There were a few negatives. The big glaring number is the 398 passing yards allowed by Notre Dame. Purdue wide receiver Selwyn Lymon set the single game yardage mark for an opponent by amassing 238 yards on eight catches, which included two touchdowns. On the day, the Irish secondary allowed six huge plays of 238 yards. A few Boilermaker drops could have made the yardage total even higher.
"We had one drive for a touchdown," head coach Charlie Weis said at his Sunday press conference about his defense. "That's seven points. They gave up a home run before half time into a double coverage situation. We bang into each other, the guy takes it to the house. They come out in the second half, they gave up one more touchdown.
"So this is a team that was averaging 40 points a game. So where every one wants to say well the guy threw for a zillion yards or they do this and do that, I look at production. And the bottom line is: how many points do you give up? That's really what the game is all about. How many points you give up? The team's been scoring 40. They gave up 21. And seven of them were on an 88-yard pass. So from my standpoint I don't look at it as a negative as other people would because every one just looks at the yards. I look at production."
Purdue racked up 490 total yards. That total outgained Notre Dame by 36 yards. In the first half, the Boilermakers were going after freshman Darrin Walls early and often. The big play was Lymon's 88-yard touchdown, where Walls was beat deep and Zbikowski missed a tackle by bumping into his freshman teammate. It forced the Irish to insert Leo Ferrine into the lineup in the second half. The goal coming into the game: stop Dorien Bryant and Dustin Keller. These two combined for eight catches for just 77 yards and no touchdowns. Mission accomplished. The problem was stopping the other priorities.
"I think that the players, every time we go into a game with a certain mode in mind, this defense has shown that they could do that job," Weis said. "Don't let (Drew) Stanton beat you. Okay. Don't let (Matt) Trannon beat you. Don't let Calvin Johnson beat you in the game. You can go back to different things in the game. Get pressure on Penn State. Regardless of what it is, they have shown that the main gist of what we're doing, they can do. And they have done it almost every week.Let's say Michigan's the one throw away. They have done it almost every week.
"But what we need to do a better job of, and this is really what it comes down to, if we're going to take this away and you guys are in one-on-one situations, whether it be beating them on a pass rush or playing them coverage, you need to make one-on-one plays. Because that's really what it comes down to when you put a point of emphasis on taking certain things out of the game. And at that point that's what we're going to have to get better at."
It was a big afternoon for running back Darius Walker. The junior halfback had been a non-factor the past two weeks, mostly because the team was in a comeback mode. In the games over Michigan and Michigan State, Walker had a combined 21 carries. On Saturday alone, he had 31 attempts for 146 yards and a touchdown. Walker had nine more touches in the passing game for 73 yards. He was the workhorse vs. Purdue.
"He hasn't gotten a lot of usage in the run game and believe it or not, one of the jokes that you have is he has fresh legs," Weis said. "Being by fresh legs means he hasn't got a lot of work carrying the ball so therefore I'm not afraid-normally I don't like him touching the ball more than 25 times. Well, he ran it 31 times and had another several catches on top of it. So that's a full day for him."
Now, Notre Dame can start their preparations for Stanford. The statistics for the Cardinal are not pretty. First off, they are 0-5. Stanford got shut out 31-0 by UCLA this past weekend. The Cardinal rank third to last in Division 1A in total defense and dead last in rushing defense. Last season, Stanford almost cost the Irish millions of dollars and a BCS appearance when their upset bid in the final regular season game of the year fell short. Weis already has his talking points for the team.
"Everyone will say, 'Stanford hasn't won a game yet,'" Weis said. "This is a lay up game for you. And all I have to do is show them the game from last year. You're going to go out there, you're going to whip them, you're going to the BCS and we're fighting for our lives at the end of the game. We were fortunate to go down and score at the end of the game. I mean there's a vivid memory. All you have to do is go back to the end of November of last year and just go ahead and put it on there and you can see what happens if you just think you're just going to show up. And it could happen again if they think they're just going to show up."
Some personnel notes: Weis said he would consider the possibility of linebacker Travis Thomas being held out of the Stanford game to give him an extra week of rest. After the Cardinal contest, Notre Dame has a bye and that would give the senior three weeks to heal from the injury sustained in the Michigan State game. Cornerback Ambrose Wooden did not play for the second straight week after sustaining some type of head injury when he delivered a big hit to a Michigan wide receiver. The Irish head coach said Wooden was close to full go but that they'd rather go with a 100 percent Walls or Ferrine. Also, Weis figures that kickoff specialist Bobby Renkes will be back for this week's game after he strained a muscle in the Spartan contest.