The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

September 14, 2013

Irish, Boilers using rivalry as proving ground

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue and Notre Dame are both looking for answers.

They want more consistency out of their quarterbacks. They want to finish drives with touchdowns, not field goals. And, of course, they’re both trying to creep over the .500 mark after starting 1-1.

But as the Boilermakers try to show a prime-time audience that they can compete with America’s top teams, No. 21 Notre Dame has a different goal. It’s simply trying to meet or exceed coach Brian Kelly’s high standards after a loss to Michigan.

“Michigan played well. I’m not going to take anything away from them,” Kelly said this week. “But we made a lot of mistakes and that’s on us and we’ve got to clean up. We’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to play better. Look, at the end of the day, this comes down to execution when you need to.”

First-year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell is making the same point in West Lafayette, and he knows it will take a much better effort to beat the Fighting Irish than it did to hold off Indiana State last weekend.

Here are five things to watch Saturday:

1. RED DAWN: Notre Dame and Purdue are tied for 111th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in red-zone proficiency. And while the numbers may be skewed by the lack of early season opportunities, one thing is clear this week: Both teams are trying to improve those marks. The Fighting Irish have three touchdowns and one field goal in seven trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Purdue has two touchdowns and two field goals in its seven chances. Whichever team turns that around this weekend is likely to be the team partying Saturday night.

2. ON THE REBOUND: It’s been nearly two years since the Fighting Irish have had seven days between a loss and their next game. While everybody remembers what happened in January’s BCS title game and the back-to-back losses to end 2011 (games that were played 33 days apart), Notre Dame hasn’t been in this spot since losing to Southern California on Oct. 22, 2011. Back then, the Irish responded by winning four straight. Whatever it is that Kelly does, he sure has a knack for getting his teams ready to stare down adversity. Kelly’s teams have not lost back-to-back regular season games since losing the first two to open the 2011 season — and the Irish don’t plan on changing the script Saturday.

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