Thursday, September 30, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 5: Purdue

Purdue Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Ty's philosophy on defense is to first worry about shutting down the run, then worry about shutting down the pass. I'm not sure if he does this to keep his D from overlooking the run, or if it's to keep his front 7 aggressive. Either way, the defense has been alright this year.
Everyone looks at Purdue's passing offense, but their rushing game isn't too shabby either, putting up 205.7 yards per game. Granted, that's against Syracuse, the Ball State Fighting Football Fighting Cardinal Fighting Football Cardinals (aka the Hoosieroons), and Illinois. As in the passing game, Purdue likes to share the wealth on the ground. Jerod Void and Brandon Jones are the big 2, with 71 and 50 yards per game, respectively. Backup QB Brandon Kirsch is used on occassion for gimmick plays, and he's averaging 40.5 per. Return specialist Jerome Brooks is averaging 33.5 yards per on the ground. The last two have only played two games each, so I'm guessing those stats came in their blowouts. Rounding out the rushing attack are QB Kyle Orton at 17 per, and fullback/Big Ten Best Special Teams Kamikaze Jon Goldsberry. Wow, the Sporting News actually gives a "fired up white guy on special teams" award. Impressive.
Speaking of impressive, Notre Dame is giving up 88.8 rushing yards per game. The Chain Gang leads the way - they're 1, 2, and 3 on the team in tackles. BHoyte and Derek Curry have cominged for 7.5 tackles for loss. Not to be outdone, the moving parts on the D-Line have also been solid. I'd name names, but the stats are too close to point out any leaders. This is the toughest defense Purdue has faced this year, and they won't be getting

ND Rush Offense vs. Purdue Rush Defense

Purdue's stats page only lists their top 5 tacklers. The top five consist of the three starting linebackers and the two starting safeties. Strong safety Kyle Smith is #1 and free safety Bernard Pollard is #4. (If you're curious, behind the linebackers for ND are Quentin Burrell, Dwight Ellick, and Tom Zbikwoski. Having a strong safety as your top tackler tells me two things: 1) you're blowing out the opposition, causing them to pass more, and 2) the oppositions running backs can get into the secondary every once in a while. In case you're wondering about 3) a strong safety that blitzes a lot - Smith has 2 TFL and no sacks.
I haven't seen an injury report at all, so I can't tell you about Ryan Grant. I can tell you this though: Darius Walker is still averaging 98 yards per game. Marcus Wilson can actually get positive yardage when used effectively. Rashon Powers Neal has shown he can be a powerful inside runner. And finally, Justin Hoskins is ready to get some carries. If they keep punishing Purdue's front 7, ND will have a good day.

Purdue Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

I'm told Kyle Orton is a Heisman candidate. Good for him. Orton has completed 70% of his passes, averages 327 yards per game, and is 13-0 TDs to interceptions. Hey, I guess that is pretty good, but Orton's toughest test so far has been not getting blinded by Syracuse and Illinois' bright orange uniforms. There's no doubt who his #1 guy is - Taylor Stubblefield has twice as many catches as anyone else on the team. He also is averaging 108 yards per game, and has 18 of the team's 14 touchdown receptions. If Ken Baer can work the bracket coverage on Stubblefield like he did against Larry Fitzgerald last year, it will be a good start, but that won't solve everything. Orton likes to use everyone; Purdue's #2 and #3 receivers are the tight end Charles Davis and running back Brandon Jones. These three are among the eight receivers who average 20+ receiving yards per game. Also of note is 6'9" receiver Kyle Ingraham, who should under no circumstances be lined up against Preston Jackson. He should, however, take a picture with Chris Scovil after the game, just because something like that would amuse me.
Notre Dame is giving up 225.5 passing yards per game, and they'll have their hands full. Purdue has only given up one sack this year, but look for that number to go up, starting with Justin Tuck. The secondary has been a very pleasant surprise this year, and has played with a definite ferocity. This will have to be a team effort, turnovers included, for Notre Dame to shut down this Purdue passing attack.

ND Pass Offense vs. Purdue Pass Defense

Purdue gives up 166 passing yards per game, with 8 sacks and 2 interceptions. If the O-Line blocks well, there shouldn't be anything to worry about.
Orton has hit 12 different receivers. So what, Brady Quinn has hit 14, including himself! Quinn has been showing that he can make stuff happen with this offense - short pass, long pass, first down. Third and long is no longer a snack break with this team. Heck with this team, there's rarely a third and long to begin with. Matt Shelton has been a breakout star, and is becoming a favorite of Quinn's. He's proven he can be a go-to guy for first downs, as well as a guy who can just go get the ball on a long pass. Rhema McKnight is quietly the leading receiver of this this team, and Maurice Stovall, if he's healthy, has finally pulled himself together. Throw in Jeff Samardzija, the deep tight end corps, and X factor Carlyle Holiday, and Quinn has a lot of options. If Anthony Fasano can channel the spirit of Gary Godsey, this will be a win.

Special Teams

Kickoff specialist Aaron Levin has a boot, but is inconsistent. He has 3 touchbacks and 3 kicks out of bounds. Place kicker Ben Jones seems average - he is 3-4 in field goals, with a long of 45 and a miss in the 30-39 range. He's also 19-20 in extra points. Punter Dave Brytus is average at best, with a 39.3 average, a long of 51, and 4 inside the 20. The kick coverage team is average. The punt coverage team has held opponents to 5 yards per return, but they've only forced 1 fair catch.
The main punt returner is Stubblefield, but his 2.3 return average isn't too impressive. On kick returns, Jerome Brooks is the man to look for. His long is only 34, but he has an average of 23 per. Also be on the lookout for Dorien Bryant, who has one return for 53 yards.
DJ (Ellen loves him) has been solid in double duty this year. His punting average is 41.8 per, and his field goal numbers are the exact same as Ben Jones's. ND is yielding 21.1 yards per kick return and 6.8 yards per punt return.
Carlyle Holiday will again be returning punts this week, and at home he's excitement waiting to happen. On kick returns, Justin Hoskins showed a flash of excitement on his one return late in the game. I'm expecting Hoskins to return at least one between the 45s, and for either Hoskins or Holiday to set up a 30 to 35 yard easy touchdown drive.

Look for a big game from

Quinn, Shelton, Fasano, Holiday, the defense as a unit.

ND 31, Purdue 24: Shelton, Fasano twice, Walker, and one by DJ.