Incident or Not, Walker Gets It Going

SOUTH BEND - Charlie Weis joked with the media following No. 12 Notre Dame's 35-21 victory over Purdue, that he was the one that told offensive coordinator Mike Haywood to get in the face and rile up tailback Darius Walker during practice.

"I encouraged them to have an altercation on Tuesday," Weis said with a smile.

That's doubtful the argument or misunderstanding between Walker and Haywood is what got things going, but the junior Walker played one of the best games of his college career, Saturday, and certainly had his best showing of the season. Number three had 40 touches, rushing 31 times for 146 yards with a touchdown, and catching nine passes for 73 more yards, as the Irish made a conscience effort to get the absent running game and Walker rolling.

"Coach Haywood always inspires me, every week," Walker said. "He brings the same intensity to practice to me every week which is well respected."

Walker's effort boosted his career total to 2,355 yards rushing, and he passed George Gipp for seventh on ND's all-time list. He could potentially move ahead of Phil Carter (2,409) next Saturday at home against Stanford.

Coming into Saturday, Walker had only rushed for 227 yards in the Irish's first four games, an average of 56.8 yards per contest. Whatever it was, the offensive line push or lack there of, the tough defenses or Walker, that average was down from the 99.7 yards per game he averaged last season when he gained 1,196 yards.

"That's something we wanted to work on, and our o-line did a great job today, and obviously Darius did a good job today," quarterback Brady Quinn said. "You have to give credit to the guys up front."

Walker gained 99 yards in the season opening win over Georgia Tech, but since then, the Irish failed to get any running game going or had to abandon it all together the next three games.

"It's nice to get a chance to touch the ball a lot and to get in a groove out there, build a little confidence and stuff within the offense," Walker said.

The Notre Dame (4-1) offense looked very confident, and efficient for the first time throughout a game. Penalties, dropped passes, bad passes and mental mistakes were close to non-existent as the Irish ran 81 plays for 454 yards against one of the worst defenses in the country. The biggest problem plaguing the Irish offense was third-down conversion. Walker and company converted eight-of-14 against Purdue (4-1).

Things appeared to be different on the very first drive when the Irish marched 70 yards in seven plays, six of those play calls were runs. On the first play of the game, the offensive line blew the d-line off the ball and Walker carried for eight yards. He had five carries for 31 yards on the drive and caught a screen for 13 more yards in helping the Irish take a quick 7-0 lead.

Weis said he wanted to make a sure he didn't abandon the run this week and Walker knew the script had his name all over it. With the good push the offensive line was getting, running the ball was in effect all afternoon.

"We do, do the script thing before the game but you never know how the game's going to go and you never really know how things are going to play out," Walker explained. "We just try to play it one play at a time and stay focused in whatever we got to do."

Whatever the Irish usually did on Saturday, Walker was the focus. He was Quinn's second leading receiver.

"It's nice but at the same time it's a lot of work," Walker said. "I mean running the ball, catching the ball, blocking, doing all that, but you know it's definitely a running backs responsibility and I'm definitely up for the challenge with all that."

Walker certainly was on this day.

"Obviously he was getting a lot of work in, you're able to see how special he is and how productive he is just by the way he is running the ball and also being a threat with the ball in his hands in the passing game," Quinn explained.

Walker was hitting the hole hard and on a lot of his runs, the shifty back cut things outside towards the sideline to gain extra yards.

"I kind of get at liberty to do what I want to do out there and just kind of run what I see which is really good," he said. "I don't have to think too much out there, it's more reacting. Sometimes the middle will be clogged up so just bounce it out, it all works out."

It did against the Boilermakers. About the only thing Walker didn't do on Saturday was throw a pass. That play doesn't exist….yet.

"I wish there was, get me a TD pass, I'm cool."

Everyone's cool with the running game after this one. Top Stories