Notre Dame football: Keys to the game
AVOID THE SNOWBALL
Last week's defeat at Michigan is just one loss. The important aspect for Notre Dame is to keep that from snowballing into poor performances this week against Purdue and beyond. It takes the right frame of mind along with proper execution.
Akeem Hunt is one of Purdue's dynamic playmakers. He took the opening kickoff last week against Indiana State and turned it into a 99-yard touchdown. That sort of game-changing play could be devastating for the Irish. (See "Snowball Effect" in Key No. 1, though on a smaller scale)
There was a time, early in his career, when Boilermaker quarterback Rob Henry could do as much damage with his legs as he could with his arm. A knee injury has limited his mobility somewhat, but Henry can still be an effective passer. His favorite target, by far, is tight end Gabe Holmes (9 receptions, 69 yards). The challenge for the Notre Dame defense is to not allow him sufficient time to find an open receiver.
CONTROL THE FRONT
Defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, all 6-foot-2 and 310 pounds of him, will give the Irish offensive line plenty to think about. He's a very efficient and productive force in the trenches. It's not often when a defensive tackle leads a team in tackles. Through two games, Gaston has 12 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
WALK THE WALK
During his Tuesday meeting with the media, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly dared teams to load "the box" with "plus-one or plus-two," meaning a whole bunch of defenders available to stop the run. Kelly said such a strategy would allow quarterback Tommy Rees to capitalize on the downfield passing opportunities. "If you want to play that way, we will beat you," Kelly said.