“There are three kinds of people in this world…those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that ask ‘what just happened?’ Tomorrow this team is gonna make things happen. You all are going to watch what happened. And Purdue? Purdue is going to ask ‘what the hell just happened?’”
—David Grimes, at the Friday night Pep Rally before the Purdue game
There are two ways to watch the game. You can watch it with your heart or your head. After last week’s disappointing loss to MSU, my heart immediately said, “Oh no, it’s true. The Irish of 2007 are still with us.”
But instead, I chose to listen to my head. Dispassionate, objective viewing (and decades of experience watching the Fighting Irish) told me that loss was more about an emotional let-down after the huge win over Michigan than a lack of ability and skill. That back-to-back Michigan/Michigan State combination has undone the Irish on many occasions.
If I was right, then the Purdue game would be the Truth Detector. More often than not, the annual clash between Notre Dame and Purdue is a barometer of how the rest of the season plays out for both teams. To say this was a must-win was an understatement.
So, following the game, what does my heart and head say? Surprisingly, they are in agreement. If you remove the anomaly of the MSU game, there is no mistaking the enormous strides this team is making from game to game, or even from half to half. Notre Dame is indeed rising. And rising fast.
Jimmy Clausen, who was branded as an over-hyped failure, has exploded into the real deal. His decision-making, ability to read defenses, check through his receivers, and lead the offense is growing from play to play.
Against the Purdue team that took Oregon to overtime, he completed 20 of 35 passes for 275 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. His efficiency for the game was better than the (very) senior Curtis Painter, a pre-season Heisman candidate. This game shut the door on that pipe-dream.
His stable of deep-threat receivers is spectacular. From here on opponents ignore Grimes, Kamara, Tate, and Floyd at their own peril. Clausen can throw the long ball, and these guys just go and get it.
And finally, the much-maligned offensive line jelled, unleashing a running attack that, in the third quarter, sparked an offensive explosion. Armando Allen rushed for 91 yards in the third quarter alone, and Clausen completed 9 of 14 passes. Speaking of Allen, he had a career-high 137 yards on 17 carries. That is just shy of eight yards a touch.
So, are they back? Well…define “back.” If you mean are they the Irish of 1988-1993 or 2005-2006, no. Not yet. But are they on their way? No doubt about it. I’ve said it before, and I mean it. The Irish are rising, and when this team of Freshmen and Sophomores are Juniors and Seniors, well…then we’ll really see something.
Here come the Irish.