ND’s inexperienced corners will have tough test vs. Purdue
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org September 4, 2012 8:22PM
Notre Dame v Navy
Updated: October 6, 2012 1:57PM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — It’s not quite the Purdue of yesteryear, the freewheeling, gun-slinging, scoreboard-tilting “basketball on grass” offense that produced three NFL quarterbacks in Drew Brees, Kyle Orton and Curtis Painter.
But it’s certainly not Navy, either.
The rookie members of Notre Dame’s secondary eased into their collegiate careers in a 50-10 victory over Navy’s triple-option offense. Purdue promises to pose a much tougher test in Saturday’s home-opener at Notre Dame Stadium.
“Defensively, we are now going to enter into a different plan,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “We’ve been preparing for the option for the last two or three weeks, now you go into your entire defensive mode and fronts and different coverages — nickel, dime. All of that has to be worked on throughout this week.”
Navy briefly morphed into an air force during the game in Dublin. The Midshipmen moved the ball 74 yards — completing four passes on the drive — in the final two minutes of the first half to set up a chip-shot field goal. And Navy quarterback Trey Miller opened the second half by throwing three passes during a stunning 75-yard touchdown drive. Miller burned both Irish corners on that drive, as Bennett Jackson was beaten for a 38-yarder on the first snap, and true freshman KeiVarae Russell was beaten on the 25-yard touchdown strike.
Overall, though, Kelly said he was pleased with his inexperienced defensive backs — including redshirt freshmen Matthias Farley, who started at safety, and Jalen Brown, who saw some action spelling Russell.
Kelly also said it’s tough to judge a player by how he fares against Navy, just because of the unusual nature of the offense.
“It’s so hard because you’re not in your backpedal, it’s not as structured, so it’s hard to evaluate,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘What we liked about them was their discipline. There are fundamental and technique areas we have to work on, but they were very disciplined, didn’t cut guys loose. From a big-picture standpoint, we leave the game knowing that those guys are going to be able to play our system of defense.”
The Boilermakers will start Caleb TerBush (coming off a one-game suspension) at quarterback, but Kelly expects that Robert Marve — who completed 30 of 38 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 48-6 dismantling of Eastern Kentucky — will see some action, as well. Robert Henry could be in the mix, too.
Kelly knows it’s a different challenge for his young defensive backs. But while the Irish spent the past couple of weeks focusing on the triple-option, they spent the previous several months working against an offense that’s not too different from Purdue — its own.
“We did a lot of work before we transitioned over to Navy,” Kelly said. “So full installation, two weeks, plus spring ball — all of that was based on working against us, offensively. And obviously, we have an offense that can move the ball around the field.”
NOTE: Allen Pinkett will keep his job as Notre Dame’s radio analyst, but only after serving a three-game suspension for his comments that Notre Dame needs more “criminals” if it wants to be successful.
Pinkett, a two-time All-American at Notre Dame in his eighth year on the Notre Dame broadcast team, ignited a firestorm with his comments on 670-AM last week. He traveled to Dublin with the team, but was replaced in the booth by Jeff Jeffers for the Navy game. Pinkett will miss the Purdue and Michigan State games (without pay), as well, returning for Michigan on Sept. 15.
The Notre Dame IMG Radio Network, which made the decision, has not yet announced who will be alongside play-by-play man Don Criqui for the next two games.
“I love this school as much as I love my kids and would never want to compromise the ethics and morals of my alma mater, Notre Dame,” Pinkett said in a release. “This offering of forgiveness is an extremely humbling life lesson. I will work very hard to make the most of this second chance in representing the high standards and proud tradition of Notre Dame football.”