Notre Dame Football: Revisiting Purdue as a Trap Game for the Fighting Irish

Matt SmithCorrespondent IIISeptember 12, 2013

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 08:  Troy Niklas #85 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is tackled by Max Charlot #34 (L) and Frankie Williams #2 of the Purdue Boilermakers after a first down catch at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Purdue 21-17.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Back in the dog days of summer when we were craving football in any form, I made a case for Saturday night's trip to Purdue University as the biggest trap game on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish schedule.

My reasoning was, or so I thought at the time, sound.

The game fell right in the middle of key games with Michigan and Michigan State. It was the second of back-to-back road games, and the Irish needed a last-second field goal to survive the Boilermakers last season in South Bend. 

Add to that the fact that Purdue is led by first-year head coach Darrell Hazell, limiting scouting and film study to just two games, and I figured you would have all the makings of a 60-minute struggle between two teams that have played every year since 1946.

Purdue always seemed on the brink of breaking through under Danny Hope, including last year when the Boilermakers nearly upset a Notre Dame team that finished the regular season 12-0 and took an Ohio State team that also finished 12-0 to overtime.

Hope just far too often seemed out of his league, incapable of getting the Boilermakers over the hump. Enter Hazell, who coached in two BCS National Championship Games as an assistant at Ohio State, and it seemed that Purdue could take that elusive step forward.

I was wrong.

While I still believe Hazell can make Purdue competitive again, especially with the program moving to the new Big Ten West Division next year, the 2013 Boilermakers could make Hope's teams look like the 2000 Joe Tiller- and Drew Brees-led team that went to the Rose Bowl.

Translation: It's going to get ugly Saturday night in Ross-Ade Stadium.

Brian Kelly has lost back-to-back regular-season games four times since arriving in South Bend. Two were fluky losses (a fake field goal in overtime by Michigan State in 2010 and a 17-point comeback by Michigan in 2011), one came after the Irish lost their starting quarterback during the game (Tulsa in 2010), and one came at the hands of Andrew Luck, one of the best college quarterbacks the Irish have ever faced.

Outside of an injury to Tommy Rees, none of those circumstances are in danger of reoccurring Saturday in West Lafayette. Purdue has managed just 27 points through two games. Its 42-7 loss to Cincinnati in the season opener looks even worse after the Bearcats were blasted 45-17 last week by the Boilermakers' division rival, Illinois.

Last week against Indiana State, which had allowed 73 points to Indiana nine days earlier, Purdue managed just 284 yards of offense, getting out-gained by the Sycamores in a narrow 20-14 win. Now the Boilermakers must deal with an angry Fighting Irish defense looking to take out its frustrations from a poor performance in a 41-30 loss at Michigan last Saturday.

Purdue has some familiar faces to Irish fans, including defensive tackle Bruce Gaston and cornerback Ricardo Allen, but Allen has been bothered by a sprained ankle.

All-purpose back Akeem Hunt has drawn comparisons to Kent State's Dri Archer, a preseason All-American who Hazell utilized in a variety of ways during his stint in charge of the Golden Flashes. Senior tight end Gabe Holmes is expected to miss the game with a wrist injury.

Other than those few names, Purdue offers few concerns for Notre Dame. The Boilermakers have looked like a team still playing with the inconsistency that marred the Hope era, while struggling to grasp the intricacies of Hazell's offense and well-respected coordinator Greg Hudson's defense.

While I'm now struggling to find which game could turn into a trap for Notre Dame this season, there is one thing of which I'm certain. It's not going to happen Saturday night.