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It's easy to call a spade a spade based on this season's happenings when it comes to Saturday's Notre Dame at Purdue football game (8 p.m., ABC).
That is, unless you are Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly.
He doesn't see the Boilermakers as a team that got embarrassed in a blowout loss at Cincinnati (42-7) in its season opener and followed that with another embarrassment (even in victory) by surviving 20-14 against Indiana State in West Lafayette last Saturday.
What Kelly sees is a Boilermaker program that mostly fights, scratches and claws for any chance for respectability against a much more renowned and successful program.
“(Purdue coach Darrell Hazell) has been very successful as a head coach, and certainly we'll have a challenge on our hands,” Kelly said. “This is an instate rival that plays very well against us. We just need to look to last year's game.”
Coachspeak? Maybe. OK, probably.
Ask anyone outside of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex their opinion on this game, and the overwhelming consensus is that it will be an Irish domination – probably by halftime. That belief is definitely held by the media, which spent Tuesday's news conference with Kelly ignoring the upcoming game and mostly wanting to discuss Notre Dame's 41-30 loss last Saturday at Michigan, until forced by the Notre Dame coach to discuss the Boilermakers.
“Any Purdue questions out there?” Kelly asked halfway through the session. “You know, we should try to do this on Monday when we have this press conference on Monday, we might be able to do a lot of this Michigan work and then we can get to Purdue.
“You guys are a little groggy I guess on Monday when it comes to Michigan.”
Through the coachspeak (and a pair of “Boiler goggles,” perhaps), you can see what Kelly is getting at. Though the Irish will try for their sixth consecutive victory over Purdue, three of those, including last year's contest, have been very competitive games in this series.
A year ago, Notre Dame (1-1) was in the infancy of a spectacular, unbeaten regular season when it had to do some surviving of its own against a Purdue (1-1) squad that ultimately underperformed enough to get coach Danny Hope fired.
Irish quarterback Tommy Rees came off the bench for an injured Everett Golson to lead a last-minute drive in South Bend to help Notre Dame prevail 20-17.
“They have had some big wins and play great competition,” Kelly said. “It's a group that obviously is going to play their very best against Notre Dame.”
That often is the case when addressing seemingly undermanned Notre Dame opponents (see the BYU and Pittsburgh games, as well as Purdue, from a year ago).
Kelly expects this to be a hard-fought game, particularly in the trenches. If there is one aspect of football that the Boilermakers traditionally execute well against Notre Dame, it is their ability to get things done up front both offensively and defensively. Kelly said that won't be any different Saturday.
“Defensively, (Purdue has) a very solid front four,” Kelly said. “I think that is a strength of its defense, led by (senior defensive tackle) Bruce Gaston. Ricardo Allen is a corner that's been there, a kid that competes. We've seen him for a number of years, veteran corner. And then again, up front, (junior defensive end) Ryan Russell. They are physical up front.”
Purdue has not shown well on the road or at home, particularly offensively, under its new coach and Saturday's opportunity will be a rare time in which Hazell and his program will be on display for the nation to view. Kelly believes that alone is reason enough to be wary of the Boilermakers.
“When we talk about Indiana schools playing against each other,” Kelly said, “you know, it's going to be on ABC television, it's going to be a big crowd, great atmosphere. We are going to have to handle ourselves in a manner that allows us to win the football game down the stretch.”
History has shown that the coaches often have a better grasp of reality than the cynics.