While I was in Chicago this weekend I had the privilege of watching college football on Saturday with Notre Dame greats Tony Rice, Pat Terrell and John Foley. It didn’t take long for the comments to start. “Did you see that? The Purdue player went to tackle our player and our player flinched and tried to dodge the hit. Really? HIT. HIM. This teams needs a little more “southside Chicago” in it.
I’m not sure how our defense could look so drastically different from last year, but if Kelly and Diaco don’t do something fast this has the potential of being a very long season. We all knew Te’o, Lewis-Moore and Motta were good, but now we’re really seeing how good we had it last year. Lets take a look at the defense from Saturday.
First of all, I love how all the media today is touting our win over Purdue as a comeback win. Should we really have to come from behind against Purdue? Shouldn’t our defense be able to handle Purdue’s offense. I shudder to think about what is going to happen when we face Sparty this week. Okay, I digress. Back to the defense.
I’m not sure if our team was even awake during the first half of the game. The defense just could not tackle anything. Purdue scored relatively easy midway through the first quarter on a 15 yard pass from Rob Henry to Akeem Hunt and I’m really surprised they didn’t score quicker than that with how poorly our defense was tackling. Since when did we stop teaching solid tackling? Wrapping up your man and making sure you’ve got him. Too many sloppy tackles and players slipping through the grasp of Notre Dame defenders. Hit your man. This isn’t ballet. Don’t be afraid to leave a mark. Hit him.
Our defense allowed Purdue to get 16 first downs, 38 rushing yards and 256 passing yards for a total of 294 yards. This in comparison to last week where Michigan had 25 first downs, 166 rushing yards and 294 passing yards for a total of 400 yards. Yes, we held Purdue to lower numbers, but it’s Purdue. And Michigan almost lost this week to Akron, so is Michigan really that good? Or are we really in that much trouble?
The good news … and yes, there was some good news in all of this. Bennett Jackson. Jackson’s interception in the fourth quarter and subsequent 34 yard run for a touchdown was his first career touchdown and the fifth interception of his career.
More good news … Jarrett Grace. Junior linebacker Jarrett Grace had a career-high 10 tackles which was also a game-high total.
The flip side of Jarrett Grace … where is the rest of the defense? Not one of the rest of the defenders had more than four tackles. Russell – four. Calabrese – four. Shembo - four. Jackson – four. Day – four. Farley – four. Fox – four. And the rest is even less than four. Diaco has got his work cut out for him this week. If they tackle like this against Michigan State it is going to get real ugly real fast.
#21 Notre Dame vs Purdue (Sep 14, 2013 at West Lafayette, Ind.)
(Stats from UND.com)
My biggest fear right now is this … do we have talent on this team that can be developed over the course of the year, or do we not have the talent that we had last year. I really hope that all we are seeing is a young team that needs further development but I’m really worried about Michigan State. I know we’re at home, but they are really going to have to dig deep this week and have a great deal of focus to be ready for Sparty. I hope I’m wrong and that there is more to this team than just the luck of the Irish.
What say you? Am I wrong? Totally off base? Or should I be worried?