Irish 'O' is as good as any, but 'D' needs help
Thanks to an interception near the goal line last week by safety Kyle McCarthy, Notre Dame and head coach Charlie Weis, survived and defeated Michigan State, 33-30.
It was the first win over MSU in ND stadium since 1993.
Anytime you win is a plus but there were a lot of negatives in the game. Some of the negatives included the poor defensive effort and the loss of the top receiver and play-maker on the team, sophomore wide receiver Michael Floyd. The plus side was the offense and the play of QB Jimmy Clausen. It was a "must win" game for Weis but the way the Irish ended up winning was not a plus for his career at ND.
The Irish offense is as good as any in the nation and Clausen has come up the level of all the hype he received when he signed with Notre Dame. But the defense is a real problem. Notre Dame will score points, but the defense gives them up just as fast.
Now with the loss of the top receiver, the "go too" guy, the pressure is really on ND to improve its defense. There is a real void to fill on the offense with the loss of Floyd, who broke a collarbone in the second quarter. Who will replace Floyd and what to expect from the Irish we'll deal with later in the column.
Today ND faces Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. The Boilers have a new head coach, Danny Hope, and have a 1-2 record entering the game. Purdue beat Toledo in the opener, 52-31, but lost their last two games. Week two to Oregon, 38-36, and then at home last week with Northern Illinois winning, 28-21.
The Boilers are led by QB Joey Elliott. Through three games he has completed 61 of 100 passes with five interceptions and 674 yards. Top receiver is Keith Smith with 17 receptions and 222 yards and one score. Unlike prior Purdue teams under Joe Tiller, the Boilers are running the ball more led by RB Ralph Bolder who has 435 yards on 62 carriers this season and four TDs. The sophomore is the nation's number two rusher. Jaycen Taylor backs up Bolder with 106 yards on 23 carries and three TDs.
ND leads the series, 52-26-2. ND won last year, 38-21, but lost in 2007, 33-19. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN with an 8 p.m. EDT kickoff.
IRISH NOTES: Its pretty obvious that Jon Tenuta's defense needs work. There is little if any pressure being put on the opposing quarterback by the front four of ND. Tenuta has resorted to using defensive backs on the edge of the line to apply pressure which leads to man coveraged. Opposing QBs have been exploiting the coverage. In last week's game there was so much substituting on each play by the defense that ND got nailed for too many players on the field. Also, the Irish gave up a whopping 354 yards in the air and way too many wide-open receivers....ND's offensive line is coming around and as a result the Irish are averaging 3.6 yards a carry, which is a big improvement from last year....I don't want to put the hex on Clausen, but he impresses every week. He is a real gamer. Clausen opened the game with a 10 for 10 run and finished 22 for 30 with 300 yards passing, two TDs and no interceptions. He has none so far this season. He might have had an even better day if Floyd hadn't gone down in the second quarter....With Floyd out the Irish will depend more on Golden Tate as the deep threat. The Irish may also used TE Kyle Rudolph more. Last week in the second half Clausen was looking for Rudolph more often. Duval Kamara is the next one on the list to fill in for Floyd and will probably start in his place today.....Some more stats from the MSU game. Armando Allen had 115 yards on 23 rushes to become the real workhorse of the running game. Jonas Gray is being brought into the mix. Last week he had 24 yards on four carries. Tate caught seven for 127 and a score. Rudolph had 95 on six and Kumara three for 23. Floyd had two for 38 and a score before being injured. He was also robbed of a score by the Big 10 officiating crew. Nick Tausch was two for two in field goals of 22 and 46 yards....McCarthy led the defense with nine tackles followed by Harrison Smith with seven....The win in no way takes the heat off Weis. He still must win nine or 10 games to have a chance to stick around for another year....Penalties again were a problem. Some were apparent and some manufactured by the Big 10 officiating crew, but still a major minus factor for the Irish....Purdue's and ND's offense combine for a average of 70.3 points and 919.3 offensive yards per game which means plenty of questions for the Irish defense. Purdue is ranked 25th in the nation in total offense, ahead of all other ND opponents this year so far....A MRI done on Clausen's right foot came back negative. He will play tonight. Weis said the injury will cause Clausen pain but should not interfere with his total mobility....Allen has a right ankle injury and missed some practices this week. Weis said it will be a game time decision whether Allen plays tonight or not. In his place will be either Gray or Robert Hughes....Fullback James Aldridge, out since the second half of the Nevada opener, will miss at least two more games....Purdue is going all out tonight calling it "black-out" night for the Boilers with special black T-shirts sold for the game. ND has not done well in such games in the past. But Purdue is only 1-5 in night games played at Ross-Ade stadium....ND has seven touchdown drives of 75 yards or more this year so far. In 2008 they had 15 for the entire season....The Irish is averaging as many yards per game in penalties (69.7) while Purdue has been flagged in three games combined (69)....Floyd, according to Weis, has adjusted to the fact he won't play any more games this year but now has become a real leader in the lockerroom and encouraging his teammates to take their game to the next level. If ND plays in a bowl game this year Floyd will have a decision to make. He could pass on it and apply for another year of eligibility based on his injury since it occurred so early in the season. If he plays in the bowl game then he can't ask to the extra year....