Notre Dame football: Boilers neutralize Irish front seven

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.

The script couldn’t have been written any better for the start of the game for Purdue’s offense.

Call it a rolling start. The Boilermakers marched down the field for 75 yards on 12 plays to take a 7-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.

Quarterback Rob Henry took the wheel and running back Akeem Hunt ripped through the Notre Dame defense from out of the backfield. A 15-yard screen play to Hunt ended the successful drive, his third catch for a combined 39 yards.

For only the third time in its first three games, Purdue ended a drive with an offensive touchdown. The Boilermakers converted three key third downs on their way to the end zone.

In a press conference during the week, Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell said his offensive line would have to be creative in blocking the stout Irish defensive line.

“In the Michigan game, I thought their linebackers ran through the gaps really well last week, so we have to do a good job of making sure we don't create many creases inside,” Hazell said.

Purdue created its own creases by allowing the Irish defense across the line on screen plays to Hunt. The Notre Dame defense didn’t wise up to the Purdue strategy until later in the first half.

A steady offensive effort racked up 147 yards in the first half for Purdue. Twenty minutes into the game the Boilermakers opened a 10-0 lead.

Shutting down the run

Hazell’s biggest concern against Notre Dame’s offense was the power of its offensive line. Allowing just 29 yards rushing in the first half should qualify as a success.

“We're going to have to battle up front inside and try to contain,” Hazell said earlier in the week. “The big key for our defense is not to give up those big plays. That is the key. Make them earn every inch of the field, every inch of the grass.”

Eight yards, a carry by George Atkinson III, qualified as the longest run for the Irish in the first half.

A touchdown missed

Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen barely missed a touchdown opportunity early in the second quarter. Allen, who has returned four interceptions for a touchdown in his career at Purdue, broke on a Tommy Rees pass intended for Chris Brown on an out route. Allen dropped the pass and prevented himself from cruising for a 50-yard touchdown.

Keeping the rivalry intact

Darrell Hazell expressed his desire to keep the annual game with Notre Dame before he had even coached in one.

“I would love for this game to continue every single season,” Hazell said earlier in the week. “I think that it's good. Any time you have in-state rivalries, I think that makes for good spectating."

A crowd of 61,127 took in Saturday night's game at Ross-Ade Stadium.

It marked the 85th meeting between the two schools in Indiana, who have met annually since 1946. In his first-year as head coach at Purdue, Hazell joined the ranks of Boilermaker head coaches that had fared 6-16-2 in their first games against Notre Dame.

Anthrop returns

A West Lafayette product made his season debut Saturday night for Purdue.

Wide receiver Danny Anthrop, a sophomore, returned less than a month after suffering a knee injury in a team scrimmage. Anthrop was sidelined from the first two games of the season with what was termed as a sprained MCL in his left knee.

Anthrop saw action in 12 games as a freshman, in a combination of offensive and special team roles. He scored a rushing and receiving touchdown for the Boilermakers in 2012.

Purdue defenders swarm Notre Dame wide receiver TJ Jones (7) during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, in West Lafayette, Ind. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER