Just like on so many college football Saturdays, the numbers don’t accurately tell the whole story. In their 23-12 opening day victory, Notre Dame outgained the Big Ten’s Purdue Boilermakers 358-322, and by 51 on the ground.
But those statistics don’t reflect all the tremendous pressure that Boilers quarterback Robert Marve faced all day. If it wasn’t for Marve’s blazing 4.5 speed and superlative escapability, the numbers would have been skewed even further in Irish favor.
And the Boilers averaged a very meager 3.2 yards per rush for the game. Everyone close to the Purdue program knew the offensive line would be one of the most questionable position groups heading into this season, and the OL looked pretty brutal most of the first game.
Boilermakers Head Coach Danny Hope disagrees, and he thought his OL played better than they were given credit for.
By Paul M. Banks
“For the most part, I was pleased with the overall offensive line. It was a position that was supposed to be a total rebuilding job and a position that a lot of people thought would be very poor for us. I thought they did an admirable job in the first game,” Hope said.
Leading the attack for the Fighting Irish was junior defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, the Ted Hendricks Award (nation’s best defensive end) had four tackles and a sack for a loss of 14 yards. He also had a fumble return for a touchdown that was called back.
“Kapron gets better everyday, he’s really working his game, his hand speed, his strength,” Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said in the preseason.
“He’s doing a lot of things in trying to work the techniques, he’s an athletic defensive end that has put on some good weight. He bends, twists, moves really well, with good athletic balance and contact balance. His core is very strong,” Diaco continued.
The media guide states that Kapron currently weighs 283 and has put on 50 pounds since arriving on campus.
In the newly implemented 3-4 system, Lewis-Moore shifts his focus from tackle to end, but is aware that “as a defensive end in this system you have to learn how to play the three, four and five technique. There’s some certain packages we run that allow us to move freely,” Kapron said.
KLM had some help from starting nose guard Ian Williams. The large man was credited with half a sack for a loss of six yards, and he also had a critical interception.
ND Head Coach Brian Kelly talked about how the national media described his defense in a less than flattering light.
“You mean the slow defense? Everybody on ESPN, television, FOX, everybody talked about a slow defense. We really want our guys to play fast and I thought they played fast today…We played aggressively. We played fast and we competed for the ball,” Kelly said.
Williams was aksed a similar question, and responded:
“Of course we watch ESPN and all those other television stations, but we try to not pay too much attention to them, we want to go out here and show people who we are and what we’re made of.”
I asked Williams if practicing every day against such a high tempo offense that minimizes time in between plays is making him and the rest of his defensive mates better.
“I think so, practice is supposed to be hard, the game is supposed to be easy and Coach Kelly has really made that true,” he said.
Written by Paul M. Banks, president and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest-focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru