The Notre Dame offense has had some really impressive moments early in the season, but it has also had too many rough patches. At some point the offense has to take off and start to play to its potential for a full game.
Will this be that day? We'll find out later this afternoon, but there are four things I'll be looking for early in the game to know if the Irish are ready to take it to Purdue.
1. Is the offensive line getting after it - Usually the what to look for feature looks a lot different than the keys to the game, but not this week. This one is simple, the line doesn't need to be perfect but it has to at least play hard, something it hasn't done in the first two games. If the line comes out and is at least fighting and getting a push against a mediocre Purdue defensive line (outside of George Karlaftis of course) then I'll feel like the staff was able to push the right buttons in practice.
If the line isn't pushing Purdue around and isn't able to match Purdue's intensity then it will be more of the same from the Irish offense.
2. Are they giving Jack Coan time to throw - When Jack Coan has had a clean pocket this season he's been very good. Notre Dame must give him time to throw early, and I say Notre Dame and not just the line because OC Tommy Rees can also do some things to protect Coan a bit more. From play actions to screens to move the pocket to giving him more short speed routes (crosses, drags).
Yes, it starts with the line giving him time but those changes are needed as well. Coan also needs to make better presnap decisions than he did last week. The mistakes weren't frequent for Coan, but in a game where he was getting harassed those mistakes were even more impactful.
If all these areas improve I expect Coan to respond with a monster game, and we'll know if that's going to happen - or not - very early in the game.
3. Is Braden Lenzy getting more involved - Tight end Michael Mayer and wide receiver Kevin Austin have been the go-to players so far, and the backs have been heavily involved as well. Lenzy has been getting open - A LOT - in the first two games but the ball has not come his way. I really want to see Notre Dame find more ways to get him the ball early and often, which would take some pressure off the quarterback, would force Purdue to defend more of the field and would give Coan one more home run weapon to turn to.
4. Can the offense finish - Notre Dame has scored on its first possession in each of its first two games, but after that things stalled out. Can the Irish finish off those early drives in this game? We'll see, but it's a key to success in this contest.
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