Purdue need not fear Jack Coan, his backup nor the Fighting Irish in general
After back-to-back victories to start the season, the second one in more-than-convincing fashion, Purdue is eager to see how it measures up against Notre Dame in South Bend on Saturday.
Purdue is a touchdown underdog and has won only once in South Bend since 1968, yet it has little reason to fear the Fighting Irish right now.
A) Notre Dame has looked vulnerable through its first 2 games, hanging on after squandering a big lead to win at Florida State in Week 1, then surviving vs. Toledo at home Saturday.
B) Purdue’s faced Jack Coan before, and — provided the former Wisconsin starter gets the nod vs. the Boilermakers — it will know what to expect from the signal-caller.
C) Like will occur frequently this season, Purdue will arguably have the 2 best players on the field in wide receiver David Bell and defensive end George Karlaftis.
Add it up, and the Boilermakers feel they can go to Notre Dame and compete with the Fighting Irish — perhaps even pull off the upset.
Although Purdue’s offensive stats are bloated after a rout of the hapless UConn Huskies, the Boilermakers have been solid, averaging nearly 40 points and 481.5 yards per game in their 2-0 start. And the combination of quarterback Jack Plummer and Bell has been one to watch, to say the least. Plummer, who’s playing confidently after having beaten out Aidan O’Connell in the preseason, has thrown for 558 yards, hitting on nearly 74 percent of his attempts, with 6 TDs and no turnovers, while Bell has 14 receptions, 255 yards and 3 TDs. Both sat out the second half vs. UConn. They’ve got their eyes ahead to ND, which hasn’t looked its usual self defensively in 2 games.
The Irish defense has allowed 33.5 points and 393.5 yards per game vs. FSU and Toledo, the yardage about evenly split between the ground and air. The Seminoles and Rockets each recorded gigantic fourth quarters — 31 points combined — with FSU rallying from down 18 to get to overtime and Toledo storming back for a briefly-held late lead.
Yet the Fighting Irish managed to win both, getting a field goal in OT to take Game 1, then a late touchdown to come back vs. Toledo. Coan was big in each, particularly as he directed the final TD drive vs. the Rockets, when he hit 3 of 5 passes for 75 yards in only 26 seconds.
But earlier in the game, ND had turned to backup Tyler Buchner for a spark, and the dual-threat QB provided it, rushing for 68 yards and throwing for 78 and a touchdown. Coan had been only adequate until the final drive, throwing a TD but also a pick, and he had been sacked 6 times.
Purdue won’t be scared of him, at least in part because it has played him before. Wisconsin won both of the matchups — a blowout in Madison in 2018 and a triple-OT thriller in West Lafayette a year later — but Coan wasn’t much more than a caretaker for the run-heavy Wisconsin offense. He tossed for a combined 363 yards in the 2 games, with 4 touchdowns and an interception.
Notre Dame is asking Coan to do more, and it’s coming with mixed results. The senior has averaged 303 passing yards per game, but he’s thrown 2 interceptions and has been sacked 10 times.
That total must have Karlaftis excited to face the Irish. Although he doesn’t have a sack this season, the junior end has been a constant nuance, with double-digit QB pressures and a forced fumble. He seemingly has influenced nearly every snap of the opponents. Notre Dame will need to account for him, particularly on passing downs.
And when Karlaftis and Bell are rolling, as they are now, they inspire confidence in an upset.