Our friends over at Hammer and Rails (not the ones that called me a pompous ass — but the other ones) reached out for a little Q&A about this season’s game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Purdue Boilermakers. You can check out my answers to Travis Miller’s thoughtful questions RIGHT HERE.
So... here are the 6 most pressing issues on my mind when it comes to Notre Dame vs Purdue:
1. Outside of searching for Rondale Moore highlights and rewatching Urban Meyer have a total breakdown against Purdue — I haven’t paid all that close attention to the program. Can you catch me up on where the Boilers are in 2021 after our 6 year hiatus?
Well, when I said “mostly competitive” in my original Q&A with you about our last few games I consider a game where Purdue scored in the first half and it wasn’t definitively over, like in 2014 in Indy, as “mostly competitive” and probably one of the highlights of the Darrell Hazell years. You basically missed out on free wins in 2015 and 2016, as the Hazell era was just really, really bad. Jeff Brohm came along in 2017 and immediately gave us a 7 win season and a bowl win. We then paid a lot of money to keep him, got a solid year of Rondale Moore, absolutely pantsed Ohio State on national TV (always fun), and have not done a ton since.
The 2019 and 2020 seasons were very frustrating. In 2019 we lost Moore and starting QB Elijah Sindelar for the season on the same damn play in the 4th game of the year. We finished 4-8, but twice lost on the final play of the game (at Nevada and at home against Indiana) and sustained a ton of injuries. By the end of the year a 4th string walk-on was starting at QB (and he did win two games with last minute scoring drives!) Then last year felt like six glorified scrimmages, to be honest. We started strong with wins over Iowa and Illinois, then lost to Northwestern, had a win absolutely stolen on a terrible call at Minnesota, and the defense completely collapsed against Rutgers and Nebraska. It turns out that Bob Diaco was not the answer and he was gone after a year.
I feel like 2021 Purdue is at a Crossroads. It was originally supposed to be Brohm’s breakout year because his two significantly better recruiting classes from 2018 and 2019 would be becoming sophomores and juniors, but the last two years have been so disjointed by injuries and COVID I don’t know what to think. It is year 5 and we’re not paying Brohm to be under .500 overall. He has a troublesome record in close games (in 2018 and 2019 we lost five times on literally the game’s final play). We’re definitely better than when you last saw us, but we need a season of 6-8 wins this year in order to right the momentum under Brohm. If Purdue is not 2-0 over Oregon State and UConn heading to South bend I will be very concerned.
2. I love a good rivalry trophy and since Purdue is in the Big 10, I’m betting you do too. What are your thoughts on The Shillelagh Trophy and does it piss you off that Notre Dame is so “whatever” about it?
You guys have every right to say that, going 24-5 in the rivalry since 1986. Why do you think our main basketball rivalry is now either Michigan State or crippling despair and pain in March? It’s getting kind of boring beating Indiana every year (even though they did not take up my idea of giving Archie Miller a contract extension). You guys are a national program with eyes on bigger things than us. It would mean the world for Purdue to beat Notre Dame for only the second time in like 50 years in South Bend. For you guys it is just another win, especially this year when you have much higher expectations. It feels even less special now that the series is not an annual game.
3. Please explain Breakfast Club. I was at Purdue in September for the 2001 game that was postponed due to 9/11, and was supposed to experience it then after being sold on the event by some friends that attended school there. Instead I found myself sleeping in my 91 Honda Accord with all the windows down in some random parking lot trying to recover from a night of “fun” in West Lafayette.
I graduated in 2002 and only did Breakfast Club once. I didn’t even get up for class that early. I would rather save my drinking for later that night. My son enjoys seeing the costumes, however.
4. Rank your top three players and why we should be worried about them.
David Bell – All the talk was about Rondale Moore, but it turns out Bell is really, really good. He is not as speedy or as shifty as Moore, but he is bigger, runs better routes, and is better at getting the jump balls in the air. There were a lot of “throw the ball his way and let him come up with it” plays last year for good or ill. That we only got only three games with Bell and Moore really going together is a shame. He is a top 50 NFL pick talent.
George Karlaftis – He is the key to the defense. When he was healthy in the first two games last year the defense actually worked as he was able to pressure the quarterback and disrupt things. He injured his ankle against Illinois, missed the Northwestern game, then wasn’t the same in the last three. After that Diaco apparently thought that adjusting to get defensive pressure was illegal or something as the defense just did not work without him causing trouble. He is also a top 50 NFL talent. Both he and Bell will probably leave early after this year.
DeMarcus Mitchell – Mitchell was a very pleasant surprise on defense last year. He came in as a JuCo transfer and had an instant impact all over the field at linebacker. Getting both him and Karlaftis on the same side of the field together can cause some real problems. Again, the defense really suffered when he had to miss a half for a borderline targeting call.
5. Which Boiler is the fan favorite?
Jaden Ivey from Mishawaka (thanks for him. We love him). Seriously though, it is Bell. If anything, he was more consistent than Moore last year. Moore always drew a lot of attention and last year when he came back I felt like we forced too much too him. Bell gets that attention and still produces. He is definitely in line for a 100-1,000-10 season of receptions, yards, and TDs and is one of the best receivers in the nation.
Special consideration goes to that 4th string walk-on mentioned above in Aidan O’Connell. He missed the second half of last year with an injury, but for being a walk-on he has won four of seven games where he got significant playing time and in three of those he engineered the game-winning drive to score with less than a minute left. He is as mobile as a gulf coast oil platform, but he plays smart and can make some good throws. Any walk-on that plays as well as he has earns my respect, even if he may not be the starter anymore.
6. You Oughta Be Proud or We Are ND (Freekbass). Who did it worse?
Both are abominations unto Almighty God, but I did see Freakbass featured on a marquee as having an upcoming performance at a bar on north Keystone in Indy a few years ago, so you guys have more street cred.
Can we all agree that “This is Indiana” is worse?