Purdue Scouting Report

This week's game between the Irish and the Boilermakers marks the continuation of a series that began in 1896. The series features some hallowed names on both sides, some heart breaking losses for both sides, and a few national title implications that were dashed or elevated for the Irish.

Notre Dame leads the series 50-25-2, with the longest winning streak in the rivalry with 11 wins from 1986 to 1996. Since 97 the series record stands at 5 and 4 in favor of the Irish, with each team scoring blowouts the past two years on the other team's home field. Let's hope that trend ends this year.

Last week Purdue hosted and defeated Minnesota . Below is my breakdown of the Boilermakers.

Relevant Purdue-Minnesota Stats

Purdue 3 7 10 7 27

Minnesota 7 7 0 7 21

First downs:

Purdue 21, 8 rushing, 11 passing, 2 penalty

Minnesota 23, 12 rushing, 11 passing, 0 penalty

Third Down %: Purdue 30%, 3 of 10 Minnesota 43%, 7 of 17

Fourth Down %: Purdue 100%, 1 of 1 Minnesota 100%, 3 of 3

Yardage:

Purdue 421 yd, 178 rushing, 243 passing

Minnesota 421 yd, 194 rushing, 227 passing

Rushing:

Taylor : 11 att. for 90 yd, 8.2 yd avg., longest 37 yd, 1 TD

Sheets: 14 att. For 76 yd, 5.4 avg., longest 19 yd

Bryant: 1 att., 12 yd

Passing:

Painter: 18 of 27, 243 yd, 2 TS, 0 INT, 166.7 rating

Receiving:

Keller: 6 for 119 yd, 19.8 avg., longest of 55 yd

Bryant: 6 for 59 yd, 98. avg., longest of 27 yd, 1 TD

Taylor : 2 for 20 yd, 10.0 avg., longest of 18 yd, 1 TD

Standeford: 2 for 14 yd, 7.0 avg., longest of 8 yd

Lymon: 1 for 34 yd

Sheets: 1 for -3 yd

Special Teams Stats:

Punting:

Purdue: 3 for 132 yd, 44.0 avg., 1 return against for 13 yd

Minnesota : 4 for 154 yd, 38.5 avg., 1 returned against for 1 yd

Kick offs:

Purdue: 2 for 21 yd, 10.5 avg.

Minnesota : 5 for 58, 11.6 avg.

Field Goals:

Purdue: 2 of 3, 39 and 36 yd, one wide left from 42 yd

Penalties:

Purdue: 8 for 38

Minnesota : 8 for 74

Time of Possession:

Purdue: 26:45

Minnesota : 33:15

Purdue's Offense

The Boilermakers run a spread offense, and spread is defintely the right word. Receivers for Purdue stretch the defense's responsibilities due to their numbers and the way they align. It's not uncommon to see receiver sets that are spread out from the numbers on one side of the field to the numbers on the other side of the field.

The norm for QB Curtis Painter, # 12, is to take the snap in the shotgun. From the Minnesota game it seems he only steps under center in very short yardage situations. Painter started the last five games of Purdue's season last year and has led the men from East Lafayette to a 4-0 record. He runs the option sparingly, and is not in Stanton 's class as a runner. What he does do is throw the ball all over the field, and has all the throws, deep out, touch, fade, and the deep ball. He was 18 for 27 against Minnesota and averaged 9 yd per attempt and 13.5 yd per reception. He gets rid of the ball quickly, was not sacked by the Gophers officially, but did pull the ball down once and get back to the LOS. Painter has 8 TD passes on the year. His major weakness seems to be hitting the backs accurately as they angle to the sidelines out of the backfield. However, the backs were open, and I'm sure Tiller will have him working on that this week.

Tiller calls his offensive line the best OL since 2000. They pass block well and do a good job in blitz pickup. Unless the ND front four and blitz packages put more pressure on Painter than Minnesota did Purdue will move the ball against the Irish.

The Boilermaker's receiving corps begins with #9, Dorien Bryant, a 5'9', 175 pound speedster, who caught a ton of balls against Notre Dame last year. His stats this year include 27 receptions, a 13.0 yd average, and 3 TDs. He's also rushed for 87 yards on 7 carries for a 12.6 average, with a longest of 33 yd, so the Irish need to be aware of not only where he aligns, but aware of him running a reverse. The reverse he ran against the Gophers began with him coming left, taking the TB's pitch, running past the tackle box, and then reversing his field, running back to where he lined up before turning up field. It was a play that showed his ability to change directions and his speed. His TD against Minnesota was a post-corner, and he left the Gopher DB in the dust. He's also effective running and in-out, or hairpin, pattern. I might also add that the Boilermakers' coaches surely saw MSU's WR pass to the TB in last week's Irish victory.

TE Dustin Keller, a converted WR, # 28, is 6'4, 244 pounds, and has great hands and good speed for a TE. Purdue hit him deep a couple of times against a cover 2, and we all know the implication that has for the Irish. PU's favorite use of Keller is in crossing patterns where he literally runs away from LBs and adds much of his yardage after the catch.

The other receivers of note are 6'4", # 21, Greg Orton, with a 14.6 yards per catch average, 1 TD, and 6' 4", # 1 , Selwyn Lymon with a 13.8 yards per catch average. Throw in RBs # 24, Kory Sheets at 7.7 YPC, 2 TD, and # 33, Jaycen Taylor at 10.0 YPC, 1 TD, 6'2', # 89 Jake Standeford, 8.7 yards per catch, and you see the Irish will have to engage a diversified passing game. Both Sheets and Taylor are dangerous coming out of the backfield on the wheel route after the WRs have run the coverage deep or to the inside. Taylor scored his TD against the Gophers on a wheel route. Several throws went Standeford's way, but they were the most errant of Painter's passes. Orton is playing with a hip pointer, and it seems to affect him on his routes, and it appeared he aggravated it against Minnesota .

The running game, usually a one back set, is led by # 24, Kory Sheets, who averages 5.4 yd per attempt, with 8 TDs, and Jaycen Taylor, a very quick JUCO, who emerged in the Minnesota game, and averages 7.8 yd per rush, and has one rushing TD.

Against Minnesota Taylor and Sheets ran between the tackles at more than a 3-1 ratio compared with running left and right. That's a misleading stat as it appears on paper because both PU backs are very adept at cutting to daylight. What may begin as a straight ahead or off tackle play won't necessarily end as one, and the Irish need to be highly aware of the cut back.

Purdue used a traditional I formation three times, running a sweep each time, twice in short yardage, and once as the beginning of their one reverse. I got a kick out of their FB in the traditional I formation, as they used Dan McGowan, # 57, a guard, at FB.

Most of PU's runs are from the shotgun, much like MSU's Springer, and they are quick to bounce it outside when it gets clogged at the point of attack. Man to man coverage and one of these two running the ball scares me if I'm a DC. One difference in Purdue and MSU's running game alignment is the Purdue TB aligns in the traditional I formation behind Painter quite a bit of the time, giving Sheets or Taylor more time to read the blocks and find a hole. They have a cute little statue of liberty-type play where Painter is in the shotgun flanked by Sheets and Taylor . He fakes a quick pass as Taylor , lined up to the right of Painter sets up to block, spins around and takes a handoff. This play went 14 yd for a TD. They also ran a reverse off a sweep, as mentioned above, and the TB flips the ball to the WR as he passes behind him.

Purdue appeared to be primarily a right handed team against the Gophers, but that could be a set-up since all three of their TDs came on plays to the left.

As I said before, Purdue will move the ball against the Irish. What ND needs to do is limit the amount of time Purdue has the ball, which Minnesota did by two long drives, mostly running the ball. The front four needs to put consistent pressure on Painter, which Minnesota did not do, and because ND will most likely be in the nickel defense most of the game. Since this is a rivalry game, and since it's ND, be assured that the Boilermakers will be giving Weis' charges their best shot. Hopefully it doesn't come down to ND having to outscore Purdue. I think ND can do so, but would rather it not come to that.

Purdue Special Teams

Purdue's kicking game for extra points and field goals rests on the foot of freshman walk-on, # 13, Chris Summers. He is 5 of 6 on the year with a longest of 43 yd. His first miss this year came about with the most pressure he's been under due to the close score vs Minnesota . On his miss he was wide left from the left hash and both of the field goals he made were very tight to the upright on the left.

Purdue showed an ability to kick the ball into the end zone on kick offs with one touchback and one to the goal line. The also covered well as shown in the stats, but then they started popping the ball up to the right side of the field with Minnesota fielding the ball at the 25 on two occasions. I have no idea why, but it seemed intentional.

Purdue did very little returning kick offs, but I want to point out that their deep men are Bryant and Sheets. Bryant averages 14 yd per return and has handled all the KO returns the last two games. The reason for this is that the opposition is kicking away from Sheets who averaged 32.6 yd per return the first two games.

On punt returns, # 10, Royce Adams averages 7.7 yd per return.

In my opinion the gunners for Purdue looked weak and Zibby is overdue. Let's hope that's the case.

Purdue Defense

Last year Purdue had all, or practically all, of their starters returning on defense and a lot of ballyhoo went down the tubes as the anticipation of a dominant defense for the Boilermakers didn't materialize. A lot of those players are gone, with five returnees on the Purdue defense.

Through four games Purdue has given up 35 points to Indiana State in a 60-35 win, 31 points in a 38-31 win over Miami of Ohio, 28 points in beating Ball State 38-28, and 21 points in beating Minnesota 27-21. Total yards given up respectively by game were 387, 483, 352, and 421 yards. While the yardage given up in the four games shows no trend, the amount of points given up declines, which to me is improvement, especially when the philosophy of this year's Boilermaker defense is, by their own admission, a bend-but- don't-break defense.

One thing to note about Purdue vs Minnesota this past week is that Minnesota isn't hurting at TB despite the loss of L. Maroney to graduation, as this year's featured TB, Amir Pinnix is averaging 7.0 TPC. Also the Gophers returned their QB, Brian Cupito, and three of their top receivers. I say this because the vaunted OSU defense was torched by the Gophers last year to the tune of 578 total yards, 182 rushing and 396 passing.

Defensive coordinator Brock Spack has some defensive players who rose up at opportune times against Minnesota .

The best of the Boilermakers defensive players are Anthony Spencer, Dan Bick, and Cliff Avril. Spencer, # 49, is a senior and captain at defensive end. Spencer has 29 tackles, 24 solo tackles, 9 tackles for losses, 5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. Mike LB, # 36, Dan Bick has 38 tackles, 24 solo tackles, 1 solo tackle for a loss, 4 sacks, and one forced fumble. Sam LB Cliff Avril, # 32, has 31 tackles, 17 solo tackles, and 5 solo tackles for losses.

Spencer is a load and is the most active of Purdue's DL. He usually lines up on the strong side of the offensive formation. He's fast enough to run down RBs from behind as he pursues from a play's backside. While these three are the mainstays of the Boilermaker's defense. He had two sacks in the Minnesota game and 9 solo tackles.

Bick is coming off shoulder surgery, and the doctors wanted to operate again, but he opted to play this year. In my opinion, he's not the player he should be, favoring the shoulder, and occasionally hurts the Boilermaker's defense due to his current approach at tackling. Avril is nursing a back injury this season and left the field in some pain on Purdue's last defensive play. Most likely due to the injury factor, or possibly a rotation a lot will be seen of # 30, George Hall, and #17, Josh Ferguson.

The Purdue secondary has lost two starters to injury this year and play two freshmen, one a red shirt, and one a true freshman. Minnesota passed for 205 yards and 2 TDs, one INT, on 20 for 34 passing. The Gophers also threw a 22 yard pass to a RB on a backward pass from the QB to a flanker who threw the forward pass which set up a Minnesota 's TD.

Purdue aligns in a basic 4-3. They align one DT on the center's shoulder and the other DT in a flex position, about a yard deeper than you see a normal DT. All Purdue players fly to the football, and as a whole, tackle well.

If I was Coach Weis, my approach this week would be two-fold, considering what I believe the Irish bring to the table in this game.

First, I'd open with, or at least employ, a no huddle, and stress their young secondary. Not much explanation is needed here.

Secondly, in the mercenary and vicious way my mind works, I'd attack the Purdue front seven because I believe the Irish have a huge advantage here. The injuries their LBs are competing with and the 265 pound DL average give Notre Dame a perfect opportunity to get come confidence in what has been a lackluster running game. Also, Spencer is so good pursuing from the backside, but only weighs 261 pounds, so going at him a lot as well makes sense. Minnesota put up two long drives for TDs, mostly running the ball, but got away from that, and made too many mistakes.

Analysis

Purdue is banged up in a lot of areas, but particularly on defense. They have lost players that started defensively, and others are hurt, and it appears to affect their play. Their defensive depth is a concern with so many walking wounded. Notre Dame's offense should be licking their collective chops and be prepared to really take it to the Boilermakers...physically. Defensively, the Irish need to play with the same intensity they did in the second half of the MSU game.

It's time to show the head coach's mantra of nasty in all three phases of the game. The rivalry aspect of this game should, one would hope, drive the Irish to laying a whipping on Purdue. As usual my prediction will be on the board's prediction site.


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