Last time we graced Ross-Ade-Stadium with our presence, it took a game winning touchdown catch by Kyle Rudolph to somehow escape West Lafayette with a win. While that was a memorable game for me personally, (Rudy made the catch about 3 feet from where I was standing on the sideline, Golden Tate stole my leprechaun hat, wore it for the Alma Mater, then repayed me in Cheesy Fries at Reckers when we got back to campus at 4am - Cheesy Fries were not on the menu then, but they are now - you're welcome) it ended up way too close for comfort against a clearly inferior opponent. Even so, that was then, and this is now. We have a new coach, a new team, and Pur-don't Pur-won't be able to hang with us any more if we play up to our potential.
Pur-don't has produced a few curious soundbytes leading up to Saturday night's prime time matchup on ESPN. (Yes, two unranked opponents with 3 losses between them play at 8pm on ESPN - I love when that network bows down to us.) For starters, Pur-don't linebacker Joe Holland, the son of a son of a Domer, stated that he is extra pumped (Boiler up! Woot! Woot!) for this one because, in his own words, Notre Dame "didn't recruit me like Purdue did." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'm guessing that Joe, who played high school ball at Bishop Chatard in Indy, sits in the same boat as many of his teammates who also hail from the great state of Indiana but were passed over when it came to scholarship letters sent out from the Golden Dome. But wait... there's more! Joe didn't stop there. He went on to say that "the stage is definitely set" and "it would mean a lot for our team to get this one..." Is it just me, or does someone from Pur-don't attempt to make this game out to be more than it is every single year? Sorry, but this is not the battle for the Jewelled Shillelagh (we will be defending our magic stick on October 22). This is the battle for the plain old regular Shillelagh... which is just not as sexy or exciting (befitting of our rather bland opponent, no?). The fact of the matter is that while Pur-don't attempts to hype up their Hoosier-ness, the vast majority of our players have lived most of their lives with no connection whatsoever to the miraculous state of Indiana. We will treat this game just like any other game: Go in, take care of business, get the W, and come back to campus for some Cheesy Fries.
You may be wondering why I am being so mean to the second best football team in the state that I have called home for the past 6 years (sorry Ball State, oh and I think they might play football at IU too...). In all honesty, it's because my last visit to West Lafayette wasn't all Lucky Charms and Cheesy Fries. Not only were the locals less than friendly, (Thanks for spitting on me and my sweet ND backpack!) but Pur-don't Pete was... well... pardon my French... a giant Pur-douche. All I did was beat him in a dance-off on national television and then tell him that he would have to get on my level before he could consider himself an "in-state rival." How did he react? At halftime he got in my face as he revealed the t-shirt he was wearing under his goofy costume, which featured a boilermaker performing a lewd act on a leprechaun. After his own cheerleaders berated him in disgust, I thanked him for being such a gracious host and went on my way. That's all I have to say about that...
|Sorry Petey, but I've seen bigger...|
|... and so has this kid.|
OK, back to the game at hand. Pur-don't comes into this week at 2-1, but don't let their record fool you. Their wins have come against Middle Tennessee and Southeast Missouri State, while their sole loss came at the hands of mighty Rice. Thus far, they rank 181st nationally in terms of strength-of-schedule, while Notre Dame ranks 5th. Even more telling than these stats were the statements made by Pur-don't head coach Danny Hope, who said that a win over the FIghting Irish "would be a signature win." Really? He's looking for a signature win against an unranked opponent with a 2-2 record?! Then, as if that wasn't ridiculous enough, Danny did a total 180 by saying, "If things don't work out right, it's not the end of the world... but a win on Saturday could change our world in some ways." Not the end of the world?! Dude... you're a football coach! And your last name is HOPE! Let me quote Chris Berman on this one with a hearty "C'MON MAN!" Don't get me wrong, I have always been a big fan of Danny's mustache swag, but how can anyone take a coach who says something like that seriously?
|What he lacks in "Hope,"|
he makes up for with pure style.
Luckily for us, Pur-dont's biggest strength can be found in its running game, which ranks 11th nationally. They are currently averaging an astounding 258.7 yards per game on the ground (keep their opponents in mind, though) behind a talented and experienced offensive line. Unfortunately for them, no real passing offense (73rd nationally) has been able to surface as a reliable counterpart to their rushing attack. This bodes extremely well for us, as our defensive front continues to prove that it is the rock upon which our entire team is built. We held MSU to under 50 yards rushing, we stopped Pitt's Ray Graham from breaking the century mark after he averaged 140 yards over his first 3 games, and we will do much of the same on Saturday night.
The real key to this game will be whether Pur-don't can force us into passing situations by shutting down our running game (they have held opponents to 2.8 yards per carry thus far, albeit against an incredibly weak schedule) and how Tommy Rees reacts when those situations do arise. If "Tommy Turnover"can overcome his chronic case of fumbles and picks, he should be able to shred a secondary that even had trouble against the likes of Rice, Middle Tennessee, and SE Mizzou State (an unranked FCS team). The begnning of the game will most likely be emotional and filled with energy, but in the end I'm pretty confient that Pur-don't probably Pur-won't...
Fighting Irish: 31
Offensive MVP: "Tommy Turnover" will finally turn it around and quiet the crass critics currently calling for Crist by shredding the opposing secondary into Rees's Pieces. Look for him to light up the night sky over West Lafayette.
Defensive MVP: Manti is about to do something big... maybe even ESPN Top-Ten worthy.