2013 Season Preview: Purdue
Schedule: September 14, 2013
Where: West Lafayette, Indiana
In 2013, Notre Dame travels to West Lafayette for their 85th meeting with the Purdue Boilermakers, but for the first time the two teams will play under the lights of Ross-Ade Stadium. With the B1G mandating Purdue to play nine games in conference and Notre Dame adding five new ACC opponents, this rivalry may go the way of Michigan after 2014. Hopefully the night game will amp up a normally rumpus crowd and provide an entertaining venue for, potentially, the Irish’s last trip to West Lafayette.
The 2012 Purdue team finished a disappointing 6-7 after many analysts predicted they would challenge for the B1G conference title. Purdue went through a stretch of the 2012 season where they lost five straight games to B1G opponents by an average of 20 points. Purdue did challenge Ohio State before losing in overtime and forced Notre Dame to win with a late field goal, but throughout the season Purdue consistently stalled on offense and underperformed on defense.
In the off season Purdue parted ways with former head coach Danny Hope and hired Darrell Hazell, head coach of Kent State the last two seasons. Hazell transformed Kent State into a dominant MAC program and came one win away from a BCS game. Under Hazell Kent State employed a potent rushing attack with a two-man running back rotation and a mobile quarterback. In 2012 Kent State finished 18th in the nation in total rushing. Hazell will most likely attempt to balance Purdue’s offense as they prepare for the B1G opponents who traditionally have excellent rush defenses.
Purdue’s inconsistent offensive production can be blamed on Danny Hope who constantly rotated quarterbacks between Robert Marve and Caleb Terbush. The rotation prevented the offense from finding a groove and robbed the team of a field general. In the 2012 Notre Dame-Purdue game, Hope pulled Marve at the beginning of the second half and started TerBush. Without Marve, Purdue’s offense lost the ability to move the pocket and Notre Dame’s front seven took control. Marve and TerBush have graduated and signed free agent contracts with the Tampa Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals, respectively. Senior Robert Henry, a mobile quarterback with a good arm, will most likely win the starting quarterback job, but reports from Purdue’s spring game indicate that Henry has a real challenge from true freshman, Danny Etling, one of Hazell’s prized recruits, and Austin Appleby, a 6’5” red-shirt freshman.
Whoever wins the quarterback job will have to deal with an offensive line that graduated starting center Rick Schmeig and starting guard Peters Drey. Purdue does return fifth year senior tackles Trevor Foy and Justin Kitchens who Hazell’s hopes can protect an inexperienced starter. Purdue’s top rusher Akeem Shavers has graduated (signed with the New England Patriots), but Hazell will likely fill that void with the running back tandem of Akeem Hunt, a shifty back who attacks the edges, and Brandon Cottom Jr, a bruiser who weighs-in at 255lbs.
In last year’s matchup the defensive line led by Kawaan Short and Bruce Gaston caused nightmares for Mike Golic Jr and limited Notre Dame’s rushing game. The defense line lost Kawaan Short to the NFL (drafted by the Carolina Panthers), but they return DT Bruce Gaston, DE Ryan Russell and DE Ryan Isaac. Isaac and Gaston showed that they can play, but the loss of Short will allow teams to shift double teams to Gaston and create problems for MLB Will Lucas, a converted quarterback. The secondary returns CB Ricardo Allen Jr (a three year starter) and safeties Landon Fleitcher, the team’s leading tackler.
In last year’s game Tyler Eifert, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Davaris Daniels suffered injuries early in the game and Cierre Wood was suspended leaving Notre Dame without four of their star performers. On the offensive line Kawaan Short dominated Notre Dame’s interior offensive line and forced a young Everett Golson to move the pocket and make throws on the run to a depleted receiving corp. If Danny Hope had not pulled Marve Purdue may have pulled out a win, but without Marve Notre Dame’s defense simply shut down TerBush and did not allow another score.
Notre Dame’s defensive line should dominate Purdue’s interior offensive line and force Henry to throw on the run. If Shembo, Williams, Tuitt and Spond can close off the edges and keep Henry in the pocket, Purdue’s offense will struggle to move the ball. Notre Dame’s offensive line should be prepared for the speed of Isaac and Russell and they will need to double team Gaston. With Gaston limited, I do not see Purdue’s linebackers penetrating into Notre Dame’s backfield. Moreover Daniels, Jones and Niklas will prove to be difficult matchups for Purdue’s undersized safeties.
On paper Notre Dame has more talent than Purdue, but the Boilermakers could catch the Irish coming off a tough matchup against Michigan and looking forward to another tough matchup against Michigan State. If Notre Dame fails to move the ball early and keeps Purdue in the game, Hazell’s aggressive coaching style could steal a victory. But Notre Dame’s offensive line will clear holes for GAIII and he should have a big day, while Jones, Daniels and Niklas will take advantage of Purdue’s smaller secondary. The Irish should leave West Lafayette with their fifth straight victory over Purdue.