I had been calm for most of the week leading up to this game. It kinda felt like I had almost forgotten about my feelings toward Notre Dame...but I was reminded this morning as my family and I went out. Poser Notre Dame fans are everywhere in the Indianapolis area, but they've been quiet for about 10 months...I like it that way. I like the fact that these jerks put their gear up when things aren't rosy in South Bend and act like they don't root for Notre Dame as they're distracted by whatever the hell else they've done in the winter since IU's been awful in basketball. But they came out of their hibernation this morning in Fishers.
First off, I saw two guys with IU hats on and UND sweatshirts. Frickin' perfect. I Didn't waste my time even talking to them. But, I spoke with the stooges clad in solely UND gear...and shocker- most had no attachment to the university...just were Irish and/or Catholic and blah blah blah. Shut it. This is probably why I get so pissed at these people. They don't get it. They don't understand what it's like not to have an appetite for the entire day before a game or to be so revved up after a game that you can't really talk to anyone for an hour or so until you calm down. They can pick and choose when they're going to root for their team- when it's easy, when it doesn't sting, when there's a party around it, they're fans. Plus, the a-holes will call or text and taunt people like me. "Did you see the game?" "Your Boilers looked great today." "How'd you like that one?"
I don't taunt people. I didn't call these jackholes as the Irish were getting pounded each and every game a few years ago. I didn't e-mail them reminders as they lost as many as they won last season and the service academies and Syracuse beat them. They probably didn't notice anyway...they had already hopped off the bandwagon at that point so it wouldn't have mattered to them. The point I'm driving at is, this stuff does matter to me...probably too much, but 13 years removed from graduation, I still hate to see Purdue lose...especially to Notre Dame.
All that said, for me, nothings changed from before this game. I thought they'd lose and they did. A lot of teams that were better than this year's Purdue team have struggled in South Bend. I still think Marve is going to be very good and he's going to lead Purdue to a lot of victories in the next two seasons. I still like Hope. I don't think he's a perfect coach, didn't think he was the perfect hire, but I really like a lot of what he does and the way he does it...but there's plenty of room for improvement.
For stretches in the game, the offensive play calling was extremely milquetoast. Fake boot legs, misdirection sweep tosses to the short side of the field, and simple draws up the middle just weren't working...yet, they kept trying those plays, and others ad nauseaum. We heard rumors that Purdue would bring the kitchen sink, from a play-calling standpoint, in the days leading up to this afternoon's contest. If that was all this coaching staff's got, our Boilers are in huge trouble.
But, I don't think that's all this team or coaching staff has in it. I do think that these coaches might think that's all this group could handle at this point. It was glaringly-obvious that the offensive line is simply not ready for primetime. I'm not saying they won't be good, but they just weren't nearly good enough today. Let's keep in mind too, this UND defense is no world beater, in my opinion. While much-improved, they're no where near the best defense Purdue will face this season...but today, especially in the trenches, they manhandled Purdue. Part of that's because of an inexperience offensive line...and in a related note, part is because the play calling made it easy for the Irish to get into position to make plays for much of the day.
A couple things happened today that I didn't think would happen.
-The defensive backfield looked pretty good for much of the day versus a very talented group of receivers. They were far from the weakest unit on Purdue's team this afternoon.
-The linebacking corps seemed to really struggle as running plays would bounce to the outside. They missed tackles, were in poor position, did an spotty job on pass coverage (especially on drag routes) and worst of all, looked slow at times.
-Edison played running back and didn't look too bad. Seems to me that he might make sense at HB more often with some of what we saw today.
-ATM was super-quiet. He didn't carry the ball a ton (4 carries), and when he did, not much happened (-2 yds. rush). He also didn't make much noise on kickoff returns averaging 12.7/return.
-Keith Smith caught punts...didn't really return, just caught them.
-Dan Dierking averaged 6.2 yds/carry and finished runs off very well.
-Purdue's focus on ball security led them to having 0 fumbles lost...a welcomed improvement.
-Gaston played a lot...looks the part in a uniform...and played well.
-O.J. Ross didn't get the chance to catch anything...honestly not many did outside of the starting rotation of receivers.
-Carson Wiggs punted all day, and with the exception of one lousy kick, was pretty solid.
-Notre Dame's defense seemed much improve...but more so was simply an excellent tackling team as they hardly ever let a Purdue player get significant yards after first contact.
-Purdue's offense only scored 12 points...in modern era football, if you hold an opponent to 23 points, you should be able to win. But, if the offense can't move the ball, guess not.
-Justin Pierce looked out of position quite a few times today. And, if the old adage is true, "a good offensive lineman is one you don't notice"...Pierce is in trouble.
-Rob Henry ran the option very well. His combo of size and athleticism were obvious during his limited action at quarterback...I would have liked to see him a bit more- maybe in the same backfield as Marve?
-Siller nor K. Smith passed the ball today nor spent much time in the offensive backfield.
-Gerald Gooden was relatively quiet and didn't seem as disruptive as I thought he might have been.
-Ryan Kerrigan looked like a beautiful beast for most of the day. He was held each time he took his hand out of the dirt...but the officials missed it each time. Kerrigan's tackle for safety in the early fourth quarter coulda shoulda woulda been something important had the offense been able to get into rhythm.
-Kawaan Short looked very good and will be a pretty frightening player by the end of the season.
-The offense looked good at times and bad at others and looks like it simply needs reps. They should get plenty next Saturday.
-Robert Marve has a big arm, good legs and made some bad decisions today. He'll get better all season, in my opinion.
-Keith Smith, Dan Dierking and Kyle Adams were all trusty catching the ball...Siller & C. Smith got into a bit of a rhythm late as well...C. Smith probably should have come up with the long ball down the left sideline...in fact, he must do so for Purdue to beat the tougher opponents on the schedule.
-Ralph Bolden's abilities were definitely missed today...but it seems to me, the lackluster line play coupled with Purdue being behind all day made it tougher for the running game to be truly successful.
If you're already off the bandwagon as a Purdue fan, like J alluded to, you're really not different than the UND fans that I spoke about earlier in the post. Let's not forget that Drew Brees as a Senior, back when Tiller's offense really was the gun-slinging spread offense, couldn't beat UND in South Bend. Today's game didn't break Hope, Marve's, or anybody else's career. Over 91% (at least) of the season's games have still yet to have been played. There's a ton that can and will happen that will be fun to watch this season.
You can rule out whatever you'd like (i.e. potential bowl, Danny Hope's success, Robert Marve's success) based on seeing just today's game...but I think that's completely foolish. There's a lot of football left.