The Shillelgah club is the trophy awarded to the victor in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Purdue Boilermakers rivalry matchup. This trophy originated in Ireland, and the club was first presented to the Fighting Irish when they won the 1957 game 12-0. Notre Dame leads the trophy series with 37 victories to Purdue’s 19.
The Boilermakers and first year coach Darrell Hazell will be looking to avenge last season’s loss to the Fighting Irish in South Bend. As the Irish enter in West Lafayette this season, they will be facing a Purdue crowd prepared to cheer on their Boilermakers and will be very anxious to get a signature win for a very well liked head coach. The players and the university know of coach Hazell’s success at Kent State and badly want this fit to work well in West Lafayette.
The Boilermakers will be facing a Notre Dame team coming off of a tough road loss to the Michigan Wolverines. Notre Dame competed well in the game, but seem to be over matched by a Wolverine team that seems to be on a rapid ascent in the college football rankings this season; the talent of the Wolverines may have been overlooked by some entering this season. Notre Dame will be relying on veteran quarterback Tommy Rees. Rees has proved that he can quickly rebound from a disappointing loss, but we will see how he fares against the Boilermaker defense.
Look for the Fighting Irish to attempt to pound the ball on the ground against the Boilermakers. The Irish may find yards on the ground hard to come by against the Boilermakers, as the run defense has been much improved for Purdue this season. However, the pass defense has not been as effective this season. The Boilermakers will need to get after Rees early and often, and force the quarterback into some errant throws. When he makes these poor decisions, it is vital that the Boilermakers are opportunistic and take away possession of the ball. Big plays by the Boilermakers’ defense could be what decides this game.
The Boilermakers have struggled rushing the ball this season, averaging less than 100 yards a game. They will need to improve this number on Saturday, but will be asked to do so against the No. 54 ranked rush defense in the country. The Boilermakers have also found little success through the air. The responsibility of moving the ball will fall on the broad shoulders of quarterback Rob Henry. Henry is a mobile quarterback, and will need to move the ball both through the air and on the ground to improve the efficiency of the Boilermakers’ offense. If he can escape from the pocket and use his skills in the open field, this should buy him some time when he does drop back to pass later in the game. One thing is for sure, Henry must protect the ball. He has thrown two interceptions and no touchdowns so far this season.
The chances of a Boilermaker upset this weekend are very minimal. The Irish will not be ready to abandon their season after one loss, so look for them to enter the game on a high note. Purdue’s best chance to steal a win at home is to force turnovers from the Notre Dame offense.