What can you say about this defense? I continue to be amazed at the play and will of this defense. Coach Baer and Coach Simmons are going to have to make their first tough decision of their tenure at Notre Dame. How can they possibly sit Brandon Hoyte? Hoyte has played like an All-American in his first two starts at linebacker. That is the good news. The bad news is he has replaced arguably the best player we have on defense in Courtney Watson. Watson deserves to play because of what he has done in the past. Hoyte deserves to play because of what he has done in the present.
Once again, our secondary played outstanding. Gerome Sapp and Glenn Earl might be the best safety tandem in college football. I know I wouldn't trade these two for any other two in the country. The same can be said for our two corners Shane Walton and Vontez Duff. One has to wonder how Mike Goolsby sat for two years because he is playing better than any MLB I can remember.
The Notre Dame back 7 appear to be as good as any team in the country. To be a great defense, they need to get more consistent pressure with their front 4. Yesterday, we saw the front four getting into the backfield more than we did against Maryland. If they can improve, this defense will keep Notre Dame in every game they play. The defense is something to get very excited about.
The offense has some problems but let's not get too carried away with the criticism as we did on Saturday after the game. I saw a lot of mental mistakes with the offense. This is going to happen when you switch to a totally different type of system. The defense is playing well because that is this team's strength and they are running a very similar system. The offense was the weakness and why they switched systems.
From my very good seat in Notre Dame stadium, I had a nice view of the game. What I saw was some running backs missing assignments picking up the blitz. I saw the Purdue defense blitzing almost every play and the corners squatting on the short underneath. The corner took away the short read or safety valve and Holiday didn't have time to find another receiver. Very smart coaching by the Purdue defensive staff and I expect all teams will do this against Notre Dame. Towards the end of the game, it appeared that Holiday was more concerned with seeing if he had the time (watching the rush) instead of looking for the open receiver.
Purdue didn't respect the ND wide receivers. They were not afraid of Notre Dame beating them deep and they had to defend 15 yards and in. Notre Dame didn't test them deep one time that I can remember. The offensive line struggled at times but I thought they pass protected fairly well most of the game. They also made some progress running the football from the previous game.
From what I can tell, this offense is struggling from a couple of things. The running backs do not pick up the blitz well enough. The offensive line is missing a few assignments and making mental mistakes with penalties. Carlyle Holiday has to better recognize the blitz and have options to capitalize when they are blitzing. Holiday audibled quite a bit yesterday. His audible rarely produced a play for positive yards. Purdue did an excellent job of disguising their blitzes but Notre Dame could have capitalized with some quick counts when they did shift or back out of their coverage.
The big key here I think is finding options. Our wide receivers were open most of the game. Holiday rarely had time to get them the ball. It seemed like one player would miss his assignment every time he went back to throw. The learning curve will be long. You won't see this team looking like Miami for quite some time. The is a system and it's hard for anyone to learn a new system especially when it's as different as night and day from the last system.
I can understand that this offense will struggle. I fully expect them to struggle and it will take time. My only complaints from yesterday was there didn't seem to be anything different that they tried. I also saw tendencies already. When Matt Shelton and Ronnie Rodamer enter the game, they run the football. They didn't pass one time when these two entered the game. In the two tight end and Maruice Stovall set, they threw it once but ran every other time this formation was in the game. They only threw the football when Arnaz Battle and Omar Jenkins were in the game.
Some way, this offense is going to have make a team pay for blitzing and hit them right in the area that they are blitzing from. That is where the reading of the defense comes into play. If the OLB blitzes, you hit the tight end. That is why this system will take time. Every offensive skill player has to be on the same page and recognize the same thing.
The good news is this team plays with heart. The defense made so many big plays that the offense didn't have to do much. They refused to give in and played a monster game on defense. The offense showed will as well. When they needed a drive towards the end of the 4th quarter, they efficiently moved the football down the field only to be stopped with a failed field goal attempt. The offense knew they needed to move the football and they did. One thing is certain, you will have to beat this team to win the game. They will rarely beat themselves and that is one very positive sign.