After a safe and conservative win in Dublin, Ireland against the Navy Midshipmen, Brian Kelly needs to unleash his sophomore quarterback Everett Golson against Purdue.
The Irish played it safe against Navy. Considering the team traveled to another country to play the game, broke in a new quarterback and were forced to defend an offense they probably won't see the rest of the season, it made a lot of sense to play close to the vest. Handing the ball off to the capable hands of Theo Riddick and to a lesser degree George Atkinson III was the easiest path to victory and the Irish line looked excellent doing it.
However, with the first win out of the way, it's time to break out some of that wide-open offense that Kelly is known for. That starts with allowing Golson to have some responsibility and make plays.
Notre Dame has the perfect opponent in Week 2 to let Golson make a big step up. The Boilermakers are coming off of a 48-6 win over Eastern Kentucky and have two quarterbacks capable of making plays in Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush. Getting out to a lead early and controlling the ball with a steady diet of runs may have worked against an overmatched Navy squad, but the Irish will need balance to beat Purdue.
Unlike Navy, Purdue will be able to test the one area of this Notre Dame defense that remains questionable—the secondary. TerBush is expected to start against the Irish after sitting out last week's game due to suspension.
Given that TerBush was able to beat out Marve for the starting position after seeing Marve throw for over 300 yards last week, the Irish could be in for a shootout if the secondary doesn't play up to par.
Should Kelly open up the offense against Purdue?
An argument could be made that Kelly should once again keep the offense as vanilla as possible for Purdue and wait to really unleash Golson and more of the spread attack until the Irish really need it.
With games against Michigan State and Michigan on the horizon, it's important to know that they can depend on Golson to not just manage games, but win them when they don't have such an advantage in the running game.
Golson won the job partially because his athleticism makes him a versatile threat that can really open up the offense, much like Zach Collaros did when he played under Kelly in Cincinnati. That's the kind of offense the Golden Domers will need to stay competitive throughout the season.
A convincing win over Navy was a nice way to start the season for the Irish, but now they must focus their attention on preparing to take on a brutal schedule. We saw what can happen when the Irish line up under center and run right at Navy, now it's time to see how Golson handles more of the playbook while making a step up in competition.