Personnel-ly Speaking

Part II of IrishEyes personnel review turns its focus to the defensive backfield's efforts vs. Purdue, as well as a breakdown of the initial personnel groupings for each Irish defensive series vs. the Boilers.

For a review of individual performances among the team's front seven defenders, click here.

Defensive Backs

  • Kyle McCarthy – Fills gap to limit Bolden to two yards on toss right…faked out (for I believe only the second time this season) in space by WR Keith Smith…taken out by lead block on a 26-yard Ralph Bolden run of right tackle…filled from 12 yards away to stop QB Joey Elliot who had broken a scrimmage tackle on 3rd and 11 (4-yard gain forced a punt)… found himself caught up in "man" coverage when he should have covered the flat with Blanton behind him in coverage (late 1st Quarter gain of 9 by Cortez Smith on the sideline)…nice hit to ensure incomplete pass on 3rd down (first play of 2nd Quarter), I disagree he should have gone for the INT as the announcers indicated…I believe ND's the pass to the flat (this time to Keith Smith for 13 yards) is K-Mac's responsibility, not Blanton who has the deep third (or fourth) of the field…consecutive tackles (one in coverage on TE in the flat) to limit the Boilers to three yards in two plays…had a chance for the game-sealing, 99-yard INT TD but was slow to jump the route and Keith Smith scored a 3rd Down slant touchdown in front of Sergio Brown…saved a potential big gain with two-yard stop of Bolden in the hole…failed to wrap-up Bolden in the hole on a key 3rd down but was bailed out by a fine tackle from Brian Smith…missed Bolden in space on the ‘back's 15-yard gain late in the final period.
  • Observation: One of the few sloppy tackling efforts of McCarthy's two-year starting career. Look for better technique and concentration from the defensive captain this Saturday vs. Washington.

  • Harrison Smith – Had a chance to make a tackle from behind on Smith's opening touchdown catch-and-run but was too high and all arms…one of several players to miss a downfield tackle on Keith Smith during late 3rd Quarter 26-yard catch-and-run…buried on a downfield block by TE Kyle Adams for a gain of 20 yards (called by 10 for holding) on the go-ahead drive…
  • Observation: Allowed himself to be blocked much more easily than in any previous game this season. The Irish need a few more big plays from Smith though he continues to deny the deep ball as the secondary's centerfielder.

  • Darrin Walls – On top of first-play out route limits to 4-yard gain with immediate hit …broke tentatively on the ball vs. Keith Smith on a 3rd and 10 gain of 13 yards to the Irish 1-yard line early in the fourth period…I originally thought Walls made a bone-head mistake intercepting the 4th and 3 pass (the Irish lost 16 yards of field position on the play) but the replay shows that was indeed a catchable pass and a fine play by Walls who was initially beaten on the route.
  • Observation: I believe Walls has allowed himself to be blocked far too easily downfield and in run support this season after shining (at least on the edge near the line) as a sophomore in '07. His diving interception could help what appeared to be (an observation, not any inside knowledge) waning confidence in coverage.

  • Sergio Brown – Extremely poor tackling effort inside the 5-yard line on the game's opening touchdown by Keith Smith…lost Smith in motion on 22-yard catch and run (that originally appeared to be Toryan Smith's assignment)…hesitated on a surprise option run by QB Joey Elliot (Brown took neither the pitch man, nor Elliot, though in his defense, Brown was hung out to dry by Kerry Neal who lost backside containment)…timed his outside blitz well (final play of the 1st Quarter) to help Fleming record a 3-yard tackle-for-loss…beaten on an out by Keith Smith (decent coverage, but this is not a wise matchup) for 13-yard gain on 1st and 20…beaten on a 3rd and goal slant by Smith for a 3-yard touchdown (tough cover for Brown and K-Mac nearly broke on the ball for the pick/knockdown.
  • Observations: Better tackling technique is essential for Brown (and many of his teammates) going forward.

  • Robert Blanton – I'd like to see Blanton a little tighter in Cover 3, especially on 3rd and 4 (complete for 7 yards)…showed good hustle to stop Bolden after a 26-yard gain…was actually picked on Smith's 36-yard slant for touchdown but Blanton recovered and should have made the tackle…stayed home (flat) as the CB in true Cover 2 and was faked out by Bolden in space but recovered to limit the ‘back to a 6-yard gain setting up 3rd and 5…tremendous read on a quick look to Valentin that goes down in the books as a pass break-up but should have been an interception touchdown. Blanton showed presence of mind to attack the receiver after popping the "interception" straight into the air…complete whiff in space against Keith Smith on 3rd and 5 for a gain of 12 yards. Blanton was in position to make the tackle to set up 4th down.
  • Observations: The poor-tackling bug bit Blanton as well.

  • Gary Gray – Nice coverage (late 2nd Quarter) in Cover 3 on a comeback intended for Keith Smith…good one-on-one coverage vs. Keith Smith on deep 3rd and 3 fade (though I'm not sure he saw the ball)…showed good awareness staying home on a throwback in the red zone (and had just checked in, to boot)…stayed home and made the play on a fake end around (minimal gain).
  • Observations: Gary Gray should continue to be a heavy part of the Irish cornerback rotation (and in favor of more playing time for the junior athlete).

  • Ray Herring – Missed a 1st Quarter sack opportunity on Elliot but did force the QB to run and limit him to a four-yard gain on 3rd and 11…pressured Elliot on a late 2nd Quarter blitz (Brian Smith made the tackle)…
  • Observations: Has carved out a nice niche role as a 5th-year senior in the team's Dime package. (Plays more of a edge rusher/LB than DB in the Dime).

  • Raeshon McNeil – Did not play from scrimmage.
  • Observations: The Irish rotated three CBs (Blanton, Walls, Gray) and curiously, the senior was not one of them. McNeil did contribute to the Irish special teams.

  • Jamoris Slaughter – Did not play from scrimmage.
  • Observations: Slaughter has yet to appear from scrimmage in either Irish road contest this season.


Darius Fleming's late 1st quarter tackle-for-loss helped change early momentum in ND's favor (PU punted two plays later)…Not sure about the schemes leaving Toryan Smith in coverage vs. slot receivers (or tight ends, but any responsibility vs. a slot receiver for Smith is nonsensical)…ND was beaten badly by a 4th and 3 slip pass to Bolden but he dropped the easy first down near the end of the half…sloppy secondary tackling is responsible for both a touchdown and key 3rd down play to set up the Boilers' second touchdown…the Irish are, to date, a poor-tackling team.

Defensive Sets to Begin Each Drive and Rotating Personnel:

  • 1st Drive: Nickel Base. (Darrin Walls and Robert Blanton at CB; John Ryan at RDE; Manti Te'o at LB). Te'o was replaced on the second play by Toryan Smith. Sergio Brown remained for the Nickel package. Drive covered 80 yards in 8 plays and culminated in a Keith Smith 36-yard catch and run for a touchdown. 7-0 Purdue
  • 2nd Drive: Base 4-3 (Kery Neal in for Ryan at RDE; Toryan Smith begins drive as MLB). Switched to Nickel with Sergio Brown when Purdue began to spread the Irish out in a no-huddle offense. Te'o and S Ray Herring (near the line) entered on 3rd and 11 in the defense's Dime package (Te'o at MLB). Drive covered 27 yards in 6 plays and ended with a punt from the Irish 48-yard line. Purdue 7 ND 0
  • 3rd Drive (end of 1st Quarter and beginning of 2nd): Base 4-3 with Sean Cwynar in at NT for Ian Williams. Neal remains at RDE for Ryan. Brown entered the drive when the Irish turned to the nickel package (replacing Cwynar). Drive covered 22 yards in 5 plays and ended with a Purdue punt from their own 40-yard line. Purdue 7 ND 3
  • 4th Drive (10:43 2nd Quarter): 4-3 Base (Ryan back in at RDE for Neal; Ian Williams returns at NT). Per usual, the Irish eventually turned to the Nickel package with Sergio Brown entering for Ian Williams. The drive totaled 18 yards on 4 plays and ended with a punt from the Purdue 27-yard line. ND 10 Purdue 7
  • 5th Drive (4:43 2nd Quarter): Nickel Base (Gary Gray in for Darrin Walls at CB; Ryan remains in for Neal at RDE). The Irish switched to the Dime package (Herring and Te'o) on 3rd and 10 and forced a Boilers punt. The drive covered just 13 yards in 5 plays and ended with a punt from the Purdue 27-yard line. ND 17 Purdue 7
  • 6th Drive (2:09 2nd Quarter): Nickel Base (Gray and Walls at CB; Neal in for Ryan at RDE). Drive covered just 7 yards in 4 plays and ended with a dropped 4th and 3 pass (wide open) at the ND 36-yard line. ND 17 Purdue 7
  • Final Drive/1st Half (0:18): Nickel Base. (Gray and Walls at CB; Ryan in for Neal at RDE). The Dime package entered on the final Hail Mary throw. The drive was a harmless four plays and 16 yards to end the half. ND 17 Purdue 7
  • 1st Drive/3rd Quarter: Base 4-3 (Walls and Blanton at CB; Ryan at RDE). The Irish turned to the Nickel (2nd and long) then Dime (to force a punt after 3rd and long). A 4-play, 10-yard drive that ended with a punt from the Purdue 46-yard line. ND 17 Purdue 7
  • 2nd Drive/3rd Quarter and beginning of the 4th: Base 4-3 (Walls and Blanton at CB; Neal at RDE for Ryan; Cywnar at NT for Williams). Gray replaced Blanton late in the drive. ND countered with a Nickel and eventually their goal line defense on this drive. The drive covered 59 yards in 10 plays and ended in a Elliot to Keith Smith slant touchdown. ND 17 Purdue 14
  • 2nd Drive/4th Quarter: Base 4-3 (Gray and Walls at CB; Ryan at RDE). Brown entered the game with the Nickel package as did Te'o and Herring in the Dime. The drive covered 18 yards in 7 plays and ended with a diving interception by Darrin Walls on 4th down. ND 17 Purdue 14
  • 3rd Drive/4th Quarter: Nickel Base (Walls and Gray at CB; Neal a RDE). The drive covered 69 yards in 5 plays and ended with a badly broken coverage by the Irish and a go-ahead, walk-in 38-yard touchdown reception by RB Jaycen Taylor. Purdue 21 ND 17
  • Final Drive Dime Package with Te'o and Herring. Te'o recorded a first-down sack and the drive ended with Ethan Johnson recovering a fumbled desperation lateral.

Final Score: ND 24 Purdue 21 Top Stories