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Perfection denied (I will now have that slice of humble pie, with whipped cream, please)

I admit, I should have known coming into today. There were too many ifs to really expect a win, and that is never a good sign. Too much simply needed to go right beyond our control in order to come up with a win, and as I said earlier, Notre Dame is a very good team. I still don’t think they are championship caliber, but certainly top 20. With the youth of our ball club, I should have known it was a very tall order to go up there and win, but I still was dreaming, even into the fourth quarter. I was excited and really felt we were going to pull it off. But in the end, Notre Dame was too good.

I am very pleased with some things, and very disappointed with some things at the same time. This was probably the toughest team on our schedule, except for maybe Iowa next week, and in the end, the result was what was expected all along, so that makes things a little easier to take. I still hate Notre Dame, but I do respect them and realize they are a good ball club. They got the job done today when they needed to, plain and simple. They did what was expected against our young and inexperienced defense, and we simply couldn't score enough to match them. We must look to next year, as far as the Irish are concerned though, as we have a real shot to even the score in West Lafayette next year. So, Let's review this game in a trade-off positive-negative format.

POSITIVE: There was no quit late in this team. Being down 2-3 touchdowns for most of the game, we continued to scrap and drive. We moved the ball well and at least gave ourselves a shot. Last season, we folded faster than Pete Rose at a Poker table in Vegas. This year we certainly never quit. Though we struggled at least the effort was there.

NEGATIVE: The first thing we have to be obviously disappointed about is the fact that we drove deep into Notre Dame territory several times and did not come away with a single point. In a game that was a two-touchdown game, even field goals at that point are huge. With a missed field goal, a fumble, and two turnovers on downs, you simply can't afford to dot hat against a team like Notre Dame on the road. Moving the ball was not a problem, but for the first time finishing a drive was a stumbling block for us this season.

POSITIVE: Two words: Selwyn Lymon. Welcome to college football, son. That was simply an incredible performance by a young man who showed that he might actually be more than we expected when we recruited him. What more could he have done in this game? Seriously? 238 yards, 2 touchdowns, and now we have a very viable receiving option to go with Keller, Orton, and Bryant. I just can't say enough about this kid, and he's only going to get better.

NEGATIVE: Speaking of Keller, he was due for a bad game, so this wasn't really that bad. His fumble was critical, but not as critical as the other two possessions in which we got deep into ND territory. The rest of the receiving corps was solid, but not overly spectacular. Give Credit to Notre Dame for stepping up and getting stops when it needed to. I do have to question our playcalling a bit on third down with the direct snap to Bryant. It was a good idea, but bad execution as we delayed way too long and that tipped off the defense.

POSITIVE: We simply gained experience from our youth. I have said before that this Purdue team is much easier to cheer for because of the effort being there. You get the sense that if this team were older and more experienced, the result would have been different. Once again, we adjusted well and had a good second half in which we only gave up one score.

NEGATIVE: That lack of experience was glaring in several places today. The defense got torched on too many plays in the first half, but at least they were aggressive. We'd get pressure for two plays, then give up a big gain on third down. We had some dumb, dumb penalties that can only be corrected with experience. This was a game where I think talent –wise, the teams were even, but Notre Dame had a huge advantage simply in experience. Next year those tables will shift in our favor. This was the first road game for several of our players, and I think despite everything, we handled it well.

POSITIVE: The passing game was working very well as a whole. We did a great job of taking advantage of the Notre Dame secondary, but we probably could have thrown the deep ball a little more. Painter once again did not turn the ball over, and as he continues to grow experience like Saturday, where he doesn't give up the ball in a hostile environment, will only hope.

NEGATIVE: The running game took a step back today. I know it was in large part due to the fact we were trailing most of the game and had to pass to catch up, but we should have had more than 93 yards rushing. Where was the option today? Today would have been the perfect time to dust it off and bring it back, as they were not expecting it. The few times we did run it was successful, so why not run it to control the clock more, especially in the first half when the Irish had the ball almost twice as much as we did.

POSITIVE: The worst part of the schedule may be over. We weren't going to win the national title even if we had won and somehow managed to go unbeaten. The schedule simply wasn't there and there is no way we sneak in ahead of another unbeaten. This was not a conference game, so this was simply a game for personal pride. Our bowl hopes are still very much alive, needing to only win three of eight, so we weren't hurt there. Also, we're not hurt in the Big Ten race, and we are still very much alive there with a win next week, which is much more important than this game. With the way the Big Ten schedule is shaping up, a win over the Hawkeyes certainly means we will be right there in the race, and the Hawkeyes are a little more favorable of a matchup than Notre Dame. Not much, but a little.

NEGATIVE: My final negative is simply defensive playcalling. Once again, Quinn showed he could not handle defensive pressure, yet we were consistently unable to get said pressure on him. Late in the game, down two scores with seven minutes to go, we twice had third and long situations where we only rushed four and three guys respectively and Quinn had all day to pick us apart, including a dump off 17 yard catch and run to a running back on third and 16. Simply inexcusable and an area we have to work on. At that point, what do we have to lose by not sending the house? Get a chance to win by being aggressive there.

Now we simply need to move on. This team certainly does not look like it will fold after this loss like it did a year ago. We got our shots in, but in the end, as expected, being on the road for the first time and Notre Dame's experience came out ahead. When you look at things from a cold, hard numbers perspective, we held them to 150 yards and two touchdowns fewer than last year, and that is progress. Last year it was a complete disaster and utter ass whipping. This year, we got beat, but we at least made the Irish earn it. It was more of a methodical beating as opposed to a lightening quick beating.

So it is time to move on. The conference race is still right there for the taking. With Michigan State now in full meltdown mode, we can realistically think about being right there for the conference if we come out of October with just a single conference loss. With some minor adjustments and the same amount of effort, we could be right there with Iowa next week. Notre Dame can wait until next year.

I am proud of our guys because they continue to fight and play hard each week. This team is much easier to cheer for than last year, when rightful leaders such as Void and Jones were overshadowed by the attitudes of Pollard and Edwards. We're getting Iowa at the right time, as they have to be suffering a bit of a letdown no matter what happens tonight.
So let's keep our heads up. This loss could be a blessing, because with a win we would have been sky high. We're still right where we expected to be, and there is plenty of football left to exceed those expectations. So keep on going, guys. This is one Boilermaker that is proud to be one today, even in a loss.