Irish Preparing For Battle Against Purdue

The Notre Dame football team is currently riding the high of a three-game winning streak. With a victory over Purdue this weekend the Irish could climb into the top 25 and improve to 4-1 on the season. We spoke to a number of Irish players on Monday about their victory over Washington and the Purdue rivalry. It's clear the Irish expect a spirited game on Saturday.

Senior linebacker Derek Curry has been through the wars with Purdue. In his third year starting, Curry has seen this rivalry up close and personal. Curry said he expects to see the same Purdue offense as last year on Saturday.

"A lot of the stuff has stayed the same, but the personnel has changed up a lot, and they've got a lot more experience from the quarterback side," Curry said.

"He's a good quarterback," the three-time monogram winner said of Purdue's quarterback Kyle Orton. "He's probably the best quarterback we've faced so far this year. That's one thing we're going to have to focus on. He's a little more poised in the pocket."

The Boilermakers are averaging almost 50 points per game and Curry knows the Irish will have to play one of their best games to beat this high-powered offense.

"We're going to have to put everything together and play our best game this week," he said. "We're just going to prepare the best we can, try to buy in to what the coaches are going to have us do, and go play ball."

Senior wide receiver Carlyle Holiday said he believes the Irish offense is going to have to help the Irish defense this week to pick up a victory.

"I think our offense is going to have to put up a lot of points because they average (50) points a game," Holiday said. "It's going to be challenge. They always play aggressive against us."

Holiday says the Irish were disappointed with their 23-10 loss in West Lafayette, Ind. last season, but an act by Purdue in pre-game warm-ups has not been forgotten.

"It was disappointing. Not only that, just because of the way the game started. They ran through our drills," Holiday said.

Defensive end Justin Tuck has also been impressed with Orton. He said the Purdue quarterback deserves the hype he's been receiving.

"He's by far the best quarterback that we've played so far, and he's up there with the best in the country," Tuck said. "We're going to have to get after him and rattle him a little bit."

The Irish are not ranked in the top 25 despite winning three straight games. Tuck said the Irish have an opportunity to prove something with a win in this game.

They're coming in here on a high right now," Tuck said of Purdue. "They average almost 50 points a game. It's going to be a great challenge for us, offensively and defensively. If we can come out with a great performance, we're back on the map in a certain sense."

Senior running back Ryan Grant is also excited about Purdue week. He knows what to expect from this in-state rivalry game.

"Big game. I get excited every time we play Purdue because we know it's going to be that type of game that you have to get after it for the whole game," Grant said. "They're a good team. They're undefeated. They're doing big things and we're trying to do big things."

Grant said he also remembers Purdue disrespecting the Irish before last year's game.

"Yeah they did. They did kind of ran through our seven-on-seven last year when we were warming up," Grant said when asked if he remembered Purdue disrupting their warm-ups.

The Nyack, N.Y. native didn't plays in last week's game against Washington and was asked if that was a planned decision to save him for this game.

"For me, I never look at it like that," he said. "I'm always going to do whatever I can to prepare myself to play. That might've been the big picture for the coaches, I don't really know."

At this point, Grant said he can't make a prediction on if he'll be playing on Saturday against Purdue.

"My leg is getting better. I'm feeling better. See how I feel this week, see how I feel tomorrow in practice and we'll go from there," Grant said.

Senior offensive lineman Dan Stevenson says the Purdue defense has been surprising. The Boilermakers lost eight starters from their 2003 team, but are only allowing 12.3 points per game so far this season.

"From what I've seen on film, they're a great team," said Stevenson of the Purdue defense. "They play a solid defense. They seem to play with a lot of passion. They do a lot of things well. They've been successful the last couple of games against the teams they've played."

Stevenson said the Irish left West Lafayette last season with a sour taste in their mouths.

"Definitely a disappointing loss," he said of the 23-10 Purdue victory. "One that we think we could've won. Our own mistakes hindered us from winning that game. We've got a lot to prove."

"That's obviously disrespectful and that's something that we all remember," Stevenson said of the Purdue's decision to disrupt Notre Dame warm-ups before the game. "We don't forget things like that."

P>The Irish offense has been on a roll lately and the front five has given quarterback Brady Quinn a lot of time to throw the football. Stevenson gives credit to a developing running game, and the play calling of Irish offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick.

"The last couple of games we've been successful running the ball and that kind of brings people into the box which allows you to open up the passing game," he said. "I think that's something we've been able to do.

"You want to see aggressive play calls. It allows you to open up a lot of different areas, and I think that is something (coach) Diedrick has been doing a great job of--expanding the play calling and doing some of those aggressive deep attacks because they've been successful for us in the last couple of games. It definitely builds a level of confidence."

Quarterback Brady Quinn played probably his best game last week as an Irish quarterback. Quinn said he was pleased with his first-half performance, but saw areas he needed to improve in the second half.

"The first half, there wasn't too many things to complain about," the sophomore quarterback said. "Third quarter, I just wasn't consistent. I wasn't making the easy throws. We really didn't take advantage like we did in the first half."

"I feel like we kind of got out of rhythm as an offense," said Quinn when asked why the offense struggled in the second half. "It's hard going in 31-3, getting the ball the second half. It's almost like we got cold, going and sitting down for 20 minutes, (we) just had got done coming off a scoring drive. Maybe lost a little bit of focus in there."

Quinn made his first career start against the Boilermakers in the loss last season and took quite a beating. The sophomore says he sees a very similar Purdue defense in 2004.

"I know they got nine or eight new guys coming back, but it seems like they filled right in the shoes of the guys last year because they've been doing a great job," Quinn said of the Purdue defense. We've got a lot to prepare for.

"Last year they seemed pretty physical so I think they're probably a combination of both," said Quinn when asked if Purdue's defense was based more on speed than being physical. "I haven't got to see too much film on them, but what I've seen, they still seem to have the speed and physical play."

The good news for the Irish is that they appear to be starting to click on offense. Quinn agrees and says the Irish offense is taking that next step.

"It's definitely moving the direction we want," he said. "I think the coaches talked about raising the bar week to week. I think we've raised it to some degree, although we really didn't see that follow through in the second half. We're still working and we're still trying to progress."

Having sound pass protection has certainly helped Quinn the last few weeks and he says he's thrilled to have the extra time in the pocket.

"It's been a huge boost of confidence," Quinn said of the pass protection. "Obviously I have a lot of time back there and I'm able to be patient and not have to worry about eluding a rush. Just kind of able to keep my eyes down field."

The Irish appear very focused on the game this week. This rivalry has really started to heat up the last few years. It's become a very physical game the last few years and we expect to see the same this year. The Irish have a big challenge on their hands this week. Top Stories