Underachievers. Scared. Weak. Uninspired.
All are verbs summing up the first four games of the Notre Dame football season. The Irish continue to struggle with turnovers, and seem to play at whatever level their opponents are at. Notre Dame turned the ball over five times and failed to finish drives in the first game, a tough 20-23 loss to a South Florida team that was absolutely destroyed by Pittsburgh Thursday night.
Speaking of Pittsburgh, that is another team that has been unimpressive this season, yet stayed right with the Irish in a tough 15-12 Notre Dame victory after barely beating Maine and losing at a down Iowa team.
Then there was the Michigan game. Two forth quarter comebacks by the Wolverines labled the Irish as a team that collapses under pressure.
Yet, something happened when Michigan State came to town. The Irish actually played. Well. Against their bestopponent of this young season, the Irish played at their best.
Now the Irish head to Purdue to play the in-state rival Boilermakers. In prime time. Against a team that lost to Rice, and beat Middle Tennessee by a field goal before destroying FCS team Southeast Missouri State. None of those schools are known for their football powers.
The Irish have the edge in talent. They have the edge in coaching. They have the edge in game-planning. Where they lack is heart. The weaker the team, the less the Irish seem to care. The less the Irish hold onto the ball. The less the Irish finish drives.
The only consistency we've seen so far is from the defense; a defense mocked for falling apart in the fourth quarter against Michigan, but who, in reality, did a great job of holding one of the best players in college football in check for three quarters and was forced to worry about the quarterback running on every play, including the final touchdown pass. A defense whose hand was forced by a team that essentially runs the Wildcat on every play. Had the offense not turned the ball over five times in that game, the defense's shortcomings in the fourth quarter don't matter. The game should have been out of reach.
So... will the Irish play down to Purdue's level, or will we see the same committment we saw against the Spartans?
Saturday night, prime time, under the lights... we find out.