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Notre Dame Football

Scouting Report | Purdue

September 15, 2021
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It’s hard to believe that Purdue hasn’t played Notre Dame since 2014, but the ACC scheduling agreement ended what was an annual rivalry. I’m not sure too many Irish fans have missed the series all that much despite the Irish winning the last seven games between the two programs.

Jeff Brohm’s squad is 2-0, ranked 42 in SP+, and is looking to get back to a bowl game after going 6-12 in the last two seasons.

The Boilermakers didn’t exactly beat juggernauts to get two victories. UCONN is in contention for the worst program in the FBS this season and is already on an interim coach. Oregon State is 76th in SP+.

What can we expect from them in this matchup? It’s tough to say much like it’s tough to say with Notre Dame. We do know that Purdue has an elite player on both sides of the ball and that Brohm has drastically upgraded the talent on his roster in recent years.

This will be a test for Notre Dame and playing to the same level they did the last couple of weeks will get them beat.

Injuries

They lost their starting running back last week. RB Zander Horvath is out for this game and for several more weeks.

Backup tight end Garrett Miller is doubtful for this week. He’s the guy who comes in when they play in 12 personnel.

Projected starting LB Semisi Fakasiieiki suffered an injury in camp and is out.

Offense

They are currently ranked 42nd in OF+ (combined SP+ and FEI ranking) and 47th in yards per play on offense.

Brohm is a really good offensive coach who has had success when he’s had the right quarterback in place. It looks like he has a pretty good one in 2021.

Expected strengths

The passing game is an obvious strength with Jack Plummer stepping forward and taking control of the quarterback job after splitting it last season. He’s completed 73.8% of his passes and is at 9.1 YPA currently.

He hasn’t exactly faced great defenses, but it’s undeniable that he has been accurate no matter what has been thrown at him in terms of pressure.

He’s not a running threat, but he’s also not a statue in the pocket. He can escape the rush and find more options down the field.

Plummer’s ascension is a big reason why they have been good on 3rd down. They have converted 53.57% so far.

He’s got a couple of talented weapons that Notre Dame is going to have to deal with. It all starts with WR David Bell who has been a big play machine so far in 2021 and has been nothing but productive his entire college career. He can win in a variety of ways and looks faster after the catch than in previous years. Plummer will throw it up to him in contested catch situations as well.

As much as they can, Notre Dame is likely going to have to bracket him in coverage.

They can’t focus all of their attention on him as TE Payne Durham has emerged as a tough matchup as well. He’s a big target who they love to target on play-action passes.

They’re 7 for 8 in the red zone when it comes to getting six points and those two players are a big reason behind that success.

Potential Weaknesses

The offensive line has been okay so far, but they haven’t really been tested by Oregon State or UCONN. Neither of those programs have very talented defensive fronts.

Even with that, Purdue is 112th in TFLs given up per game. They also were one of the worst teams in the country (123rd) in Stuff Rate in 2020. Their backs are physical runners, but not make you miss types.

Purdue could be one dimensional in this game.

Scheme

They like to play at a pretty good pace and are averaging 78 plays per game this season. Brohm runs the show calling the plays and he does a really nice job with spacing in the passing game and it’s overall a pass-happy offense. They are at 52.6% pass this year and that’s even with blowing out UCONN and running more than usual last week.

I’d expect to see a number of rub routes and crossers if they think they are getting man to man a lot.

49.2% of their drop backs are play-action. They use that and motion to try and create as many conflicts as possible and then have more chances for their receivers to make plays after the catch.

As I mentioned, Plummer is not a runner, but Notre Dame will have to prepare for them to run Wildcat in some short yardage situations.

Key Players

QB Jack Plummer - He’s 12th in the country in pass efficiency this season.

WR David Bell - He’s seventh in the country in yards after the catch. Much more than a jump ball receiver.

TE Payne Durham - Caught 11 of 12 targets and has three touchdowns.

RB Dylan Downing - The UNLV transfer has a neck roll. That says it all about his style as a runner. Expect him to split carries with King Doerue in the backfield.

Key for Notre Dame

Limit Bell as much as possible

He’s their difference maker. When he runs deep, Notre Dame needs to have someone over the top to help. When he gets the ball underneath, they need to swarm to the ball and not let him get loose.

Defense

Purdue’s defense was flat out bad last season in Bob Diaco’s only year as defensive coordinator (89th in FEI). That’s why he’s no longer there.

Brad Lambert was brought in to replace him. The former DC at Marshall, it looks like he has made some improvements to their group so far, specifically with the run defense.

They are currently 79th in DF+ and are 57th in YPP.

Expected strengths

George Karlaftis is a stud. He’s a problem on every down with his motor and his ability to win with both speed and power as a pass rusher. FSU’s Jermaine Johnson is a very good player, but Karlaftis is on a higher level and might be the best defensive lineman the Irish face this entire season.

They’re only giving up 3.25 YPC in the first two games and have given up zero big plays in the run game. Some of that has to do with the teams they have faced, but it’s undeniable that they have tackled really well and played sound football.

Potential Weaknesses

They have given up seven receptions of 20-yards or more (86th) and that needs to be brought up first because UCONN is one of the least explosive offenses in the country. Oregon State had five different receivers produce explosive plays against them.

The pass rush has been a problem outside of Karlaftis and they have only one sack on the season. Throw in some average play in the secondary and Notre Dame should have chances to continue to make big plays through the air.

They are 102nd in TFLs per game. Once again, they just played UCONN. They lack playmakers and don’t have enough “dudes”.

Scheme

Lambert’s base is a 4-3, but he’ll mix it up on 3rd down with three man fronts. He’ll line up Karlaftis in a wide nine technique and let him go off the edge as well.

They’ve also been mixing in some heavier personnel looks with more of a five man front to match what the offense has been doing so that will be something to watch out for when Notre Dame is using 12 personnel.

Lambert wasn’t someone who blitzed a lot at Marshall (119 in the country last year), but has brought an extra rusher on over 30% of drop backs through two games. That may be because the rush isn’t getting there from the defensive line.

Key Players

DE George Karlaftis - He’s top-5 in the country in pressures despite not registering a sack yet.

CB Corey Trice - Big (6’3”) and had three interceptions back in 2019, but he hasn’t made as many plays on the ball recently.

LB Jalen Graham - He’s been there Havoc guy with 5 total plays in two games.

Key for Notre Dame

Don’t let Karlaftis disrupt the passing game

Whether it’s lining up a tight end to his side as much as possible or having a back help out, they don’t want him one on one with either starting tackle very often. He’s going to win too many of those situations.

Special Teams

Kicker Mitchell Finneran has been perfect on the year so far, which includes a 48-yard field goal against Oregon State.

Freshman punter Jack Ansell hasn’t been nearly as good. He’s only averaging 36.7 yards per punt through two games.

They ran a fake field goal vs Oregon State that did work...except that receiver ended up getting stripped after the catch. If they’re running a fake against Oregon State, Notre Dame should definitely expect something like that against them as well.

Overview

It’s a team with a few impactful players who are capable of swinging the game in Purdue’s direction and that makes this game dangerous.

Top to bottom Notre Dame should be much better than them, but limiting those great players and making Plummer less efficient as a passer will be important for the Irish in this matchup.

 
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