A poor defensive performance and a offense still in the making, keyed the 41-30 loss last week to Michigan before a record college crowd of 115,000 plus fans in Ann Arbor.
As I wrote last week, I had concerns about the ND's defense because of the yardage the unit gave up against a young and undermanned Temple team. The Irish "D" made the freshman Temple quarterback look like a veteran at times.
The defense was suppose to be the strong point for the Irish in 2013. The offense was a question due to the loss of QB Everett Golson and the return of Tommy Rees as the starting signal caller. But with last week's performance by the defense, the Irish and head coach Brian Kelly has another problem to solve. Giving up 376 passing yards to Wolverine QB Devin Gardner, and receiver Jeremy Gallon, pretty well tells the story of last week's game.
In the Temple game Rees had a good day with record yardage gain, and pass completions, and noteably, no turnovers. Last week he had two interceptions, the first one turned the game around and the second ended any Irish chances of a comeback.
So now ND must regroup and find out what's wrong with the defense. Many rated the Irish front defensive line as one of the best in the country, but it is far from that, and the secondary is of real concern. The offense is not consistent, especially in the red zone.
As I said last week, a loss in the Michigan game is not a season-breaker. With the schedule ND plays, it can get itself back into the national picture with wins over the likes of Michigan State, Oklahoma, Arizona State, USC, and Stanford, plus the other teams in between, but with all the problems Michigan showed last week for the Irish, the road got a lot tougher.
Today ND has a chance to redeem itself against a struggling Purdue, in a game at West Lafayette, Ind.
The Boilermakers enter the game at 1-1, losing its opener to Cincinnati, 42-7, and winning last week over Indiana State, 20-14. First year coach Darrell Hazel's team is led on offense by QB Rob Henry, who has completed 33 ot 59 passes with two interceptions in the first two games with no TD passes. Top receivers are Gabe Holmes, who has nine catches for 69 yards, and running back Dalyn Dawkins, four for 52. The top running back is Akeem Hunt.
Notre Dame leads the series, 56-26-1 and has won five in a row over Purdue, winning by just 20-17 last year.
The game will be televised by ABC-TV with a 8:10 p.m. start.
IRISH NOTES:Some quick stats from last week. Tommy Rees completed 29 of 51 passes for 314 yards and two TDs. However, his two interceptions were costly. The first, just before the half, turned a potential score for Irish and to cut the lead to a TD. The interception led to a Michigan score just before the half and a 14 points lead. The second ended a drive late in the game ending a chance to bring the Irish to with 41-37. Amir Carlisle ran for 64 yards on 12 carries and George Atkinson III, five and 37. Receiving, TJ Jones had nine catches for 94 yards and Troy Niklas six for 76. On defense Dan Fox led with 10 tackles....Atkinson dropped five passes in the first 30 minutes of the game, four incomplete and the fifth tipped into the hands of Jones....The Irish secondary really looked bad, letting QB Gardner pick them apart with 13 of 20 passing and 180 yards and two TDs. He also had 50 yards on five carries....Purdue's defensive coordinator, Greg Hudson, played linebacker for Lou Holtz at ND in the late 1980s....Purdue's pass defense is ranked 69th in the nation, giving Rees an opportunity to up his stats. He better, because future opponents are much tougher. Next week's opponent, Michigan State, is second in the country in pass defense, Oklahoma 12th, Arizona State eighth, and USC 17th as of today....Another night game for ND, the second of at least five this year. USC, Arizona State, and Stanford to come. Kelly is 12-7 in night games at ND. Best ND coach for night games is Dan Devine, 5-0, and worst, Bob Davie, 2-9. Purdue, under the lights, is 1-6 overall at home with three of the losses to the Irish....Purdue coach Darrell Hazell will face the Irish for the first time. Purdue coaches at 6-16-2 in their first game against the Irish....ND dropped to 21st place in both the coaches poll and Associated Press. Purdue is not ranked in either poll....Look for ND to try and run the ball more tonight. Last week the game situation did not give the Irish the opportunity to try and establish the run, something they did aganist Temple. Kelly has five backs that could see some action tonight. The leading back so far is Carlisle with 19 carries and 132 yards for a average of 6.9 per game in two games. He's followed by junior Atkinson III, 13-71, 5.5; junior Cam McDaniel, 13-69, 5.3; freshman Tarean Folston, 5-14, 2.8; and freshman Greg Bryant, 2-12, 6.0....Freshman QB Malik Zaire, who has not played this season recovering from mononucleosis, was cleared to practice this week and did get two practices in. Kelly said, however, it will be a game time decision if Zaire sees any playing time tonight....TJ Jones and QB Tommy Rees have shown no ill affects from injuries suffered against Michigan. Jones had a slight right shoulder sprain but continued to play last week and Rees had a bruised knee. Kelly said neither has had any problems this week in practice....Purdue is really struggling on offense so far this season and the Boilermakers got a setback this week. Leading receiver, senior tight end Gabe Holmes, is lost for the season after suffering a serious wrist injury. Purdue is ranked 116th out of 123 teams in total offense.....In my preseason picks I have the Irish winning tonight. With the offensive struggles Purdue has been having this is an opportunity for the Irish defense to get back on track after the poor Michigan showing. Also, the Irish offense, especially the passing game, should shine tonight as Purdue's pass defense is ranked 69th in the nation. If ND doesn't win tonight, it's going to be a long season. The Irish are favored by 20.