Sunday, October 01, 2006

Notre Dame 35, Purdue 21

Semi-abbreviated game review.


Courtesy AP/Michael Conroy

Brady Quinn had another very successful day against Purdue, completing 76% of his passes for 316 yards and 2 TDs. I haven't looked, but Quinn's four games against Purdue have to put him in Notre Dame or Purdue's record books for career numbers against/by a single opponent.
Darius Walker finally saw a weak defense, and he thrived. Running Charlie Weis's ball-control offense, Walker saw a combined 40 touches (31 runs, 9 passes), 219 yards, and his first rusing TD of the season. James Aldridge, as you may have noticed, did not play in this one, but Munir Prince had two rushes for 7 yards.
Rhema McKnight continues to benefit from all the attention paid to Jeff Samardzija. This time around, McKnight pulled in 10 catches for 120 yards and 2 TDs. George West got his first touch on offense, and took an end around 11 yards for a TD. The play, which started with a fake to Walker up the middle, was set up beautifully as Walker was the only player to touch the ball up to that point. West's run was originally designed for David Grimes, but Grimes had to sit out this game due to an injury. Also because of Grimes' injury, Chase Anatasio saw more time at wide receiver. As usual, he blocked well, and also recorded his first catch of the season. John Carlson had another good day in the seams, this time picking up 62 yards on 5 catches.
When Ryan Harris was left alone against the talented Anthony Spencer, it showed. That's more of a compliment to Spencer's skills than it is a knock on Harris. The line palyed a little better than it has been, but there still were some rough spots out there.


Courtesy AP/Michael Conroy

This was the story of the ND pass rush on Saturday - close, but no cigar. The Irish recorded 9 quarterback hits - 4 by Victor Abiamiri alone - but no sacks. The secondary seemed to get lackadasical after the team was up by a few scores. Even Tom Zbikowski, who refused to miss a tackle in the first two games of the season, failed to wrap up on several occasions. If you're an extreme optimist, you can say that they would have played better in a closer game. Is that a good excuse? Not really.
Terrail Lambert continues to improve after the Michigan game. He led the team with 11 tackles, including one for a loss, and caused and recovered a fumble. Chinedum Ndukwe had 8 tackles, and Leo Ferrine had 5 in his first extended action of the season. In his first career start, playing for the injured Travis Thomas, Joe Brockington had three tackles.
On a positive note, Derek Landri is still flying all over the field. In the past few games, Rick Minter has been using the undersized defensive line to his advantage by dropping them into coverage on zone blitzes. I also continue to be a fan of the third down passing formation where Ray Herring comes in at safety and Zbikowski drops down o a nickelback, linebacker, or even a down lineman. It's a good use of Zbikowksi's athleticism without making him a full-time linebacker - where the extra weight would hinder his natural speed.
Also on a positive note, the Irish were able to contain Purdue's two headline weapons, Dorien Bryant and Dustin Keller. The duo combined for only 8 catches. Most of those catches going to Keller on short routes late in the game, when ND was back protecting against the deep ball. Of course, Purdue's #3 option, Selwyn Lymon had a field day, but that's another story.

Special Teams

Ryan Burkhart made his debut as kickoff specialist, and averaged 58.8 yards per kick.
The gunners were again not double covered on punts, and Tom Zbikowski's lone return went for 2 yards. Darrin Walls perhaps played his first bad game of the season on defense, but did combine for 44 yards on 2 kick returns.

If anyone would like to write this week's Stanford preview, please let me know by Wednesday.