Notre Dame, IN (UHND.com) – Notre Dame marched down the field behind a six run/one pass drive to start off Saturday’s contest with Purdue and never looked back. After three weeks of ineffective running, Darius Walker led the Irish ground attack with 146 yards while Notre Dame gained more yard than they had a week ago by the end of the first quarter in a 35-21 win over Purdue.
Charlie Weis was determined to establish the running game on Saturday after his offense was largely ineffective running the ball over the previous two weeks and the result was a season high in rushing for junior tailback Darius Walker. “I just made a commitment along with our staff and our players that we are going to make the running game go no matter what happened, we were going to make the running go,” said Weis during his post game comments.
In the previous two games, Notre Dame netted just 51 yards against Michigan and Michigan. By the end of the first quarter, the Irish had already surpassed that mark with 67 yards capped off by an 11 yard reverse from freshman George West on the opening drive and a 13 yard touchdown by Darius Walker.
West, a true freshman from Oklahoma, got the ball on the reverse because sophomore David Grimes was a late scratch from the lineup for the Irish. “Actually it was going to be a David Grimes run, okay, but when David was hobbling around yesterday, in practice, we practiced with David and George running it in case David pulled out,” explained Weis. Grimes had battled a nagging injury all week, and told Weis before kickoff he wasn’t going to be able to go full strength.
The Irish used a balanced offense to score 28 first half points, the most they have scored in the first half all year. After softening up the Purdue defense with the run on the first drive, Brady Quinn and the Notre Dame passing game took over. Quinn who completed 24 of his first 28 passes, ended the game with 318 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Notre Dame built their 28-7 lead behind the arm of Quinn, the running of Walker and with the help of a fake field goal towards the end of the second quarter. Jeff Samardzija took the snap on a chip shot field goal attempt and ran it into the endzone untouched from six yards out.
After two quarters, however, Purdue was down just two scores thanks in large part to an offense that amassed 490 total yards against a Notre Dame defense minus two starters. Both Travis Thomas and Ambrose Wooden did not play for the Irish after nursing injuries all week.
Purdue challenged freshman cornerback Darrin Walls in the first half, and with under a minute to go, sophomore quarterback Curtis Painter connected with Selwyn Lymon for an 88 yard touchdown. On the play, Walls and safety Tom Zbikowski collided into each other giving Lymon a clear path to end zone reducing the Irish lead to 28-14.
Lymon, a sophomore receiver for the Boilermakers, had a breakout game with 8 catches for a Notre Dame opponent record 238 yards. The talented receiver ended the game with two of Purdue’s three touchdowns on the game. Lymon’s quarterback had an impressive performance as well with 399 yards on 23 of 46 passes.
Purdue could not cut the lead to any less than 14 in the second half after the Irish took their first drive into the end zone with a 12 yard toss from Quinn to Rhema McKnight. McKnight would add a career high 10 catches for 120 yards and caught both of the Quinn touchdowns.
The Boilermaker offense racked up a lot of yards in the second half, despite a driving rain in the third quarter, but could only manage seven points in the final 30 minutes of the game. Dropped passes and costly penalties cost Purdue a couple key first downs that ended drives. The Boilermaker offense also turned the ball over three times on failed fourth down attempts, including one inside the Notre Dame 10 yard line.
Notre Dame ended the game with 456 yards of offense Saturday, its first 400 yard offensive output of the season, and it all started with Notre Dame’s ability to run the ball effectively according to Charlie Weis. “When you can come out there and say you’re going to establish the run and run it on every down, that usually, you usually have a good chance. And then you’re going to have, the residual affect of that is now they’re going to look to start stopping the run and now your play action and those other things now become a little easier to do.”
The win puts both teams at 4-1 and ended a seven game wining streak for Purdue. Notre Dame will host Stanford next week before having a week off.