Perhaps it was only the first game of the season, but Irish eyes are surely smiling as the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame began with a 23-12 victory over Purdue. The Irish may not have looked like a national championship caliber team but there is a definite noticeable difference as compared to years past. The fans were excited, the leprechaun had to do push-ups, and the players were smiling and actually looked like they were having fun.
Brian Kelly has been successful at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati. He now has the arduous task of returning Notre Dame to the level of success that has not been seen since Lou Holtz. Irish fans can feel it. Sure, they have said that with Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weiss–but this time it is real? Right?
Despite some minor issues, Notre Dame had a solid performance against Purdue. One noticeable difference was what seemed to be a stronger defense than we have seen in previous years. The Irish defense limited Purdue to 321 offensive yards. Purdue managed to rush for 104 yards and had 217 passing yards. Notre Dame also forced two interceptions, including a key Darrin Walls interception on the Notre Dame 16 yard line. The defense also tallied four sacks. Brian Kelly’s teams have not been known for defense. Last year, Cincinnati’s unbelievably successful team gave up numerous points. If Notre Dame’s defense surprisingly seems to look better than last year, this could be a positive sign for things to come.
Offensively, Dayne Crist had a strong game. He was 19/26 with a total of 204 yards passing and one touchdown pass to TJ Jones. Crist looked poised at the quarterback position and was able to successfully find a variety of receivers. Kyle Rudolph and Michael Floyd were the favored receivers. Floyd led the way with five receptions for 81 yards. Rushing, Armando Allen was just 8 yards shy of breaking the 100 mark and Cierre Wood had 7 carries for 58 yards.
Notre Dame’s noticeable weakness was fumbling the ball. Even if they only lost one out of their four fumbles, the Irish need to address this before facing Michigan next week. Notre Dame was lucky on many occasions to recover the fumble.
Next week will be a true test of how much Kelly has improved the team. Michigan had a solid performance from their offensive line against Connecticut. Notre Dame’s defense will have to play aggressive to pressure Michigan’s quarterback. It will definitely not be as easy as penetrating Purdue’s offensive line.
Source: Yahoo Sports