I wonder if the term “returning starter” is overrated. This is usually assumed to be a positive; experience is better than lack thereof. However, ND’s defense has less than half of its starters from last year. Purdue has all 11 of its starters back from last year. ND is allowing 10 fewer points per game than Purdue this year. Granted, there have been other changes (i.e. coaches), but let’s remember that just because they’re returning doesn’t mean they’re good. To this end, the Quinn/Samardzija show torched that returning defense yesterday to the tune of 49-28.
There are probably complaints about the defense softening up in the second half, but down by 28, of course they would start passing more. I’m not sure why that wasn’t the plan from the start.