The Irish head to West LaFayette this weekend to take their in-state rival, the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue football has seen better days and Rod Woodson probably isn’t suiting up to help out the Boiler defense this weekend.
Here’s a preview of the Purdue defense:
The defensive line is really the only part of the Purdue defense that may present a challenge for the Irish. Last season, Ryan Russell gave Zach Martin fits with a disruptive performance. Russell is a little lean for a defensive end, weighing about 270 pounds, but he’s explosive off the ball. Ryan Watson is the back-up to Ryan Isaac at defensive tackle, but poses more of a threat than the upperclassmen ahead of him. Touted as one of Purdue’s best recruits of the 2012 class, Watson has the potential to be an impact player and will get his first major test against Notre Dames interior offensive line.
The middle of Purdue’s defense is suspect at best. This year’s starters combined for a total of 67 tackles last season, that’s not good. Looking at the stats for this season, it’s not much better for Boiler Nation. Middle Linebacker, Sean Robinson has nine tackles on the season, Outside Linebacker Joe Gillam has just eight and Armstead Williams (the other OLB) has three, although he’s only played in one game.
Half of the top ten players in tackles are from the secondary. There are two main reasons for this. First of all, Indiana State threw the ball a lot, resulting in the corners and safeties making tackles. Indiana State threw for 256 yards and ran for just 39, so it was a busy day for the defensive backfield. When the Boilermakers took on Cincinnati, the Bearcats ran all over them, racking up 221 yards on the ground and forced the defensive backs to make tackles down field. Needless to say, they’ve been worn out by two offenses that are inferior to that of the Irish.
Tommy Rees and his offense should have a chance to get into a rhythm and establish an identity this week. I also hope to see Brian Kelly take some of the onus off of Rees and see how Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant do running the ball. It was clear in the Michigan game that the Irish couldn’t maintain possession, mostly due to the lack of a running game (that Kelly never seemed to want to establish). Assuming the starters take care of business, this game is a chance for the talented youth of the Irish offense to get on the field and show what they can do. Go IRISH!