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Purdue Football: Notre Dame Stats Review

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One last look at what went wrong before we send the film to the moon.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I predicted a Purdue win last week. I was wrong. I got too excited (which is why I never...ever bet on Purdue). I still think the game was winnable, but Purdue came up short in a key few areas that kept them from exploiting the flaws of a good, but not great, Notre Dame squad.

Before I move on to the Illinois game, I think it will be interesting to see where things went wrong against Notre Dame, and what other teams can take away from the Notre Dame game plan. Instead of making you reference my article from last week, I’ll provide it to you in italics and then give you the stats from game and talk about what went wrong for the Boilermakers and my prediction.

Scoring Offense vs Scoring Defense (Points Per Game)

Purdue Offense - 39.5 (29th)

Notre Dame Defense - 33.5 (111th)

Hey now, this looks pretty, pretty good. Purdue is a scorer of points and Notre Dame is a giver awayer of points. I’m feeling the vibes put off by these numbers, y’all feel those vibes? I know, I know, Notre Dame opened the season with Florida State, and if this were any year from 1977-2016 that would mean something, but as it stands in 2021, giving up 38 points to FSU is something that happens in the first half of a basketball game, not something that happens in a football game. I had a joke about it being a good thing Notre Dame wasn’t an Under Armor school, because they have not protected this house...but it turns out they are an Under Armor team, which frankly, is a funny to me for reasons I can’t put my finger on.

Purdue Points: 13

Purdue Offense: -26.5

Notre Dame Defense: +20.5

If you’re into simplicity, stop reading after this section, because it doesn’t get any simpler than this. Purdue came up 26.5 points short of their season average and Notre Dame allowed 20.5 few points than their season average. The Fighting Irish exploited a one dimensional (in more ways than one if that makes sense) Purdue offense, and Jeff Brohm and the Boilermaker offensive brain trust had no solutions. I watched the Florida State and Toledo game and the Notre Dame defense looked bad, and I thought Purdue, at minimum, could put up somewhere between 21-28 points. I bought into the Brohm hype. I still don’t think this Notre Dame defense is good, and they will be exposed at some point, but Purdue couldn’t get the job done.

Total Offense vs Total Defense (Yards Per Game)

Purdue Offense - 481.5 (30th)

Notre Defense - 393.5 (89th)

Another pro-Purdue stat. They move the ball down the field, and Notre Dame allows teams to move down the field. We’ll get to why that happens in a moment, but it happens, and it’s a good thing for the Boilermakers.

Purdue Total Offense: 348

Purdue Offense: -133.5

Notre Dame Defense: +47

I wasn’t expecting Purdue to ring up 481 yards, but I was expecting them to hit the Notre Dame season average. Purdue’s lack of a running and vertical passing game prevented that from happening. I was hoping the Boilermakers could dink and dunk their way down the field, but Notre Dame made them play in a box all game and didn’t allow any yards after the catch.

3rd Down Conversion Percentage vs 3rd Down Defense

Purdue Offense - 54% (15th)

Notre Dame Defense - 42% (90th)

Licks lips and rubs hands together. Ohh yeah, that’s the good stuff. Notre Dame can’t get off the field on 3rd down, and Purdue does a nice job of keeping the ball because defense isn’t fun for Jeff Brohm, and I’m O.K. with his selfish reasons behind holding onto the ball for long periods of time and wearing out a defense. It’s a win/win situation as far as I’m concerned.

Purdue 3rd Down Conversion Percentage: 25% (4/16)

Purdue Offense: -25%

Notre Dame Defense: + 17%

This is where I thought Purdue’s short passing game, paired with semi reliable run game could make the difference. Notre Dame struggled to get off the field in their first two games, but had no problem sending the Boilermaker offense to the sidelines last Saturday.

Notre Dame compressed the field, rallied to the ball with multiple defenders when a Boilermaker receiver caught it, and stuffed the run game. They showed no respect for Jack Plummer’s arm and dared him to beat them deep, and eventually shut down the Boilermaker drives when it mattered most.

Rushing Offense (Yards Per Game)

Purdue Offense - 137.5 (89th)

Notre Dame Defense - 194 (104)

The deal is, Notre Dame can’t stop the run, but Purdue doesn’t want to run all that much. It’s a bit of quandary, because I would enjoy nothing more in this world than watching the Boilermakers kick the Notre Dame defense in the teeth with a punishing run game, and then continue kicking them, and kicking them, and just wailing away on them, brutal stuff you understand, something that you want to look away from, but can’t because some animalistic programing buried deep in your brain stem, but that’s probably not going to happen. Purdue needs to be efficient with their run game, and they should be efficient against this Notre Dame defense, even with Horvath out with a Purdue knee.

Purdue Rushing Offense: 57

Purdue Offense: -80.5

Notre Dame Defense: +137

This one is directly tied with Purdue’s inability to convert on 3rd downs. They needed to be efficient in the run game, and instead, averaged 2.3 yards a carry. Either Notre Dame’s defense got way better in a hurry, or Purdue’s running game remains non-functional against decent talent. Honestly, it’s probably a combination of the two. Notre Dame has too much talent on defense to be consistently poor in run defense, and Purdue’s offense line and running backs aren’t great. Missing Horvath hurt, but I didn’t see many (if any) runs where I thought, “Horvath would have busted that.” Purdue’s lack of a shifty back capable of bouncing it outside when the interior run gaps collapsed was noticeable. You don’t call a 4th and short hand off to your wide receiver (who should have still picked it up the first down if he ran at Kyle Hamilton instead of away from him) if you trust your interior run blocking.

Time of Possession (Average Time of Possession)

Purdue - 34 (13th)

Notre Dame - 30 (59th)

I’m cheating a little, because there is no defensive equivalent to time of possession, but I made the rules, and if I didn’t tell y’all, you wouldn’t know this was a rule, so I don’t feel bad. Anyways, I added this to further support the idea that Purdue has played a bunch of offense this year, and that’s a good thing. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has played an even amount of offense and defense, and most of the defense has been bad.

Purdue Time of Possession: 34

Purdue Offense: Even

Notre Dame Defense: -4

Purdue was on the field a good bit. They had 19 first downs (compared to Notre Dame’s 16) but couldn’t break anything big. Notre Dame let them throw short passes, tackled the receivers, and kept Purdue out of scoring position for the majority of the game. Purdue’s defense did an incredible job of giving the offense every opportunity to score. They held Notre Dame’s offense to slightly under 25% (4/17) on 3rd down, but the offense couldn’t capitalize. This loss is squarely on the offense.

Passing Offense vs Passing Defense (Yards Per Game)

Purdue Offense - 344 (11th)

Notre Dame Defense - 199.5 (62nd)

The not so Fighting Irish (I’m incredibly clever and original), defense is better at stopping the run than the pass, but this could be another case of a defense being so brutal against the run, the opponents don’t bother to throw, because what’s the point? Jeff Brohm will always bother to throw, and throw, and then, when you think he’s about to run, he’ll throw it again. I’m dying for a little more balance, but my certified letters to Coach Brohm (can’t let my intel fall into enemy hands) keep coming back return to sender. Plummer is on a heater, and if all goes according to plan, next week Notre Dame’s passing defense will fall down the rankings and their run defense will move up a few notches.

Purdue Passing Offense: 291

Purdue Offense: -53

Notre Dame Defense: - 91.5

Purdue did better in the passing game than Note Dame’s first two opponents, but Note Dame’s first two opponents gashed them on the ground. Meanwhile Purdue had no running game and came in 53 yards below their season average through the air. This further shows Purdue’s lack of a downfield passing game and the inability of their receivers to shake free and break something on their own.

Yards Per Passing Completion vs Yards Allowed Per Completion

Purdue Offense - 11.66 (77th)

Notre Defense - 12.09

Jack Plummer hasn’t met a short/intermediate route he can’t complete. I don’t mind this. When you toss the ball around as much as Purdue, you need to complete a bunch of passes, otherwise you spend your time standing around on the sideline, and standing on the sideline isn’t conducive to scoring points, and scoring points is the agreed up metric for determining the winner of football games. This is also a subtle nod to the struggles of the offense line. You know the timers that make a super urgent sound at the end of a turn and cause you to lose your composure and knock all the pieces off the board, that’s what the clock in Plummer’s head sounds like when he drops back to pass. Luckily, he’s a little cooler under pressure than some of y’all (don’t look at me, I’m ice cold).

Purdue Yards Per Completion: 8.1

Purdue Offense: -3.5

Notre Dame Defense: +4

You want to know why Brohm pulled Jack Plummer in the 4th quarter? This is it. This is the stat that got him pulled. Brohm couldn’t score enough points to win at that point in the game by averaging 8 yards a completion. He had to attack down the field, and Plummer, as I’ve shown in a couple other article, isn’t good (in fact, he’s pretty bad) at attacking down the field. He had to put in O’Connell to attack outside the numbers, but Notre Dame was well aware of why Purdue was putting O’Connell in the game, and adjusted their defense accordingly.

Sacks Allowed vs Defensive Sacks (Per Game)

Purdue Offense - 2 (64th)

Notre Defense - 5 (5th)

Score one for the bad guys. Purdue loves to pass the ball with a shaky offensive line and Notre Dame loves to crush quarterbacks who pass the ball with a shaky offensive line. I’m about as confident in Purdue’s tackles in pass protection as I am in the week old fish (from taco night) waiting to be dealt with in the back of my fridge. This is a race between Plummer’s ability to throw the ball and Notre Dame’s ability to crush him before he throws the ball. Let’s hope Jack wins.

Purdue Sacks Allowed: 3

Purdue Offense: -1

Notre Dame Defense: -2

Plummer is good at getting the ball out of his hands, but if your receivers can’t break tackles, you end up with an 8 yard per receptions average. The line wasn’t asked to block for an extended period of time, but they held up a little better than I thought they would. This bodes well for Purdue down the line when they face teams that don’t have the athletes Notre Dame has in the secondary.

Red Zone Offense vs Red Zone Defense(% of Scores Inside the Red Zone)

Purdue Offense - 88% (53rd)

Notre Defense - 88% (76th)

We’ve got a draw. Purdue is decent, but not great, at scoring points in the red zone and Notre Dame is decent, but not great, at stopping teams from scoring points in the red zone. That said, this is one of those “week 2” stats that don’t tell us much, but I’m going to continue to use this template and feel like I have to include it. If you ask my beautiful wife what you can’t do in big games if you want to win, her eyes will glaze over and the phrase “you can’t win big games kicking field goals” reflexively falls out of her mouth, because I’ve done my job well over the last 20 or so years. Purdue has entered the fabled red zone on 9 occasions this season. They’ve rushed for 2 touchdowns, thrown for 5 touchdowns and kicked a field goal. I take my opening statement in this paragraph back, that’s good red zone production, but I’m leaving my opening statement in this paragraph to show that I’m fallible and that college coaches should not, under any circumstance, read my articles instead of doing their own scouting.

Notre Dame, despite running a hot garbage defense, has only allowed 1 passing touchdown in the red zone. Basically, when you cram a bunch of 4* athletes in a tiny box, it’s hard to throw the ball into that box, even if the 4* athletes don’t appear to know what they’re doing. Brohm needs someone to remind him that running the ball when you’re inside the 20 against a team that has yet to stop anyone from running the ball, is a legitimate strategy in American Football, and should be considered. I would consider skipping the red zone all together and scoring 5 touchdowns on passes of 20 or more, but I’m built different. Purdue will be in the red zones, and if they kick field goals, my wife will look at me, shake her head and say, “You can’t win big games kicking field goals in the red zone.”

Purdue Red Zone Offense: 66%

Purdue Offense: -22%

Notre Dame Defense: +22%

Purdue made it into the red zone 3 times. They kicked a field goal, scored a touchdown, and threw an interception. The other 3 points came from a drive stalled at the 21 (not technically the red zone). You can’t win big games kicking field goals in the red zone (or throwing picks). O’Connell did a great job of moving the team down the field on a 16 play drive, but that interception was a back breaker. Put another touchdown on the board, and Notre Dame faces some late game pressure yet again. One way to avoid struggling from the red zone is to score from outside the red zone, but Purdue’s explosive plays were few and far between, and happened far away from the Notre Dame endzone.

My Take Away

This Notre Dame defense is bad...like Diaco bad (I ultimately blame Notre Dame for Purdue’s defense last season) . They gave up 38 points to a Florida State team that couldn’t crack 20 points against an FCS school. They followed that failure by giving up 29 points to An Ohio State football team from Toledo. Purdue, in theory, is significantly better than both of those teams when it comes to putting points on the scoreboard.

As I mentioned above, If Purdue’s passing game can maintain its defense crushing efficiency and the offense line can give up...oh, let’s say 3 sacks or less. Purdue has a serious chance to pull the upset and spare us from having to watch Notre Dame get embarrassed in the CFP yet again. I don’t want to put any undo pressure on the boys, but I’ve wasted too much time watching the Fighting Irish get laughed off the field in January, and think another team should have the opportunity to get laughed off the field. Purdue could make this happen for me by putting up 50 points on this tissue paper defense and erasing all doubts. If they don’t want to win it for themselves, their head coach, their friends, family, pets etc...they should consider winning it to improve my college football viewing experience in January.

Looking at the above numbers, I like their chances.

My Take Away

Purdue gave up 3 sacks or less, but the passing game couldn’t maintain it’s efficiency. You would think that one of Purdue’s 36 completions would break for something big, but that wasn’t in the cards. As I mentioned before, Notre Dame squished the field on defense, and Purdue’s short passing game couldn’t deal with all the defenders around the box. Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame’s best defensive player, was a problem Brohm had no solution for on Saturday. He crowded the line of scrimmage, jumped into passing lanes, and generally caused havoc knowing that Purdue couldn’t push the ball down the field, despite Notre Dame often playing 1 or no, deep safeties.

I thought Brohm would have something up his sleeve to bust something long, but other than the attempted wide receiver pass that blew up in their face, I didn’t see anything particularly innovative. It was mostly a generic “air raid” offense the tried to stretch the field horizontally, instead of vertically, in an attempt to create seams in the defense after the catch. Notre Dame was solid in their assignments, and got the Boilermaker receivers on the ground when they caught the ball.

As I mentioned in my other article, this wasn’t a “must win” for Purdue. It wasn’t even a “need to win” for Purdue, but man, it would have been a huge win for the momentum of the program. Regardless, it’s time to reset, focus on Illinois, and not Notre Dame beat us twice. Every reasonable goal is still on the table for the Boilermakers.