Another perfect season wasn’t exactly the expectation for Notre Dame this year but coming to terms with the first loss is always a tough pill to swallow. Unfortunately in today’s college football system a loss for most teams means no national championship. The Fighting Irish now have to refocus and not waste a second sulking over the Michigan loss as the Purdue Boilermakers always seem to give Notre Dame some trouble.
Notre Dame will only get better if they take the Michigan loss in stride and use it as a learning experience. The game was tough to watch but we got a look at some potential upcoming stars for the Irish. Running back Amir Carlisle and tight end Troy Niklas not only displayed their skill but pure determination and hustle in last week’s loss. Carlisle has simply been playing with reckless abandon. Nearly every time he gets the ball he attacks the line of scrimmage, absorbs tackles, and falls forward. Carlisle wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest when he told the media, “Whenever I get the ball, I'm going to go 110 percent and have no regard for my body. I'm going to lay it on the line for my team."
It’s that type of mindset that wins championships and inspires teammates.
Carlisle’s work ethic may have been handed down from his father Duane who coincidentally is Purdue’s director of sports performance. When asked about being opponents with his own father, Amir Carlisle responded, "It's different. I've never competed against my father. But at the end of the day, it's still another game, a game I have to prepare for. I'm not going to let that distract me."
Carlisle is averaging close to seven-years per carry this year and has been the most productive of Notre Dame’s three main running backs.
Tight end Troy Niklas is another player that has shown a lot of promise for the Irish. Niklas stands six-foot-six, weighs in at about 270-pounds, and is a fluid mover for a man his size. Niklas’ freakish build and skill set makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses to cover. He seems to be blossoming into a security blanket for quarterback Tommy Rees.
Rees has been asked to do a lot for Notre Dame thus far in the season. Notre Dame fell behind early against Michigan and had to throw the football in order to speed the game up and catch up. Rees hasn’t been extremely efficient but doesn’t deserve much blame for the loss or much criticism at all. He continues to show he can move the ball down the field and should only get better as the season rolls on.
Notre Dame should capture the win over Purdue. The Irish defense has something to prove Saturday. The offense should have little trouble dictating the tempo of the game while the defense will be eager to restore their image and make a statement after last week’s disappointing display. Although the Irish barely pulled it off last year with a last second field goal, Notre Dame will be looking to impose their will and win handily over the smaller, less skilled Boilermakers.