Aftermath: Notre Dame vs. Purdue

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Talking points surrounding Notre Dame's 30-14 win over Purdue include: Brian Kelly's candid post-game demeanor, Drue Tranquill's non freshman-like performance... and, if you want to find room for improvement in a 3-0 start, look no further than the offensive line - not Everett Golson.

1. Brian Kelly was quick to back up his quarterback, and rightfully so.

Consider the head coach's opening comments last night:

“Offensively, missed opportunities for the most part. We needed to play better. Everett is going to get a lot of the blame. Obviously, he's the quarterback. He'll tell you he needs to play better. But we got to block better. We got to catch the ball better. We got to run better. It's an entire offensive unit that was just not where it needs to be. Quite frankly, it's an opportunity for us now to critically evaluate where we are and what we need to do to get better.”

Golson get the blame? When your offensive line is struggling mightily, and the empty set becomes part of the game plan, Golson immediately assumes a giant rise in responsibility for offensive production. He finished 25-of-40 for 259 yards, two touchdowns, and he was the team’s leading rusher with 56 net yards.

The finger needs to be pointed at the play of the offensive line. I mean, talk about zero push. Kelly described their woes as a “so close, but so far” type of deal:

“We're not sustaining. I mean, we're in position. We're falling off a block here. We miss a fit here. And maybe it's just the continuity took us a little bit longer. It's nothing big, but it's everything.”

Cam McDaniel, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston combined for 24 carries for a mere 83 yards. That’s not going to get the job done against better competition.

On a somewhat related note, is last night an instance where you pick one running back and let him ride it out to see if he can muster momentum? Or, do you continue to stick with all three? Was the offensive line so outplayed that it wouldn’t have mattered if Adrian Peterson was the back? Different topic for a different game, I suppose.

2. Brian Kelly’s post-game comments – and demeanor – were resoundingly indicative of the Irish head coach embracing his team’s persona.

Not that I expected an annoyed Brian Kelly per say to walk into the interview room Saturday night at Lucas Oil, but I didn’t foresee such positive vibes.

Kelly began his post-game conference by referring to the audible locker room cheers heard behind the wall, noting that Notre Dame has a lot of young guys just plain happy to get that win. He also shot down any perception that the Irish suffered a letdown:

“No, we didn't play flat. I thought our first drive was really precise. We did the things that we wanted to do. We missed some plays. We overthrow a launch play. We miss a block here or there. We were just a little off in areas. I think a lot of that is attributed to some areas that we're still learning. We're still trying to get there.”

“They love to play. They’ve got a great demeanor about the way they play this game. They're a group that pays attention to the things that I need them to pay attention to relative to preparation. But we're really young. We'll benefit from every day on the practice field. We will get better. So we're still not a finished product by any means. We're such a young team.”

Injuries, youth, and Purdue’s impressive performance all presented its fair share of obstacles to Notre Dame on Saturday night. There are issues that need to be addressed, namely along the offensive line and in the secondary’s depth depletion, but Notre Dame faced adversity for the first time of the season on Saturday, and it found a way to fight through it. Kelly chose to emphasize that resilience instead of the errors.

I have a feeling we’ll see a more typical BK the rest of this week as he gets a chance to review film and grade out his team.

But, on Saturday night, we saw the head coach a little disorganized in his thoughts in an interview room in Lucas Oil, his mind pulled in different directions and still operating at a rapid pace from making adjustments on the fly. Dealing with youth, he knows he must be careful in how he presents to them their weaknesses, especially after a grind-it-out win when youngsters played a hefty role in the W. His scattered-brain train of thought was refreshing, to be honest.

3. On 2nd and 4, operating at the Purdue 31-yard line early in the 4th quarter, Golson found Corey Robinson on a tunnel screen for a gain of five.

Robinson’s strength lies in his play-making ability in the red zone, complimented by the 6-foot-5 wide out’s leaping and catching ability. But, Robinson is more than just a deep-threat. Getting him involved in more plays like the one described above could be conducive in the combating some of the offensive line’s pass protection issues.

4. Purdue opened the 2nd half with the ball and trailing Notre Dame by only three points.

It picked up a first down on a 15-yard pass completion on the first play of the 3rd quarter. A four-yard and five-yard rush followed, respectively. Facing 3rd and one, Purdue running back Raheem Mostert picked up the first down, but not before hewas stuffed by a blitzing Drue Tranquill. On the ensuing plays, quarterback Danny Etling was sacked by Jarron Jones for a loss of seven and then threw consecutive incompletions.

Despite the fact the Boilers picked up the first down on 3rd and short, Tranquill woke up the Irish D. The freshman picked up the base D on the fly last night. Not only that, but he was directing traffic in the secondary, guiding Elijah Shumate and Devin Butler on where to go. Tranquill’s versatility was on full display last night. The size to speed ratio he possesses will be a valuable component for this Irish defense – this year and beyond.

Kelly said the staff discussed at half playing Matthias Farley at safety in Redfield and Baratti’s absence, but there was confidence in Drue.

“He did great. He doesn't know what he's doing, but he's awesome (laughter). He's running around there. I say that kiddingly because he does know what he's doing. But we're trying to really keep it simple for him out there. He’s such a locked in kid. We're able to do some things with him, and he's only been here, what, eight, ten weeks. Where would we be without that young man? It's really pretty incredible.”

Whew, it had to be a dagger for Darrell Hazell and his staff to see their former commitment have such an impact last night.

5. Notre Dame snapped the ball with an average of 14.3 seconds left on the play clock.

It’s averaged 13.4, 12.2 and 14.3 respectively through its first three games. Against Rice and Michigan, the up-tempo speed wasn’t needed as the offense was clicking just fine with Golson receiving the play call from the sideline and making the necessary checks at the line.

But, last night a faster offense would have been more conducive to empty sets and quarterback keepers.


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