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State of the Irish – Purdue

Sep 9, 2012, 8:15 PM EDT

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We are back … and so is Tommy Rees! The Irish notched their 98th win in home openers as they edged past the Boilermakers of Purdue. The football team ushered in the Class of 2016 to Notre Dame Stadium in typical Irish fashion, with a game coming down to the last drive while causing more gray hairs to arise. Sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza sent Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson and the rest of the Irish faithful home happy with a 20-17 victory. But back to the purpose of the blog … here are three things I learned:

1) Irish have improved at limiting their turnovers: What a difference a year makes!  Through two games this season, Notre Dame only has two turnovers. Compare that to the 10 they had to start the 2011 campaign and you can easily see why the Irish are 2-0 this year instead of the depressing 0-2 start from last year. It is always good to see a positive number in the turnover category as well, as the Irish are currently +4 in that column, good for eighth place nationally.

2) Notre Dame can adapt their offense based on the opponent: While the fans were screaming their lungs off for Brian Kelly to run the ball, it was clear the Boilermakers were ready to stop any rushing attack the Irish were planning to send at them. Kelly knew Purdue was going to load the box and so went to his passing game early and often. Everett Golson completed 21 of 31 throws on the afternoon and collected 289 yards in the process. In the future, teams will have to use a more balanced defensive game plan as the Irish have shown a propensity to be dangerous both on the ground and through the air.

3) “Next Man In” mindset has arrived in South Bend: I can’t think of any other phrase that has been used more around the Notre Dame football program since Brian Kelly arrived than “Next Man In.” Kelly has spent the past three years building and recruiting a foundation upon which he plans to raise a national championship crystal trophy. Engrained in that groundwork is a philosophy that if a starter is not available for any reason, the back up will fill his spot and match the same level of production expected of that starter. This weekend, as a myriad of Irish players left the field with injuries, the Irish continued to insert new players into a high-pressure environment where they all performed exceptionally. Kelly can now begin to build upon his foundation.