Assessing a blowout
It was a scoreboard sight that would have been a joy to behold for any football coach. 21-0. 156. 156. 312. 40. Not only was Notre Dame up three touchdowns. The Irish had just executed a three-play, 79-yard scoring drive, on three runs by Cierre Wood. The elusive Wood faked out Purdue's Landon Feichter in the middle of the field and outran his Boilermaker teammates to the end zone, polishing off a 55-yard touchdown. 21-0 marked the score. The twin 156 numbers marked Notre Dame's rushing and passing yardage totals, adding up to 312 yards of offense – with 9:06 to go in the second quarter. The 40? Purdue's total offense to that point. It was a formula for a rare blowout, one in Notre Dame's favor on a Saturday night trip to West Lafayette, Ind. On nearly every running play, giant holes opened up for Wood and Jonas Gray – Wood ran for 191 yards and Gray added 94. Michael Floyd, hemmed in last week by Pittsburgh, scored on a first-play touchdown from Tommy Rees and continued to catch everything in sight. T.J. Jones and Tyler Eifert caught touchdown passes as well. "Everybody was on the same page," Rees said. "We were fundamentally sound, but there is still work to be done." The Notre Dame defense rushed the passer effectively and stopped the run almost completely. Manti Te'o and Aaron Lynch each recorded sacks. Te'o had eight solo tackles and three tackles for loss in a strong performance. "Defensively, making it difficult for a team to run was important for us," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "Overall, we matched their intensity." Purdue played terribly, and committed boneheaded penalties at key times. The Boilermakers appear wobbly at best, lacking an identity and coming off of a soft early-season schedule. By the fourth quarter, the remaining fans at Ross-Ade Stadium sat dumbfounded. Many had filed out, including those in the student section. The view from the press box showed lines of cars' brake lights in the distance, as fans made an early exit. Purdue fans could be in for a very, very long season. The question Notre Dame backers are asking themselves is what, exactly, this blowout victory means as the Irish continue to battle back from their 0-2 start, now sitting at 3-2 with home games against Air Force, USC and Navy coming up. Certainly the Irish have never looked as fast, as hard-hitting, or as complete offensively as they did on Saturday night. Certainly some of that has to do with Purdue's ineptness. But how much? We'll find out. Until the final verdict, Notre Dame fans can take comfort in the tone-setting efforts of some key performers. Floyd's blocking is a joy to behold. And when he catches a pass, he is running through people. He is not content to settle under a pass and take what the defense gives him. Wood is a weapon to be reckoned with. He runs with elusiveness, burst and purpose. Gray rebounded from a disastrous fumble in the season opener and turned in his second straight standout performance. He is running extremely hard, and has shown that he has the moves and speed to break the big run. The defense as a whole shut down Purdue's running attack, which was the only way the Boilermakers could have ever been in this game. Three straight wins for second-year coach Kelly is a modest streak to build upon. Three more victories, and we'll be seeing the 2011 Notre Dame football season, which was on the edge of the abyss just a few short weeks ago, in a very different light.
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