Notre Dame’s Defensive Grades Against Purdue


Notre Dame fans saw a familiar theme in Lucas Oil Stadium when Notre Dame took on Purdue in the annual Shamrock Series. I am referring to the theme of Purdue always playing the Irish tough even when Notre Dame is heavily favored. Purdue came into Indianapolis a thirty-point underdog and actually lead by four points in the second quarter. I am not sure why, but Purdue has been a torn in Notre Dame’s side the last few years. This is why I was leery when I saw the line close at around thirty points.

Notre Dame’s defense played a little Jekyll and Hyde in the first two halves Saturday night. The first half we saw Purdue’s power rushing attack set up two Boilermaker’s touchdowns. But then we saw halftime adjustments and VanGorder’s defense put more pressure on quarterback Danny Etling while essentially halting the Purdue rushing attack. This week was a little harder than the Michigan game, but here are the grades for Notre Dame’s defense against Purdue:

Defensive Line – B

Notre Dame’s defensive line and linebackers held Purdue to only 2.2 yards per rush, but runs on Purdue’s two scoring drives ultimately lead to scores. A huge play by the Defensive Line came in the second quarter when Purdue running back Akeem Hunt fumbled near the Irish goal line. The fumble was recovered by Sheldon Day and prevented a Boilermaker score. Day finished the game with three total tackles, one QB hurry, and the aforementioned fumble recovery. The Defensive Line’s best performer was Romeo Okwara who finished with eleven total tackles, one forced fumble and a half of a sack.

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  • The Defensive Line, especially in the first half, had little pressure on the quarterback. Granted that Etling was getting his passes out before Day and company could get any pressure, but the unit needs improve if they want to have any success against teams like Stanford or Florida State.

    Linebackers – B

    In the first half, the Notre Dame linebackers allowed Purdue’s running backs to sneak out to the flats and big up decent yardage. There were a few times in the game where the backers were exposed on a pass play. Late in the third quarter, Joe Schmidt went for an interception instead of Gabe Holmes that resulted in a first down. Schmidt later made one of Notre Dame’s biggest plays when he intercepted Etling that essentially ended the game. Jalyon Smith looked versatile by covering the whole field and by picking a huge sack in the fourth quarter. The only knock on Smith is that there were a few times where he went for the big hit instead of the sure tackle. This resulted in Purdue picking up additional first downs and yardage.

    Secondary – C

    The secondary was what I was referring to when I wrote that the defense was a little Jekyll and Hyde against Purdue. Injuries, ejections, and poor play hurt the secondary throughout the game.

    The first half had Irish fans seeing more of a defense that played Rice instead of Michigan. Max Redfield’s targeting ejection hurt an already thin safety position. Hopefully Redfield could turn his ejection into a learning experience instead of a blemish on his game. It sucks to see Nicky Baratti re-injuring his shoulder after one play when he was subbed in for Redfield. Elijah Shumate needed to move from strong to free safety after Baratti when down with an injury. Shumate had a few good plays but Shuamte was flagged for taunting after Notre Dame recovered a fumble. Shumate also should have ha an interception in the third quarter.

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    Cody Riggs had a decent game but Purdue scored both their touchdowns on Riggs. The first touchdown Riggs had little chance of stopping Brandon Cottom on the goal line. But he should have prevented the Yancy touchdown in the second quarter. It is never a good sign when a starter is lost for the game due to an injury, but Devin Butler did an admirable job filling in for Luke Cole. Butler notched his first career interception but was burned Yancy for a deep pass in the fourth quarter. Hopefully Notre Dame can take the bye week to recover from all the injuries, and hopefully get some info on the players in limbo.