Coach Todd Yeagley calls it one of the most respectful rivalries.
“But, when it’s game time, both teams obviously want to get this result,” Yeagley said.
Those were the last words from Yeagley before he left the interview table following IU’s 5-0 victory over VCU Friday night.
Except the words weren’t about VCU. They were looking forward to IU’s next opponent. Sept. 11, in South Bend, Indiana, it will be No. 2 IU versus No. 12 Notre Dame.
The battle for Indiana supremacy.
The last time the Hoosiers were in South Bend in 2016, it was a performance worth forgetting. The Fighting Irish were ranked No. 1 at the time and drubbed IU 4-0.
IU got some revenge at home last season, edging out Notre Dame 1-0.
The game Tuesday night won’t be like the one from two years ago because this Hoosier defense won’t allow four goals.
That’s not to say this Notre Dame offense isn’t capable of putting four on the board, though. They recently scored three against Syracuse on Friday. Not just any three goals either. They were all impressive.
This first goal formed off a solid corner kick from Felicien Dumas to the head of Patrick Berneski. He came charging toward the near post, but was actually just outside the six-yard box before heading it backwards over the keeper's outstretched hands and into the net at the far post. It sounds ridiculously difficult, but Berneski’s 6-foot-3 frame made it doable.
The next goal came after the ball was deflected from a Notre Dame free kick. It took a bounce and Thomas Ueland struck it with the outside of his left foot from about 30 yards out. More likely than not, when players attempt a shot like this, it soars way over the goal and into the stands, but Ueland kept it down just enough to get it over the hands of the keeper into the roof of the net.
The last goal scored was perfect. Dumas hit this free kick from 30 yards out and literally put it in the upper right-hand corner. If the ball was a little lower or a little higher, if it was a little to the left or a little to the right, the ball would have been saved or hit the post. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Those three goals are examples of how talented this Fighting Irish offense is, and how it's capable of scoring goals in ways that aren’t conventional.
How about the Hoosiers' offense? Well, they have 11 goals this season through five games, and four of those games have been against ranked teams.
Senior Andrew Gutman, although not the 6-foot-3 size of Berneski, used his quickness and agility here to infiltrate through defensive holes to finish a header off a corner from senior Trevor Swartz.
This goal, it’s Gutman again, but this time he sent a beautiful through ball to sophomore Griffin Dorsey, who needed just one touch before finishing it off. Perfect set up, perfect finish.
Lastly, here’s some explosion. Sophomore Justin Rennicks took a touch to elude the defender at his back, then turned on the burners to out-run the defenders and beat the keeper opposite corner.
The offense is clearly there for both teams. The effectiveness of set pieces, the ball movement, the explosive runs and sheer talent will challenge both IU sophomore goalie Trey Muse and Notre Dame goalie Ryan Krutz.
The first game of the season was rare for Muse and the Hoosier defense. They allowed two goals to Wake Forest in a double-overtime loss. Wake Forest is now receiving all but one vote in the U.S. Coaches poll for the top team in the country.
Since that loss, IU has shutout four-straight opponents, totaling 360 minutes without giving up a goal.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, has given up one more goal than IU with one less game played — three goals in four games — but has not trailed in any minute of the 370 played this season.
The Fighting Irish were in Bloomington Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 for the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. Both teams played then-No. 22 Dartmouth and then-No. 18 UConn. Both picked up wins, but Notre Dame was crowned the winner of the Classic over IU based on goal differential.
Both teams were able to study one another in person that weekend for the inevitable battle Tuesday. It will come down to defense, something IU prides itself on.
Notre Dame’s offense is dangerous, but after allowing two goals to Syracuse — a much less talented team than IU — on Friday, there are areas in the Fighting Irish’s defense the Hoosiers can exploit. And that may be the difference.
Don’t be shocked if these two teams play one another to a draw. Don’t be shocked if the Notre Dame offense sneaks a goal against the stingy IU defense. Don’t be shocked if the Hoosiers do what they’ve done the last four games.
Yeagley said one more thing before leaving the interview table Friday night. He said this game is a big resume builder, and he’s more than right.
This game, whoever wins it, will go a long way.
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