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One Foot Down Game Day Countdown: Notre Dame vs. Purdue

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Purdue comes into this game struggling mightily as a football program.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

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Purdue (+28.5) at Notre Dame

Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana

Kickoff: 7:30 PM ET

Television: NBC

Series: 57-26-2 Notre Dame

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Here is the One Foot Down preview of this weekend's Shamrock Series game against Purdue.

5 Factoids

  • 2-13

At the end of the 2012 season the Boilermakers were defeated by Oklahoma State in their bowl game. They had already fired head coach Danny Hope after the last regular season game (a win over Indiana) and since that point Purdue is just 2-13 as a program.

  • 37.7 PPG

There's been a lot of attention on the quarterback and offensive problems at Purdue as of late but the defense has been quite poor since the beginning of last year, as well. Over the last 14 games the Boilers are giving up an average of 37.7 points per game and are coming off the first two games of 2014 in which they surrendered 30+ points to both Western Michigan and Central Michigan.

  • 0-1

Saturday marks the 86th game played between Purdue and Notre Dame in a long rivalry that stretches back to 1896. However, this will be only the second game of the series to be played at a neutral site away from either South Bend or West Lafayette. The Fighting Irish lost 23-21 to Purdue in 1984 when the game was played in the then-named Hoosier Dome, and soon to be called RCA Dome.

  • 289 Yards

A lot has been made about Notre Dame's inability to run the ball against Purdue over the last two seasons. What has been overshadowed in those discussions was how well of a passing performance Everett Golson had in 2012 against the Boilers in just his second career start, and first home game. Golson went 21 for 31 with 289 yards and a touchdown in his first meeting against Purdue. Those 289 yards are the the third most for Golson in a game over his career, behind his 346 yards against Wake Forest in 2012 and the 296 yards against Rice to open this season.

  • 25 Completions

Last year's game against Purdue was a clinic on how opponents could take advantage of Notre Dame's inability to play nickel and dime coverages against an offense willing to dink and dunk down the field. The 25 completions by Purdue's offense were the second most for a single game of theirs last season. Additionally, the 256 passing yards were the third most on the season for Purdue.

4 Players to Watch

  • QB Danny Etling or QB Austin Appleby

After an embarrassing loss to Central Michigan last week the Boilermakers find themselves in another quarterback controversy. Danny Etling (started last year against Notre Dame) is a true sophomore and has started the first 8 quarters for Purdue this season only to be benched in the middle of the 4th quarter last week when the team was down 31-10. Redshirt sophomore Austin Appleby came in and threw a touchdown pass on his first attempt but then finished the game going 6 for 17 with 55 yards and zero points. This week, head coach Darrell Hazell has not named a starting quarterback for the game against Notre Dame.

  • RB Raheem Mostert

The speedy native from Florida has been Purdue's kick returner for the past 4 seasons but has been stuck as a backup running back until this season. So far in 2014, he's taken nearly 70% of the running back carries and is third on the team with 6 receptions. Mostert had a breakout game in the opener (146 yards, 1 touchdown) but really struggled last week gaining only 53 yards on 19 carries against Central Michigan. Fellow senior Akeem Hunt has also been a factor in kick returns throughout his career and has totaled 1,173 rushing yards since 2011 but it appears Mostert has become the No. 1 back this year.

  • TE Justin Sinz

Purdue brings back a pair of fifth-year senior tight ends with experience. Gabe Holmes (50 career receptions) got off to a hot start last season but missed the last 10 games after breaking his wrist. In Holmes' absence last season Justin Sinz came through with a team-leading 41 receptions and is currently leading Purdue again this season with 10 receptions and 96 receiving yards.

  • DE Ryan Russell

A couple of seasons ago Ryan Russell looked like a budding star and next in line for Purdue's annual "Defensive Lineman Who Dominates and is Drafted Highly by the NFL." Now a fifth-year senior, Russell hasn't been as productive since a few productive veterans have graduated and the program has struggled replacing the talent around him. His tackles for loss and sack numbers were down from his sophomore to junior campaigns. Still, Russell has 100 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks during his career. If there is an impact defender this weekend for Purdue odds are it'll be Russell.

3 Concerns

  • Classic Let Down Game

This isn't exactly a trap game but it has potential to have some let down flavor. Notre Dame is coming off an emotionally charged win over a rival and the biggest win over Michigan ever. They'll travel to Indianapolis for the game which could offer a fresh environment to stay focused or it could offer many distractions. If this is a very good Irish team they should take care of business quite swiftly this weekend.

  • Struggles Running the Ball

Last year Purdue famously shut down the Irish running game (91 yards on 37 carries) and focused on taking that aspect away from the Notre Dame offense while leading 10-3 at halftime. However, the Irish made some adjustments and that allowed Tommy Rees to go 12 for 16 with 217 yards and 2 touchdowns as ND scored 28 points in the second half to win the game. I would be shocked if this Purdue teams holds Notre Dame under 100 yards rushing but I suppose stranger things have happened.

  • Turnovers

Notre Dame is one of 8 teams across the country who have not turned the ball over yet through 2 games played. The other teams include Kentucky, UTEP, Akron, Northern Illinois, Washington, Arizona, and Duke. This has allowed the Irish to be in a tie nationally for first place in turnover margin at +6 so far this season. Simply put, if Notre Dame protects the ball they win. If not, strange things can happen.

2 Sides of the Line

The Purdue offensive line is fairly young and inexperienced. Center Robert Kugler (6-3, 298) is a redshirt junior and has started every game dating back to the beginning of 2012. The rest of starters are all redshirt sophomores. At left tackle Cameron Cermin (6-5, 303) is in his first year seeing the field. At left guard Jason King (6-4, 309) made 5 starts last season and is holding down his position. At right guard Jordan Roos (6-4, 312) made 6 starts last year and is back on the interior. Finishing things off at right tackle is J.J. Prince (6-6, 302) who is in his first year as a starter.

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On the defensive line we already mentioned Ryan Russell (6-5, 273) as an impact player. He's being backed up by sophomore Evan Panfil (6-5, 251) who made one start last year and has just 1 tackle in 2014. At defensive tackle sophomore Jake Replogle (6-5, 269) has moved into the starting position after playing a little bit last year in a backup role and has notched 6 tackles and 1 tackle for loss so far in 2014. Behind him is redshirt junior Michael Rouse (6-4, 314) who made 2 starts last year. At nose tackle sophomore Ra'Zahn Howard (6-3, 323) is starting after playing sparingly last year but Purdue's top-ranked recruit on the roster in redshirt sophomore Ryan Watson (6-2, 291) plays a lot and has 2 sacks already this year. Also worth mentioning is senior Jalani Phillips (6-4, 265) who is playing Purdue's hybrid pass-rushing linebacker role in their 3-4 defense.

1 Prediction

There was hope that Purdue would be improved, possibly by a significant amount, over last year's abysmal 1-11 season. After two games that does not appear to be the case. This team gave up 34 points to a Western Michigan team that went 1-11 themselves last year, and the Boilers followed that up with their first loss to a MAC team (by 21 points, no less) since 2010.

Offensively, there should be some improvement this year with 7 starters back. The offensive line is a little unproven but has only given up 2 sacks through 2 games which is fine. However, when you've averaged less than 5 yards per carry against MAC competition the run blocking may not be that great. The quarterback troubles have a lot to do with their woes on offense as Purdue hasn't had a legitimate starter since Curtis Painter over a half decade ago.

Football Outsiders' Advanced Stats for Week 3

STAT IRISH BOILERS
S&P 15 117
S&P OFFENSE 29 96
S&P DEFENSE 20 109
F/+ 12 112
FEI 10 111
GE 5 78

So, if Purdue was able to get frisky quarterback play (see last year) they might be able to punch above their weight on offense. Seeing as though there is a quarterback controversy right now and neither player is giving Purdue any confidence it's pretty unlikely their offense has a good day. Plus, there won't be 255 pound Irish linebackers trying to cover tailbacks out of the backfield or slot receivers on crossing routes.

Defensively this could be a very long day for Purdue. For years they've relied on a strong defensive line and that advantage is no longer. The fact that the Boilers gave up nearly 6 yards per play to a couple MAC teams and surrendered almost 400 rushing yards in two games is a major concern.

The spread is rather large, particularly for this in-state rivalry. Since Lou Holtz left South Bend only the 2005 (49-28) and 2011 (38-10) games saw the Irish win by at least 20 points. This also has the feeling of a game where Notre Dame could drop half a hundred but even that has only happened twice (1983, 1988) in history, as well. I'll predict not quite a massive offensive explosion but a strong enough effort for the cover.

Notre Dame 48

Purdue 13

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