-- Notre Dame's first steps in the Brian Kelly coaching era weren't exactly big leaps forward, but they were in a positive direction.
The Irish -- and how quickly they adapt to Kelly's new schemes on both sides of the ball against a challenging early schedule -- are one of college football's great unknowns this season.
-- Notre Dame did enough good things right out of the tunnel that Kelly earned a game ball from athletic director Jack Swarbrick after a 23-12 home victory over Purdue.
-- "At times I wasn't certain if we were going to get lined up for stretching today the right way," Kelly said.
-- "So there's a lot of anxiety going into the first game, especially with all of the things that are surrounded with our game. You learn a lot about your team after a game like this and ... it wasn't a warm-up game. We went right into the Big Ten and played a Big Ten rival in Purdue."
-- In time, Kelly's hurry-up spread offense that averaged 38.6 points per game last season at Cincinnati will need to do more than the 23 points and 358 yards it mustered against the Boilermakers.
-- But, again, the Irish made necessary baby steps. Quarterback Dayne Crist was fine in his first start, while running backs Armando Allen and Cierre Wood ripped off good chunks of yardage on the ground.
-- The final score could have been much more decisive. Notre Dame led 20-3 when star receiver Michael Floyd caught a quick slant near the goal line and, without being hit, fumbled the ball. Purdue recovered at its 6.
-- The Boilermakers flipped the field and eventually got a safety. Purdue then scored a touchdown after the kickoff to make it 20-12 with 11:55 left in the fourth quarter.
-- Notre Dame later made a field goal and got two defensive stops to make Kelly a winner in his debut.
-- "If you look at it for a first game, I would not characterize it as sloppy," Kelly said. "I would characterize it as good all-around football. It wasn't great, but it was pretty good for all three phases. A lot of room to work on, but not bad."
--Heading into the week, it appeared as if sophomore Nick Tausch would be Notre Dame's place-kicker, but those duties fell to David Ruffer, who was 3 of 3 on field goal attempts. He was good from 22, 46 and 37 yards. "We think we are blessed that we have two guys that we can count on throughout the year, but he was big today," coach Brian Kelly said of Ruffer.
-- Notre Dame used six freshmen: WR T.J. Jones, LB Danny Spond, DB Lo Wood, WR Austin Collinsworth, LB Prince Shembo and WR Bennett Jackson.
-- With the win, coach Brian Kelly has won 19 consecutive regular-season games, dating to his time at Cincinnati.
-- GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Dayne Crist -- The junior entered the game having thrown 20 career passes at Notre Dame, so it was natural that he said he "had some butterflies going out there." That feeling didn't last long as he was mostly calm and poised in leading Notre Dame's new spread offense. He was 19-of-26 for 205 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. That kind of steady, heady performance was all coach Brian Kelly was looking for. "I told him he didn't have to win the Heisman today, but he had to help us win today," Kelly said. "He helped us win. There's a lot more that he's capable of doing."
-- KEEP AN EYE ON: WR T.J. Jones -- The true freshman sparkled in spring practice, winning a starting spot, and it didn't take him long to make an impact when the games started to count. He had a 15-yard catch, a 21-yard reception and then a 5-yard score in the third quarter to give the Irish a 20-3 lead. "It's like nothing I've ever felt before," he said of his touchdown. "It's definitely a memory I'll have for the rest of my life and one I'll cherish."
-- QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we made a statement against a good Purdue offense and we're going to take the next step against Michigan next weekend." -- DT Ian Williams, on Notre Dame's defense.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
-- LOOKING GOOD: Notre Dame's defense, playing a new 3-4 scheme under head coach Brian Kelly, held Purdue to 322 yards in the opener. The Irish intercepted two passes from Purdue quarterback Robert Marve (continuing his turnover-prone ways from his days at Miami) and held the Boilermakers without a touchdown on two drives into the red zone. The Irish also had four sacks, all in the second half.
-- Three players each had nine tackles for Notre Dame: CB Gary Gray, ILB Carlo Calabrese and ILB Manti Te'o.
-- Sophomore RB Cierre Wood made his Notre Dame debut against Purdue and, along with senior Armando Allen gave the Irish a nice one-two combination at tailback. Wood had seven carries for 58 yards, caught two passes and returned two kickoffs, including one for 38 yards.
-- STILL NEEDS WORK: Purdue had the ball for just over 35 minutes. Time of possession might not be a telling stat for the Irish, given that they want to move the ball quickly on offense, but it was a troubling sign for the defense that the Boilermakers had two drives that each lasted 15 plays. Coach Brian Kelly liked the speed and aggressiveness of the defense, but did add: "There's some key players on our team that missed a lot of tackles today that when they go back and look at it, they will go, 'Wow.'"
-- ROSTER REPORT:
----WR Michael Floyd, projected for All-America honors, led the Irish with five catches for 82 yards, but did have a costly fumble near the goal line on what appeared to be a scoring play.
----- Sophomore WR Shaq Evans has been given his release and will transfer, coach Brian Kelly said last week. Evans, a speedy and touted recruit from Inglewood, Calif., caught seven passes for 61 yards last season but was not on the post-camp two-deep.
----- LB Steve Paskorz, who moved from fullback in the spring (Brian Kelly's offense doesn't have a fullback position), likely is out two more games because of a knee injury.
The TSX Files: Notre Dame Update
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