Notre Dame started to look a lot like the defense I expected it to be yesterday during the team's 27-13 victory over Purdue. As is the case with every team in the country through just three games there is still room for improvement, but the Irish defense played impressive football against the Boilermakers.
1. Defensive line remains the strength of this team - Notre Dame's defensive line has been the strength of the defense through the early going in 2021, and that was no different against Purdue. Notre Dame didn't have one defensive lineman that proved dominant, or that took over the game, but instead relied on a strong group effort to shut down Purdue.
Veteran edge defender Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa was the best of the front players, registered five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and combining with Isaiah Foskey to make a key fourth-quarter sack as the defense took the gave over. Tagovailoa-Amosa played a major role in two huge short-yardage stops.
What made the group so good was the across the board play. Nose tackle Kurt Hinish played well, Jayson Ademilola was disruptive, Justin Ademilola made multiple huge plays in the game and Foskey was also very good off the edge. We even saw NaNa Osafo-Mensah getting into the action when he registered the first sack of his career.
2. Secondary played much better - The play of the secondary has been wildly erratic early in the season, and that has been especially true at safety. Notre Dame's safeties played key roles in many of the big plays we saw the first two games, but that group stepped up and played very good football in the win over Purdue.
Kyle Hamilton was brilliant, registering 10 tackles, breaking up two passes and picking off Purdue in the end zone. Hamilton had a crucial fourth-down stop and he almost picked off the first Purdue throw of the game. DJ Brown was steady throughout the game and also had a game-clinching interception in the fourth quarter.
The cornerbacks were a bit more up-and-down but the group was still effective in this game. Cam Hart had two big mistakes in the game in coverage but he also had several impressive snaps. It was Hart that broke up the pass that Brown picked off and the Irish corner remains a factor in the run game.
This group is even better if you are someone who considers the rovers as parts of the secondary. Isaiah Pryor had his best performance in a Notre Dame uniform (8 tackles) and Jack Kiser was very active in the win, including forcing a mistake by the Purdue tight end that led to Hamilton's interception.
3. Quick adjustments proved impactful - Purdue had Notre Dame on its heels on the first two drives of the game, using its quick game, screen game and misdirections throws to move the ball effectively. Purdue had three first downs on the first two drives and got an early field goal.
Notre Dame mixed up its coverages and quickly adjusted to the Purdue looks and the defense settled down in a hurry. Purdue did not pick up a single first down on its next four possessions, going three-and-out in each series and the Boilermakers never could completely get a feel for what the Irish defense was throwing at it.
Notre Dame also clearly had good preparation on defense coming into the game. Purdue tried multiple trick plays in the game but with one exception the Irish defense was all over it.
Being able to go toe-to-toe with Jeff Brohm, both in game planning and in-game adjustments, was a great early sign for defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman.
4. Third-down defense was excellent - Notre Dame's third-down defense was rough in the first two games but the unit was outstanding on third-down against the Boilermakers. Purdue completed three of its first four third-downs, but once the defense got a read on things it dominated on third-down. Purdue converted just one of its next 12 third-down opportunities.
Notre Dame's short-yardage defense was also outstanding. Notre Dame held Purdue short on a 3rd-and-3 late in the first quarter and then had a big stop on 4th-and-1 a play later. Purdue got stuffed on a 2nd-and-3 and a 3rd-and-1 on its next series, which ended with a punt. In the second quarter the Boilermakers were once again stuffed on a 3rd-and-1, forcing yet another punt.
Purdue finished the game just 4-16 on third-down.
5. Blitz issues - One area where Notre Dame had some issues in the game was with its pressures. Purdue's one long run in the game was on a corner fire where Clarence Lewis failed to make a play on the back. Much of Purdue's early game success was attacking Notre Dame's pressures, especially its inside pressures.
Freeman seemed to recognize this and didn't seem to run as many pressures as the game wore on, allowing the defensive line to take over the game.
Irish Breakdown Content
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content, our premium message board and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown YouTube channel
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Follow me on Parler: @BryanDriskell
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook