Thursday, September 29, 2005

Spack Attack | by Mark

When the 2005 season began many Notre Dame fans believed that the Purdue defense, led by defensive coordinator Brock Spack, would be one of the two toughest tests for Charlie Weis and the Notre Dame offense. And there is very good reason for that: Spack has been magnificent against Notre Dame. Consider that in the three years of Diedrick's Offensive Offense, ND managed a grand total of 29 points on offense against Purdue. (For a point of comparison, Notre Dame scored 30 in its three losses to USC.)

But something strange is going in West Lafayette. Despite having all 11 starters back on defense, and having excellent depth along the defensive line and among the linebackers, the Purdue defense isn't playing anywhere near the level it was at in 2004. Take a look at the difference in where Purdue currently ranks in the major defensive statistical categories and where they finished in 2004:

RUSHING DEFENSE
'04: 14th
'05: 41st

PASS EFFICIENCY DEFENSE
'04: 49th
'05: 84th

TOTAL DEFENSE:
'04: 40th
'05: 87th

SCORING DEFENSE
'04: 15th
'05: 82nd

Purdue gave up 24 or more points only three times in twelve games last season, but so far this year, Purdue has yet to keep an opponent under 24 points. Against each team they've played this year - Akron, Arizona, and Minnesota - they've given up three touchdown passes in every game. Three of those TDs have covered between 32 and 79 yards in the air. Even Minnesota, who will run on any team, also threw for nearly 300 yards against the Boilermakers.

So you might be saying "This is great news for Notre Dame!" Well, it might be. We know that the only thing that has really managed to stop the ND offense so far this year is the ND offense. But Spack and his players have a history of success against Notre Dame, they have a tremendous amount of pride, and Spack remains one of the better defensive coordinators in the country.

Expect the Purdue defense to play its best game of this still young season -- I certainly do. But if they somehow continue to play at the sub-par level we have seen over the first three games, the Boilermakers will be making a mistake worthy of Sean Connery: they'll be bringing a knife to a gun fight.