Lesar: Five takeaways from Notre Dame's victory over Purdue

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Getting beyond the giddiness of the win over Michigan was the challenge for Notre Dame football fans last week.

This week’s mission will be to avoid the angst that is the residual from a 30-14 win over Purdue Saturday night that won’t be headed toward “instant classic” status anytime soon.

There are always nuggets of insight that can be gleaned from every game. Here are five takeaways from the experience in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Handling adversity

Every football coach has his own definition for adversity.

For Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly against Purdue, it came in the form of his team’s first deficit of the season (14-10 in the second quarter); several critical players missing because of injuries (safety Austin Collinsworth (knee), guard Christian Lombard (ankle), receiver Amir Carlisle (knee), corner Cole Luke (neck) or expulsion (safety Max Redfield); and a defense that was having trouble standing its ground.

Before the bleeding turned to an all-out hemorrhage, the Irish closed the wound. They took the lead, allowed Purdue no points and 121 net yards of offense in the second half, and weathered the storm.

That experience will help the next time it gets dicey.

Line concerns

Even with Lombard (high ankle sprain) a good bet to return in time for Syracuse, Sept. 27, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has his work cut out for him.

Notre Dame’s offensive line generated just 139 net rushing yards against Purdue, and allowed quarterback Everett Golson to be sacked four times.

That just isn’t acceptable.

It may be time to look for some personnel moves. Kelly has talked repeatedly about Steve Elmer being a guard in a tackle’s body. He has played right tackle the past three games. It may be time to move him to left guard, next to left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who he played next to last season (on the right side). That would open the door for sophomore Mike McGlinchey to be the starter at right tackle. When Lombard is healthy, he’d be at right guard. Matt Hegarty and Conor Hanratty would also split time at guard.

Knuckleheads abound

After the game, Kelly was not the least bit happy with a couple “knucklehead penalties.”

Will Fuller got flagged for lining up offside. “An offside penalty because you can’t take the time to look at the official’s foot to line up?” Kelly said. “Are you kidding me?”

Then there was safety Elijah Shumate’s excessive celebration penalty after the Irish recovered a Purdue fumble inside the Notre Dame 10.

Don’t forget safety Max Redfield’s targeting penalty on Purdue quarterback Danny Etling. Kelly exonerated Redfield, saying it was an aggressive play that lacked intent, though he did not argue with the call.

Secondary depth

As defensive back after defensive back left the field, Kelly and his staff were doing some emergency coaching, trying to get enough unseasoned players up to speed.

Redfield, Luke, Collinsworth and Nicky Baratti (shoulder) all missed the second half. Add to that corner KeiVarae Russell, missing because of the ongoing academic fraud investigation, and the Irish secondary was looking pretty lean.

Devin Butler stepped in at corner and played well enough to get his first career interception. True freshman Drue Tranquill took over at safety and had four tackles. Matthias Farley, Notre Dame’s nickel back, who played safety last year, was getting some quick reminders as Tranquill’s backup, just in case. Why the Purdue offense didn’t test Tranquill more than it did is still a mystery.

Trust Robinson

He’s tall, agile, and has what Kelly calls a tremendous “catching radius.”

So why wasn’t receiver Corey Robinson more of a weapon early in the season? Fuller (six catches for 51 yards and a TD against Purdue) has been Golson’s favorite target through three games.

Robinson, a slender 6-foot-5, 215-pound sophomore, got some attention when he won the physical battle with two Purdue defenders while going up for the ball on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Golson.

That play – he finished with three catches for 52 yards – was instrumental in Robinson being awarded the game ball.

More than just a trophy, that ball signifies the confidence he earned from his teammates and coaches.

Notre Dame was victorious, but coach Brian Kelly has some things to teach his 3-0 team. (SBT Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES)