Irish Hoping to Slow Down Purdue Offense

The Notre Dame football team returned from Wednesday's practice in good spirits. The Irish defense has the difficult job of slowing down the Purdue offense this week, and the Irish secondary will have a challenge from some excellent Boilermaker receivers. We spoke with cornerback Mike Richardson and Irish coach Tyrone Willingham after practice to get their thoughts on the Purdue game.

The Irish secondary will face a quarterback who hasn't thrown an interception on the year, and an offense that is averaging 356 yards passing and 49 points per game.

Junior cornerback Mike Richardson says the Irish secondary will have to get up close and personal wit the Purdue receivers on Saturday.

"It's big for us," Richardson said when asked if the secondary has to play physical on Saturday. "We've been practicing for it, being physical on the line with them.

"They run a lot of short passes and whatnot. We're going to have to get up in their face a lot. Overall it's a big game for our whole defense."

As good as Purdue's quarterback Kyle Orton looks on paper, Richardson says he's just as impressive on film.

"He's pretty accurate," Richardson said of Orton. "His records speak for themselves—his stats and everything. We're going to have a big job ahead of us this weekend."

With Orton being so accurate, the Irish secondary won't see a lot of receivers standing still on Saturday. Orton will hit many receivers while on the run making this Purdue team even more dangerous.

"There's not a lot room for error for us this week," Richardson said. "We're going to have to be good on our breaks, key the quarterback and stick to our receivers."

Probably the most important thing for the Irish secondary to remember this week is to tackle. The Warner Robbins, Ga. native says the Irish coaches have been emphasizing the tackle all week.

"We're concentrating a lot of wrapping up, making sure we secure the tackle this week. With that spread out offense they run, miss a tackle and it could six points for them."

Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham also thinks the Purdue receivers are talented. He also said he thinks they might not get the respect they deserve when asked to compare the Boilermaker wide receivers to the Michigan receiving corps.

"I think when you look at the Michigan group, you're talking about an entire group of receivers that have the respect and acclaim of the country," Willingham said. "When you talk about Purdue's receiver corps, they are probably as good, but they don't have that kind of reputation.

"What's different entirely is the style of offense you're about to face. Coach Tiller says ‘we're going to throw it, and we're going to throw it, and we're going to throw it some more,' and that's his philosophy.

"That's not quite Michigan's philosophy. They're going to pound you, mix in the pass game, use their play action and go at you that manner. So it's two different styles that allow the receivers to be different type players."

Willingham also agrees with Richardson that the yards after catch stats will be important this week.

"It's a big stat every week. That one never misses so hopefully we can do some good things to keep this group at bay. This is a really a very good group, and as much as you talk about the group, the most important cog in that is the quarterback. And he is nationally the best in country."

Most people are talking about the match-up between the Irish defense versus the Irish offense. But Willingham believes his offense will play a large role in this game, too.

"We know it's going to have some impact on the game," Willingham said when asked about what impact his offense might have on the outcome. "Hopefully we'll have the consistency that we need to allow our defense to spend some time on the sideline, and that will be a major ingredient to determine what happens this weekend."

The third-year Irish head coach says he buys into the old adage that your offense can be your best defense, especially in this particular game.

"It's hard for the other guy to score when he's sitting on the sideline," he said. "That's always the best weapon. I don't think it necessarily has to be ground control.

"I think we have to have the ability to run it, but in this system, it has a lot of components. It has quick-strike components, it has the ability to control the ball by the short pass, and it also has the ability to control the clock with the running game. Hopefully we'll have all those working at their best against Purdue."

Like Irish defensive coordinator Kent Baer, Willingham says he doesn't believe his Irish team can completely shut down this Purdue offense, they'll just have to try to slow them down.

"This offense is so high-powered I don't know if you can slow them down," Willingham said. 561 yards a ball game? You can go out and play by yourself and it's hard to get 561 yards in a ball game. That's incredible. No turnovers? 20 Touchdowns?"

"That's an impressive statistic for their entire team, not just him," said Willingham when asked if Orton's zero interceptions on the year is what makes him so good "They're running the ball at 200 yards a game, and when you can do that, and not turn the ball over, and no fumbles, no interceptions. I'd like to have those numbers."

Irish fans saw their first glimpses of freshman running back Justin Hoskins last week as a kick returner and running back. Will we see Hoksins again this week?

"Most likely yes," Willingham said when asked if Hoskins would line up as a kick returner. "I thought the first experience he gave us was pretty good. If we didn't have the penalty, we would've had great field position and that might've been a totally different start to the second half."


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