Notre Dame Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Irish's Win Against Purdue

Stephen Williams@SteveO_WilliamsContributor IIISeptember 9, 2012

Notre Dame Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Irish's Win Against Purdue

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    Kyle Brindza knocked through a 27-yard field goal with just seconds to play on Saturday to give the Irish a three-point victory over Purdue.

    Former starting quarterback Tommy Rees subbed in for the final drive and led Notre Dame down the field and put them in position for the win.

    With the victory, the Irish are 2-0 to start the season with big games coming up each of the next two weeks. Notre Dame travels to East Lansing next week to take on a very good Michigan State team. Then they will return home for a big-time matchup against rival Michigan.

    Before the Irish start getting ready for the Spartans, here are 10 things we learned on Saturday.

Quarterback Controversy

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    With 2:05 left on the clock, Notre Dame got the football back in a tie game. Head coach Brian Kelly elected to send Tommy Rees into the game to put his team in position to win.

    By this point, everyone is aware that Rees was the starting quarterback but then was suspended for the opener against Navy. Sophomore Everett Golson took over as the starter and had been playing well.

    However, when Kelly needed it most, Rees was the man called upon to get it done.

    What did he do? He led them on a 12-play, 45-yard drive resulting in the game-winning field goal.

    Like it or not, there is now a quarterback controversy in South Bend. Kelly may not admit it, but wait until the first time Golson struggles in a big game. Fans will begin calling for Rees, and it will begin.

Tommy Rees Has a Clutch Gene

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    Rees missed the opening game in Dublin because of a suspension, and he didn’t get his first action of 2012 until Brian Kelly put him in to lead the game-winning drive.

    Some athletes just have a knack for coming up clutch in big-time situations.

    If you watched Rees on Saturday, you would definitely say that about him. For you to not play at all until the final drive of a tie game, and you lead a game-winning drive, that’s pretty clutch to me.

Running Game Must Improve

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    Saturday’s numbers: 36 rushes for 50 yards.

    That’s really ugly. Do the math and it works out to 1.4 yards per rush for the Irish.

    Yes, the numbers get skewed by yards lost to sacks, but let’s be honest, Notre Dame needs a lot of improvement out of its ground game.

    This performance was good enough to get them past a game Purdue team, but with contests looming against Michigan State and Michigan, those numbers must get better.

Offensive Line Needs Work

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    As was previously stated, the running game was not good against the Boilermakers. The Irish averaged just 1.4 yards per rush, and Theo Riddick led the team with 54 yards on the ground.

    However, that wasn’t the only issue.

    The offensive line also allowed five sacks, which resulted in a loss of 42 yards.

    For a team that is leaning heavily on its passing game, the Irish haven’t done a good job of keeping their quarterback off the turf.

    Opponents are going to turn the heat up against the Irish in the coming weeks, especially if there’s not much of a threat on the ground.

Ireland Wasn’t Easy to Recover From

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    The Irish opened the season in Dublin, and then had to travel back to South Bend and readjust to life in the states.

    It seems like it took a while for Notre Dame to recover. The Irish looked sluggish out of the gates on Saturday, and they never really seemed to get in any kind of a rhythm.

    Most teams don’t get the opportunity to travel overseas at the collegiate level, so the experience was a very cool and unique one. However, I’m sure the Irish are glad they don’t have to make any more trips like it the rest of the season.

Purdue Is Better Than We Thought

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    All of the preseason hype in the Big Ten belonged to Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State.

    Purdue doesn’t quite belong in the same breath as those teams, but this is a team that has the potential to knock off one of the aforementioned teams at some point this season.

    The Boilermakers ultimately need to make a decision on a quarterback and stick with it, but they have a good enough team to challenge some of the top-tier teams.

Brian Kelly Has a Lot of Guts

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    It’s not every day that a coach elects to insert a new quarterback for the final drive in a tie game. However, that’s exactly what Brian Kelly did on Saturday.

    Kelly went with his gut instinct and called upon Tommy Rees to lead the team to victory. Rees rewarded Kelly’s gamble by orchestrating the game-winning drive.

    Most coaches wouldn’t have made the change at quarterback, but Kelly followed his gut. It paid off in the form off a win and 2-0 start to the season.

Notre Dame Appears to Have Matured

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    Over the course of Saturday’s game, the Irish had seven players go down due to injuries, including two of their captains.

    However, the Irish battled through it and came up with a big victory.

    “The story for me as the head coach is our mantra: Next Man In,” Kelly said, via “We had seven guys go down today. We had two captains go down. A leader in our secondary. And our guys kept fighting, the next guy came in and battled.”

    Last year’s Notre Dame team would have struggled to rebound after all of the personnel losses. The team on Saturday handled it pretty well.

Irish Secondary Isn’t as Bad as It Showed Against Navy

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    The Notre Dame secondary was lit up by Navy in the opening game in Ireland.

    The Midshipmen threw for 192 yards, which should count for double coming from a Navy team that is not going to be mistaken for a high-flying passing offense anytime soon.

    However, the Irish were much better in that department on Saturday. Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush combined for just 195 passing yards, and the defense picked off two passes.

    There are some pretty good quarterbacks on the schedule still to come against Notre Dame, so the secondary needs to continue stepping up its play.

The Warm-Ups Are Over

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    For the Irish, it is now game on. Average play is not going to get it done anymore.

    Notre Dame travels on the road next Saturday to take on the Michigan State Spartans, who pummeled Central Michigan, 41-7.

    The following week, Notre Dame will welcome rival Michigan to South Bend. After getting crushed by Alabama, the Wolverines survived against Air Force, but Denard Robinson and his teammates will be no walkover.

    In addition, the Irish still have dates with Stanford, at Oklahoma and at USC. Buckle up your chin straps, because the road is about to get a lot tougher.