Notre Dame football: Daniels makes move to impact player

AL LESAR
South Bend Tribune

One of the few Notre Dame positives to come out of last year's humbling BCS National Championship Game loss to Alabama was the play of DaVaris Daniels.

Popular opinion was that he was the sort of an athlete who could make an impact, but he hadn't proved it.

His six catches for 115 yards against the Crimson Tide gave credence to his potential.

Saturday night, in Notre Dame's win over Purdue, the 6-foot-2, 203-pound junior may have taken that step from good to elite.

Daniels had eight catches for 167 yards — with fourth-quarter touchdown receptions of nine and 82 yards — to yank the Irish out of their offensive funk and pave the way for a victory. He also caught an 18-yard pass for a first down in the crucial game-ending drive that preserved the win.

In order for Daniels to truly establish himself in rarified air, consistency is the next step. He had just two catches for 37 yards at intermission. His mission will be to play the whole game against Michigan State Saturday like he did the second half at Purdue.

"We got on him pretty good in the first half," Kelly said. "He went out of bounds one time."

"(The halftime reminder) was something that I already knew," Daniels said. "I had to step my game up; everybody had to step their game up, especially when you're trying to be 'that guy.' That's something you have to do. You have to take the team on your back sometimes and try to make plays."

"He stepped up his game, big time," Kelly said. "He played more physical. The first touchdown, it was a ball he had to take away from the defender. Then, the run after the catch.

"He's that kind of player. He's one of those guys, once in a while, that you have to light a fire under. He's a talented young man. He's maturing every day. He's showing just how good a receiver he can be."

"We just had to execute, that was the main message (at halftime)," Daniels said. "We had self-inflicted wounds. It's all up to us to make plays in the second half.

"We had all the momentum (in the second half). You could feel it in the crowd and their players, a little bit. That's how you've gotta play. We've gotta play like that the whole game, not just one half."

Daniels entered the game with nine catches for 132 yards and two scores, somewhat pedestrian numbers for a guy interested in being special.

"That's the kind of player he can be," Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees said of Daniels. "He's shown the success he can have. I'm excited for his future."

In Daniels' mind, the future is now. He has a chance to give the Irish offense the spark it's lacking.

"Losing (stinks)," Daniels said. "That's something we don't want to do here at Notre Dame. It's something we take pride in, winning games.

"We know everybody hates us. It makes us pretty happy to make everybody mad."

He got plenty of Purdue fans angry when he showed how physical he could be by wrestling a throw away from a Boiler for his first TD.

"Tommy threw a good ball (on his first touchdown)," Daniels said. "I ran a decent route. We ran (the same) play two plays before. Luckily, we got it (the second time). Tommy flattened me out and I made a play on the ball."

Then, he ran past and out-muscled Purdue's best corner, Ricardo Allen, with a stiff-arm on his key 82-yard catch and run. Thanks to a tiptoe, he managed to say inbounds.

"We had a good matchup with DaVaris outside," Rees said of the long play. "He can go and run. If you put the ball out there for him, he'll go run and make the play. I didn't really see it, but he made a great run after the catch; staying inbounds and being strong with it. That's the kind of player he is."

"My hairs on the back of my neck stood up when I got close (to stepping out of bounds), when I saw those hashmarks," Daniels said of the tightrope walk. "I just made a play. I tried to get as far away from that sideline as possible.

"You've just gotta catch the ball. You know what to do with it after you catch it, but you've just gotta catch the ball."

Sounds like a pretty simple game.

Maybe the leap from good to elite won't be that great after all.

Notre Dame's DaVaris Daniels makes a touchdown catch next to Purdue's Antoine Lewis during the game between Notre Dame and Purdue on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN