Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ND vs. PU - A Battle of 2-1's

College Football, Big Ten Football, Independents Football, Purdue Football, Joe Tiller, Charlie Weis, Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame Football, Curtis Painter, Kory Sheets, Preview/Prediction

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By Nick Shepkowski

A year ago we remember the match up in which the Irish waited until they trailed 23-0 before showing any signs of life in West Lafayette. That game was a coming out party of sorts as Golden Tate emerged on the scene with a touchdown on three receptions for over 100 yards receiving. As the story goes, we all remember that it would take until week one of 2008 to hear from Golden in such a way again.

When the Boilermakers enter South Bend this Saturday they will be led under the Golden Dome one last time under the reigns of head coach Joe Tiller. Tiller, who will retire at the end of the season became Purdue's all-time winningest coach last week, passing Jack Mollenkopf. Tiller looks to finish his career against Notre Dame right at the .500 mark as he enters Saturday 5-6 all time against the Fighting Irish, but only 1-4 in South Bend. Often under appreciated, one can not argue that Joe Tiller has put Purdue football back on the map after a rough start to the 1990's.

The Boilermakers come in fresh off of a come from behind win against familiar foe, Central Michigan. Trailing by one with under two minutes to go, Kory Sheets took a handoff 46 yards to give Purdue their second win of the season. What must Notre Dame do in order to keep Purdue from leaving South Bend with a 3-1 mark Saturday? Lets take a look...

The Purdue offense enters dangerous as usual, led by very possibly the most pro-ready quarterback in next years NFL Draft, Curtis Painter. Painter may not have the same kind of weapons around him like he has in years past but is still a dangerous quarterback who will not let the hectic Notre Dame blitz get in his head. Painter is coming off of an impressive 27/36 showing against Central Michigan where he threw for 261 yards and a touchdown. One negative of Painter so far this fall, his interception total matches his touchdown total with three a peice. Don't worry too much about him fleeing the pocket, but when Notre Dame blitzes it will be important they get to him in a hurry because he will make them pay if they fail to.

Kory Sheets carries the bulk of the weight in the Purdue run game as he enters leading the team in touchdowns with six, and two of them coming one week ago. Personally I would like to see the Irish slow down Sheets and make Painter beat them. I'm not saying Painter is a bad quarterback by any means as I have already stated how pro-ready he is, but his receivers this year aren't quite the receivers of previous Purdue teams.

Kevin Smith, Greg Orton, and Desmond Tardy are Painters go to guys, all averging over 50 yards a game this season. On third down and long Irish fans be weary as these will be the weapons of choice, don't expect any of these three to be the reason Purdue may walk out victorious on Saturday, if they do it will because of Kory Sheets.

The inability to run the football killed multiple drives early on in this past Saturday's game against Michigan State. This is a game where there should be no excuse for the Irish to not be able to run the football effectively. If they fail to there will be nobody to blame besides themselves.

Purdue enters this week having major problems stopping the run. A week ago Central Michigan was able to spout off just under four yards a carry for the entire afternoon against the Boilers. Previous to that, Oregon ran all over the Purdue defense in a game they averaged 7.1 yards per carry on their way to a 306 yard day on the ground. As I stated, expect Charlie Weis and Notre Dame to try and use the combination of Robert Hughes, Armando Allen, and James Aldridge. If Notre Dame can't run the football against Purdue then I am scared to see what the rest of the season brings in this department.Although Purdue is better against the pass than they are the run, they have still had troubles this season in stopping teams through the air. The Ducks of Oregon aired out right at 200 yards of passing offense while Central Michigan's Dan Lefevour threw for 291 yards a week ago. The defensive line is the strong point of the Purdue defense but if the Irish line can give Jimmy Clausen time, much like they did against Michigan, expect Clausen to have a big day if the running game fails.

Remember the game plan against Michigan which was to try and use playaction early on to take advantage of the weak secondary of the Wolverines? Expect the exact opposite this Saturday. I fully expect to see Notre Dame come out and try to pound away at the Purdue defense on the ground, then setting up a playaction deep ball. Then again, if the Irish have success running they may not stop either.

Special teams on both sides of the ball will be an exhibit in what not to do this Saturday. Both Purdue and Notre Dame enter this weekend with subpar field goal units. Sadly the edge probably does go to Notre Dame in this department as they have at least covered kicks slightly better than Purdue to this point in the season. I hope this game does not come down to field goals because it could last until eternity if it did.

I would like to see a few things from the Fighting Irish this Saturday that would let me breathe easier and be able to expect a win.

1 - Stop a Third and Long...Please!
Each opponent has converted a third down and long this season and wound up getting points as a result. It would be nice to see the Irish not allow a Purdue first down this weekend when they give the Boilermakers over seven yards to get.

2 - No Dumb Penalties...Enough said but I'll say more!
A week ago we saw Sam Young get called for a personal foul while the Irish were setting up show in their first possession of the game. It may not have directly amounted in points for Michigan State but it killed any hopes of Notre Dame picking up a third down and did not help in the field position battle. Its a little thing but it goes a long way at the end of the day.

3 - Turnovers...Must win this battle!
The last two weeks Notre Dame has been given a free lesson in winning the turnover battle. Michigan was obviously for the better and MSU for the worse. Win the turnover battle, convert turnovers into points and 9 out of 10 times you win the game.

4 - Let Golden make a play!
Golden Tate has emerged as legit playmaker on this offense. There aren't a whole lot of go-to guys like this on Notre Dame for the time being. He's a weapon and a proven go-to guy so far this season. When he gets touches good things happen, so make sure he gets the ball in his hands.

Prediction Time:

The Irish run game takes steps in the right direction while mixing in some long passes along the way as well. After seeing amongst the best running games in the nation a week ago Notre Dame slows down Purdue in that aspect...

Nick (3-0): Notre Dame 27 Purdue 21

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Notre Dame Road Show: Irish Travel to Take on MSU

Two years, its really been that long? It seems like just yesterday I was sitting by my computer in my dorm room, listening to all the things in the world that went wrong for the Spartans in East Lansing by none other than Mike Valenti. In a way, that was a turning point for MSU as they struggled the rest of the season and replaced John L. Smith with Mark Dantonio after 2006. Needless to say, its been a change for the better in Spartan-land.
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame hit the road this weekend for the first time in 2008 as they enter East Lansing in hopes of improving to 3-0 on the year. Fresh off of a 35-17 victory over Michigan, the Irish must improve on a few aspects of the game if they hope to pull an upset as they enter as 8.5 point underdogs to a 2-1 Michigan State team.

When Michigan State has the Ball:

Irish fans meet Javon Ringer.
Remember him? Hes the guy who has been tormenting the Irish for the past decade or so it seems when its really only been the past three seasons. He will enter Saturday just shy of 500 rushing yards with a total of 498 as he runs for just under five a carry at 4.8 yards per attempt. Simply put, stop him or even slow him down and the chances of pulling out a win in East Lansing sky rocket.
What is concerning about the fact that Ringer is the go-to man offensively is how the Irish performed last week against Sam McGuffie of Michigan. Only a freshman, McGuffie was able to scrap off 131 yards on twenty-five carries. Ringer is bigger, stronger, faster, and more experienced than McGuffie so the Irish defensive front will have no choice but to improve before this weekend.
Michigan State fans were very high on Brian Hoyer entering this season after he showed potential in his first season as the starting quarterback a year ago. Unfortunately for Spartan fans, Hoyer has struggled through the first three weeks of 2008, completing only 44% of his passes with just one touchdown thrown. The good of Hoyer? He's thrown just one pick so far in 75 attempts. It's obvious what this means Irish fans - make Michigan State put the ball in the air. Be able to do so and the Irish should be in business.
The Irish will also find a very capable deep threat in East Lansing this Saturday with Mark Dell. He has been the go to man for the Spartans in passing situations as he has hauled in over a third of the teams 36 receptions with thirteen of his own for 320 yards. BJ Cunningham is thrown to about half as much, but has still pulled in eight catches, averaging 17.4 yards per reception. Sure the stats with this are a bit intimidating, but remember, Hoyer's percentage of completed passes and know that getting pressure on the quarterback will be key. If the Irish can "make" him make a play instead of "let" him make a play they should be okay in pass defense.
To sum up the defense as a whole this weekend, I feel the Irish should do all in their power to control the running game and take their chances against Michigan State's passing game. Hoyer hasn't seen quite a defense like Notre Dame's so far this season. Do I mean the Irish bring that great of one to East Lansing? No. I mean what Notre Dame's gameplan consists of, which is blitz, blitz, and blitz again for the most part. To a quarterback that has not seen it before or at least - this season, this can reek havoc, expect the Irish to try and use that to their advantage in obvious passing downs.

When Notre Dame has the ball:

We saw Jimmy Clausen come alive in the fourth quarter against San Diego State and keep the momentum going into the first half against Michigan. Obviously, the weather and score of the game changed the Notre Dame gameplan for the second half, but the key stat to me from one week ago was the number 3.3. The Irish entered with a struggling running game and faced one of the best front-seven units in college football with Michigan, a team that was allowing right at one yard a carry against opponents entering last Saturday.
The Spartans bring a defense to the game Saturday which struggled very much against Cal in week one. Allowing 467 yards of total offense that day, as Michigan State struggled to find a way to slow down the Bears. I hope to see good weather this Saturday in East Lansing because this is a game where I feel the Irish are capable of throwing the ball around once again.
Coming off of last week it is easy to say this, but against Michigan State, I feel that it will be crucial for Notre Dame to get an early lead and to not turn the ball over. Golden Tate has been the go-to guy so far when the Irish have needed a play and for the most part he has come through for the Irish in 2008. The defense of Michigan State has allowed big plays this year, there is no reason why the Irish shouldn't be able to break one or two again this week.
Michigan State brings in talent, but a lot of question marks still lie in their defense where experience is not there in most respects. I feel that this game is going to turn into a shootout to some degree based on both teams defenses.
Notre Dame is facing a front-seven which is not nearly as talented as that of Michigan was. What does that mean exactly for the Irish? Success in establishing a running game as well as the ability to give Jimmy Clausen time to throw the ball down field. I would be surprised if the Irish offense can't put at least 24 points on the board this weekend.
Looking at special teams, that of Notre Dame's has come on very strong this season. Last week there were only two real mishaps, one when Armando Allen fielded a ball that was going out of bounds and gave the Irish poor field position, the other when a third quarter punt was partially deflected. Other than that special teams came up huge for Notre Dame, keeping Michigan deep in their own territory, something they need to do to Michigan State again this week.
I'll be honest, before writing this article and researching Michigan State a bit more, I did not like the Irish's chances too much in East Lansing. However, if Notre Dame can catch a couple of breaks and be able to do the things I talked about they should be in it late in the ballgame and we all know anything can happen then.
Unfortunately, I feel this week will be a bit of a hiccup for Notre Dame as Javon Ringer will prove to be just too much to handle.

Michigan State 34 Notre Dame 28

Sunday, September 14, 2008

WWR 2.0

A few short years ago the campus of Notre Dame was blessed by the presence of the likes of Maurice Stovall, Jeff Samardzija, and Rhema McKnight, forming WWR (Weis Wide Receivers) 1.0 . My fellow followers of football under the watch of Touchdown Jesus, a new core of receivers has shown its face on Notre Dame's campus and in my eyes looks to be even better than the aforementioned names. That's right, Duval Kamara, Michael Floyd, and Golden Tate will not only equal what Stovall, Shark and McKnight offered, they will be better.
How scary this young group o
f wide outs has to be for opposing defenses can't be fun to think about. We saw flashes in the pan of what Kamara can do in a jump ball situation against a cornerback in the endzone, with notable catches against Navy last year and Michigan this past week. Need someone to go to in one-on-one coverage? Kamara is amongst the best in the business in the college today, as a sophomore.
What Jeff Samardzija was able to do in a Notre Dame uniform is unbelievable considering how unknown he was a very short time before bringing on his stardom. Samardzija is the kind of receiver I expect to see Michael Floyd be one day. As a freshman Floyd was shown the awareness and leaping ability you expect to see from
a veteran, not a player who has now seen the field in only two career college football games.
Michael Floyd already does many things very well but has time to get even that much better. Floyd has shown his ability to go up for a jump ball much like Kamara is able to do, but he also shows the ability to run away from defensive backs just like we saw from Samardzija. Already seeing valuable playing time as a freshman, expect Floyd to turn into amongst the best wide outs in the nation before his tenure under the Golden Dome is complete.
The biggest play maker of the youthful group so-far in 200
8 has to be none other than Golden Tate. Whether it has been a late fourth quarter drive where the Irish face an obvious passing down while needing a first down, or in a surprise deep fly route, Golden Tate has continued to impress early in 2008.
When Tate came onto the scene against Purdue la
st season he seemed like he was plenty capable of running a fly route but what scared me was how he struggled in getting open if he wasn't trying to run right by a defender. It is safe to say that Tate has figured out how to go about doing just that.
Whether it was being a key cog in two fourth quarter drives against San Diego State or the receiver of the third touchdown in the win against Michigan, Tate has turned the corner. Not only has he improved in his ability to run routes, he has become the best route runner on this Notre Dame team. He has caught on very quickly, learning proper separation techniques that are even more key because of his lack of height compared to others.
Notre Dame fans have cried about not having anyone to throw the ball to since the departures of Samardzija and McKnight at the end of 2006. The wait is over folks and WWR 2.0 is currently in development and will be much better than its original in due time.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Greatest Moments Captured by ESPN

If you're looking for a greatest games type thing then you are in the wrong place and can move along now if you like. If you are looking for priceless things seen on the worldwide leader in sports, more commonly known as "Fuck-Ups" by ESPN in things that were shown that should not have been shown or just someone speaking a way they shouldn't be, then you're in the right spot.
Number 5: "Two for One"

...Not only is a certain part of the male body drawn with a telestrator but listen closely shortly after that mishap. Awkwardness, anyone?

Number 4: "Rick has No Idea"

...Was it staged or does Rick Majerus have no idea what he just said? Whatever the case Steve Lavin has a priceless reaction.

Number 3: "Lee Corso is a What?"

If you have to play it back a few times but look in the background and notice why some SEC fans are proven to have functioning brain cells.

Number 2: "West Fucking Virginia"

Short and straight to the point. Well done, sir. If a camera man or producer didn't lose a job over this one I'm shocked.


Oh I bet mom and dad are oh so proud of their youngsters. Did the idea of a blanket ever cross either of their minds?

Don't agree with me about these five or have one to add? Let us know about it by right away by posting a comment below.