starting quarterback last season, Rob Henry, tore his ACL the last week of August. Enter Caleb TerBush as the starter for 2011. TerBush is in his fourth year at Purdue, but has only played in four career games and started only three games.
Caleb TerBush wasn’t the Boilermaker’s starter until late August when Rob Henry went down with his ACL injury. TerBush is 51-81-1 for 63%, 3 TDs, a long of 35 yards, and a passer rating of 129.34 which ranks him 67th in the FBS. TerBush can run well enough to affect the outcome of the game. Eliminating his sacks TerBush has rushed for 145 yards for an average of 7.6 yards per carry, 1 TD, and a longest run of 29 yards. TerBush sat out last year for academic ineligibility. So far this season TerBush hasn’t shown he’s easily rattled and has gained both self-confidence and command of the offense as the season has progressed.
Should TerBush go down or perform badly the Boilermakers would likely go with the experienced Robert Marve, over their listed backup Sean Robinson. Marve did run once against Southeast Missouri, showing his old speed, and also passed effectively going 7-8-0 for 88%, 1 Td, and a longest pass of 26 yards. Marve, who was named by convicted Ponzi scheme criminal, Neven Shapiro, as a recipient of improper benefits while at Miami played because Purdue was told by the NCAA that the organization found no issues with his eligibility. Marve declined any requests for interviews after the game.
Hope has hinted about a rotation Saturday of the two quarterbacks while insisting TerBush is the starter. Whether this is a ploy to burden Notre Dame’s preparation or a reality remains to be seen. He does state they are both ready to play.
Ralph Bolden #23 is back from his knee injury that caused him to miss all of 2010. He’s gained 223 yards on 39 carries for an average of 5.7 yards per carry, 2 TDs, and a longest run of 25 yards. Bolden is fast enough, tough, and runs well inside. He finishes his runs well. He hasn’t caught a pass all year, but he’ a very good receiver out of the backfield. Bolden didn’t start the last game for academic reasons, missing the first quarter, but he rushed for 57 yards on 11 carries. Bolden is the best blocker they have at running back.
JUCO transfer Akeem Shavers #24 is the second leading rusher for the Boilermakers with 186 yards on 29 carries for 6.4 yards per carry, 3 TDs, and a longest run of 43 yards. He’s caught one pass for 7 yards. Shavers is quick and physical. He’s been a very good pickup for Purdue.
Freshman #11 Akeem Hunt, who had offers to top programs such as Auburn, Wisconsin,and South Carolina, has a 9.3 yard average and 3 TDs on 6 carries. Against Southeast Missouri the three true freshmen Akeem Hunt, Brandon Cottom and Raheem Mostert totaled 18 carries for 158 yards, 8.7 yards per carry average, and two TDs. It was the college debut for all three backs.
Fullback Jared Crank is doubtful for Saturday’s game and if the fullback is used it’ll most likely be freshman # 25Brandon Cottom. Cottom has 7 carries for a 10 yard average, 0 TDs, and a longest run of 27 yards. He has no receptions, but Purdue does run the fullback and does throw to him evidenced by Crank’s 2 pass receptions.
The leading Purdue receiver statistically is #2 Justin Siller. Siller, a big receiver at 6-4, 215, comes into the contest with 14 receptions for an average of 9.9 yards, no TDs, and a longest reception of 31 yards. Siller was a former quarterback and running back. He can get deep and Purdue lulls defenses by using him on underneath routes and then going up top.
The highest yards per catch average goes to #13 Antavian Edison, Purdue’s best receiver. Edison, despite his size, is a physical receiver who has also played running back while at Purdue and still runs like one after the catch. He has 6 receptions for a 22.8 yard average, 1 TD, and a longest of 35 yards. Edison is also a threat on reverses. This year he has run the ball 8 times for an average of 4.5 yards, 1 TD, and a long of 13 yards.
Explosive is the word used for #4 O. J. Ross by Purdue observers and he has 11 receptions for a 10.1 yard average, 0 TDs, and a long of 28 yards.
Speedster #6 Gary Bush has 8 receptions for a 5.1 yard average, 1 TD, and a long of 12 yards.
Tight end #82, Crosby Wright, a former walk-on, has 6 receptions for a 13.3 yard average, 1 TD, and a long of 19 yards.
Massive guard 6-7, 358 pound Ken Plue, a veteran of 28 starts, is in the coach’s doghouse for academic and physical reasons. He hasn’t played at all this year. That puts a crimp in the unit that was supposed to be Purdue’s strength this season as the Boilermakers big guys were ranked by some pundits ahead of their Nebraska and Michigan State counterparts.
The all important left tackle is #68 Dennis Kelly, a former tight end, who has filled out considerably in the last two seasons. His wingspan alone makes him tough to get around for speed rushers and he makes it tougher by using good fundamentals. Kelly, last year’s Purdue MVP, has had problems with the bull rush when the opponent has some size behind it. He’s a good run blocker.
The right tackle is #51 Justin Kitchens who made the move from the defensive line to tackle during spring ball this year.
The Purdue offensive line’s right guard is #62 Nick Mondek, a former defensive end who played right tackle last year, is quick on his feet, and is a tough run blocker. Mondek brings a defensive lineman’s attitude to the mix.
Last year’s honorable mention Big Ten center has moved to left guard. #67 Peters Drey is known to be freakishly strong and a potential pro prospect at guard or center. This year’s center, #76 Rick Schmeig, was last year’s backup at guard and the team’s most improved offensive lineman. Schmeig is quick for his size. Offensive coordinator, Shawn Clark feels Drey and Schmeig are interchangeable and both will see snaps in the middle this year.
Offensive coordinator Gary Nord likes reverses and end-around plays. He also likes the halfback pass and has used both since coming to Purdue. Note that Siller is a former quarterback.
DE #2 Gerald Gooden, 6-4, 235, FS senior, 39 games, 29 starts
NG #93 Kawann Short, 6-3, 310, junior, 27 games, 27 starts
DT #90 Bruce Gaston, sophomore, 6-2, 303, 15 games, 13 starts
DE #99 Ryan Russell, 6-5, 264, RS freshman, 3 games, 3 starts
LB #30 Joe Holland, 6-1, 229, RS senior, 39 games, 38 starts
LB #47 Chris Carlino, 6-2, 226, senior, 38 games, 18 starts
LB #45 Will Lucas, 5-11, 226, sophomore, 15 games, 5 starts
NB #1 Normando Harris, 6-0, 180, sophomore, 9 games, 4 starts
CB #21 Ricardo Allen, 5-9, 176, sophomore, 15 games, 15 starts
CB #28 Josh Johnson, 5-11, 195, junior, 26 games, 13 starts
SS #35 Logan Link, 6-1, 208, RS senior, 15 games, 12 starts
FS #32, Albert Evans, 6, 208, senior, 36 games, 13 starts
Purdue is ranked 33rd in total defense, four places above the Irish, giving up 322 yards per game. Against the run they are 36th at 109 yards per game and 60th against the pass allowing 213 yards per game. Purdue is allowing an average of only 16 points a game which ranks them in 20th place.
The Boilermakers are 60th in stopping third down plays allowing 19 conversions on 50 attempts for a 38% opponent success rate. They have picked off 2 passes, pounced on 1 fumble, and have 4 sacks.
In the Red Zone they are ranked last at 114th with Boise State allowing 5 scores on 5 drives inside their twenty on 2 passes for TDs, 2 rushing TDs, and 1 FG. Somehow the fact that all opponents have only been inside your twenty 5 times all season should place you higher than last place, even if they scored all five times. Conversely, the Irish have permitted 10 of 13 drives to score and they’re ranked 37th. That’s a stat that needs to be reconfigured as the Boilermakers are tied with a pretty good defensive team in Boise State so it’s not real indicative of any defensive prowess.
Purdue runs a base 4-3, but this year they do it without Ryan Kerrigan roaming the defensive line. Last year the Boilermaker’s All American had 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for losses. That’s a big hole to fill.
Last season Purdue faced Notre Dame with four new starters in their secondary. They are all back this season. The biggest problem the Boilermakers have had this season is giving up a lot of yards on passes over the middle of the field in the first two games. Purdue has been experimenting on some things defensively, but that stopped for their last game. Coach Hope blamed the opponents’ successes piling up yards in the middle on too many mistakes being made in missing assignments. So far this season the Boilermakers haven’t been beaten over the top, but they’ve been getting killed on just about everything underneath that goes over the middle.
With Kerrigan gone the star of the defensive line is nose guard#93 Kawann Short who had statistics half as good as Kerrigan last year with 6 sacks and 12.5 tackles for losses. That’s not bad for a nose guard. This season he has 18 tackles, 7 solos, 3.5 tackles for losses, and half a sack.
The tackle is #90 Bruce Gaston who when paired with Short puts over six hundred pounds of run stuffing mass across the interior of the line of scrimmage.
After Short sacks and tackles for losses there’s a big drop off in production where the other three starters have only 5 tackles for losses and no sacks. At defensive end #2 Gerald Gooden is athletic, but small at 235 pounds and I expect he’ll see a lot of run action this week. Gooden has 9 tackles and 7 solos.
The leader of the linebacking corps is #30 Joe Holland. Holland, a former safety, leads the Boilermakers in tackles with 27 tackles, 18 solos, 1.5 for losses, 2 passes broken up, and 2 passes defended. Holland reads well, runs well, and is the best linebacker in pass coverage probably more for his smarts than his wheels.
#3 Dwayne Beckford had been touted by many to become the best linebacker on the team this season, but he has been surpassed as the projected starter by # 47 Chris Carlino who brings a steadiness and experience over the more athletic Beckford. Never the less, Purdue has gotten 21 tackles, 10 solos, 1 for loss, 3 passes broken up, and 4 passes defended out of the position by the two players.
Will Lucas # 45 rounds out the starters as the second leading tackler for Purdue. Lucas has 21 tackles, 16 solos, 2 for loses, .5 sacks, 1 pass broken up, and 1 pass defended.
Albert Evans #32 at free safety leads Purdue’s secondary unit in tackles with 16 tackles, 12 solos, 1 pass broken up, and 1 pass defended. The former linebacker often seems like a linebacker in coverage instead of a free safety.
Strong safety #35 Logan Link excels against the run. The former walk-on is a big hitter, but has problems when the ball is in the air. Banged up early in the year he was back to starting for the third game.
Small and fast, but a fierce hitter and a physical player, is corner Ricardo Allen who led Purdue with 3 INTs last year in his baptismal-by-fire freshman season. He’s the best corner on the Purdue side of the ball. His ability to cover one on one allows the Boilermakers more latitude in coming into the box to help plug the run. However, that man coverage should be against Notre Dame’s less heralded receivers as I don’t think Purdue wants him one on one against Michael Floyd. Especially at 5-9.
At the other corner is #28 Josh Johnson, a former wide receiver. Johnson isn’t as physical as Allen, but he doesn’t avoid contact either. He had 9 tackles, 6 solos, 1 for a loss, 2 passes broken up, 2 passes defended.
Purdue Special Teams
The Boilermakers’ place kicker is #37 Carson Wiggs and he’s a long field goal threat, a very long field goal threat. Wiggs kicked 5 FGs in the Purdue spring game and three were over fifty yards at 52, 57, and 67 yards. The biggie, the 67 yarder, would have tied the NCAA mark had it been in a regular season or bowl game. All the more remarkable is that Wiggs, like all kickers today, doesn’t get to use the tee that the three tied for record used in the late seventies. True, Wiggs had no rush and no game day pressure, but the threat is there. This season Wiggs is 5 of 7 for 71%. He’s 2 of 2 from 20-29 yards, 0 of 2 from 30-39 yards, 1 of 1 from 40-49 yards, and 1 of 1 from 50 yards. He’s had one field goal blocked which cost the Boilermakers the Rice game. He’s 13 of 13 on extra points.
Wiggs also does the kicking off averaging 69 yards per kick on his 21 kickoffs this season. He has 10 touchbacks and 1 out of bounds kick. Opponents have returned 10 kickoffs for an average of 23 yards per return and a longest of 40 yards. That ranks the Boilermakers kick return defense 79th among FBS schools.
Purdue’s punting is done by #42 Cody Webster who is averaging 49.8 yards per punt. His 10 punts have resulted in 5 inside the twenty, 7 over 50 yards, and a long of 58 yards. Purdue opponents have returned 6 punts for a 10.5 yard average and a long of 31 yards which ranks them 85th in the FBS.
The leading punt returner for Perdue is #3 Waynelle Gravesande who has returned 7 punts for a 10.9 yard average and a long of 31 yards.
The kick returners for the Boilermakers are # 4 O. J. Ross and # 27 T. J. Barbarette. Ross has 6 returns for an average of 24.5 yards per return and a long of 41 yards. Barbarette has 2 returns for an average of 23.5 yards and a long of 26 yards.
Pittsburgh showed Notre Dame’s opponent’s how to slow the Irish offense down. Double up on Michael Floyd, disguise coverage till the last second, and bring pressure from all over the lot. Can Purdue emulate Pittsburgh? If they do it would be uncharacteristic of defensive coordinator Gary Emanuel, but I expect a dialing up of the Purdue blitz packages.
Kelly has had a week to prepare for such a defensive scheme. Question is can Rees, his receivers, and the offensive line handle a similar scheme any better this week?
Rees has gotten away with several “almost interceptions” or his turnovers would be astronomical, if not FBS record setting. Almost interceptions can turn into the real thing if he keeps tempting the football gods. He’s got to get the ball off sooner and throw it away more often realizing he doesn’t have a gun and can’t make every play.
The criticism in the face of last week’s offensive performance has flown high and hard this week. Has it inflamed the player’s wrath?
Purdue hasn’t played anyone, Notre Dame has. Boilermaker opponents this year are 1-8 while Irish opponents are 13-3 and all of the Irish opponents were FBS schools.
Coaches always talk about the importance of preparation. A Hope quote this week: “When it’s all said and done, we’ll have practiced and prepared twice as much for the game.” Will that work out to Purdue’s advantage?
Offensive Game Keys
The mental part of the game looms large the rest of the season. Has Coach Kelly and his offensive staff prepped the players for the type of pressure that Pittsburgh brought defensively? I know if I’m Purdue defensive coordinator Gary Emanuel, after watching the tape of last week’s game, I’m coming after Rees, pressing the receivers, and varying the blitzes to confuse the offensive line.
Will Rees be better on his reads and checks versus an attacking defense? Will the receivers be better schooled in reading the blitz and adjusting their routes as called for by Kelly’s system? Will the offensive linemen be better in recognizing what’s coming and adapting to meet it?
Notre Dame needs to continue to run the ball, perhaps even more than they have. Jonas Gray must get more carries. One, he’s earned them. Two, Cierre Wood is more of a thoroughbred than a workhorse and I’d like to see him healthy come Stanford. He, like any starting running back, takes a beating every game and I’m concerned he might wear down as the season progresses. Only thirty-seven carries remain this season and he exceeds the total of his entire 2010 carries.
Stop Purdue’s running game. The Irish did so and won last year.
Tackle well. Notre Dame has done so for the most part all season. Limit yards after the catch. No reason to stop now.
Know where #13 Antavian Edison is at all times.
No cheap touchdowns. Almost always a what-if-scenario if the game is close.
Keep Wiggs far away from field goal opportunities.
Special Teams Keys
No penalties. No returns. No poor punts. Not exactly like the days of the Rocket and Hunter the Punter are they?
Like I said Purdue hasn’t played anyone in three games and Notre Dame has every week.
Still it’s Purdue and the results of the Notre Dame-Purdue game have broken my heart more than once over the years. I wish I was there this week. I’ve never been at a live game where the Irish lost to Purdue and that dates back to Montana’s senior year.
Irish 31 Purdue 17
No major blow out? Nope. And I don’t think there will be many blowouts against traditional rivals until Notre Dame has 9-10 NFL draftees in the same year as opposed to the more recent trends like six draftees over three years. Heck, Notre Dame lost to Tulsa and Navy just last year. The talent is up, but it just isn’t up to Notre Dame’s past legacy.