Notre Dame struggled at times, but solidly defeated an overmatched Purdue team Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Brian Kelley's system had a far different feel than that of previous coach Charlie Weiss. The running game was prominent, consuming time, keeping Purdue's offense on the sidelines for much of the game. The passing game was efficient. First year starter Dayne Crist looked sharper and more in command than Jimmy Clausen ever did.
Crist had a passer rating of 152.0, completed 73% of his passes, and did not throw a single interception. But he also managed the game, something his predicessor never could figure out. While Notre Dame had become known as a pass-first offense over the last five years, Saturday they showed a new mentality. Crist dropped back to pass 28 times, getting sacked twice, and the Irish drew up 31 running plays, giving them a balance that is necessary for prolonged success.
But the biggest surprise was the opportunistic defense. While Purdue's offense put up over 300 yards, they turned the ball over twice, and the Irish demonstrated a bend-but-don't-break toughness that kept Purdue out of the endzone for most of the game.
Next up for the Irish is a Michigan team that is coming off an easy victory over UCONN. Michigan, however, is still a team in trouble. NCAA sanctions, consecutive losing seasons, and a coach on the hot seat makes the Wolverines a fierce beast backed into a corner. Kelley's system is far better than that of the Wolverines' Rich-Rod system, but Notre Dame should be weary not to underestimate a team desperate for a big rivalry win. The upcoming game will be at Notre Dame stadium (please take the time to rate Notre Dame Stadium here), giving the Irish an edge. But there will need to be some improvements in the rush defense. Michigan has a quarterback who can run wild and is also extremely accurate passing. The Irish defense will need to be twice as tough for Notre Dame to improve to 2-0.