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    Following Flynt - What To Watch for at Purdue

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    kellypractpre.jpg Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program. Here is his take on what to watch for during Saturday's game at Purdue  ...

    All of the Lights: A nationally televised prime-time game is sure to create an electric environment in West Lafayette. The Purdue athletic department has dubbed it the 'Gold & Black Game', encouraging fans to wear the respective colors in designated sections of Ross-Ade Stadium. Opponents circle Notre Dame on their schedule every year, and Purdue is no exception. As head coach Brian Kelly described, "This is their Super Bowl." To add to the excitement, Purdue has yet to play a marquee opponent this season, having visited Rice while facing Middle Tennessee and Southeast Missouri State in its previous two home contests.

    Two Quarterbacks: Though not for the Irish. While many have speculated that Kelly might use Everett Golson or Andrew Hendrix in a change-up role at some point this season, it's more likely that Purdue head coach Danny Hope will rely on two different options to mix up the Notre Dame defense. Junior Caleb TerBush will start for the Boilermakers, but the Purdue offensive scheme is also expected to feature senior Robert Marve (a former Miami Hurricane who started for Purdue last year, but that season was cut short by a knee injury and a slow recovery limited his reps during training camp). After redshirt sophomore Rob Henry suffered a knee injury of his own during the summer, TerBush took over, and has since guided Purdue to a 2-1 start.

    Focus on Floyd: After the Pittsburgh defense shut him down for all but the first drive last Saturday, Michael Floyd will look to rebound with a strong game. Interestingly, some recent reports suggest that Notre Dame actually fares better when Floyd is less involved in the offense. Floyd is one of the most prolific receivers in school history, and there's no doubt that the Irish are better with him than without him. However, there is some truth in the numbers, which find that Notre Dame is 1-5 in games in which Floyd has more than 10 receptions. The challenge then for the Irish is to the find the right balance - getting their biggest playmaker the football, without relying too heavily on him and forgetting about the rest of their offensive weapons.

    Defensive Momentum: From an offensive standpoint, the past two games have been a bit quiet, at least compared to the first two weeks. The Irish defense, however, has built up some confidence, holding Michigan State and Pittsburgh to just 25 points combined. Against the Spartans, the Irish got several big plays, including a bone-crushing forced fumble by Aaron Lynch and a game-sealing interception from Robert Blanton. At Heinz Field, Bob Diaco's defense came up with six sacks, the most for a Notre Dame team in a regular season game since 2005. During these Irish victories, both veterans, such as Darius Fleming, and newcomers, including Lynch and Stephon Tuitt have made key contributions to the Notre Dame defense. With a third consecutive strong defensive outing on Saturday, the Irish could continue to turn the corner and set themselves up for a big October.

    Mental Toughness: Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It's a state of mind - you could call it character in action."

    After last week's victory over Pittsburgh, Kelly preached to his players about developing the "will to win." Judging by Notre Dame's ability to bounce back from two losses to open the season, the 2011 team is a group not afraid to face adversity. Still, at 2-2 its identity is undetermined. What separates an average team from a good team and a good team from a great team is whether or not it develops the will to win and the mental toughness that are both so important in the game of football.

    And as the story has been for much of the young season, minimizing turnovers and penalties will go a long way towards demonstrating that toughness. Turnovers will always be part of the game. Having only two against the Panthers is a significant improvement, but drawing eight flags for 85 yards is still a far cry from where Notre Dame should be in the penalty department. In order to win big games down the stretch of the season, it is crucial that the Irish capitalize on their own offensive opportunities and limit those for opposing squads.

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