Explosive Boilers Next for Irish

The physical practices of last week showed a few tangible benefits in the 31-14 loss to Michigan State on Saturday. James Aldridge went over 100 yards and Notre Dame was much more physical. It didn't pay off in the win column, though and the Irish are 0-4 for the first time in school history. As Notre Dame prepares for Purdue, the preparation schedule will be similar.

"You still have to keep elements of what you've done last week because last week I believe paid dividends," Weis said on Tuesday.

There are differences. On Sunday, the team did practice but didn't go full speed first-team offense vs. first-team defense. Weis toned it down because of the physical nature of the Spartans contest. The team also watched the game film, something they didn't do after the defeat to Michigan. On Tuesday, Notre Dame will go full speed one's vs. one's for an hour before shifting the focus over to an undefeated Purdue team.

"There's elements of things that are improved because of how we practiced last week," Weis said. "So I think you have to keep elements in there. And I think that this might be more like the way we're going to go the rest of the way, where we at least dedicate part of Tuesday's practice to have ones going against ones."

A high level of effort and intensity will be in order to give the Boilermakers their first loss of the season. Kickoff in West Lafayette between the two teams is at 12:02 PM and ESPN will have the television broadcast. Offensively, Purdue has been clicking on all cylinders. Granted, the competition has been less than stellar with victories over Toledo, Eastern Illinois, Central Michigan and Minnesota, whose combined records are 5-11. But in those contests, Purdue has scored at least 45 points and gained over 500 yards of total offense.

The Boilermakers are 7th nationally in scoring offense and 8th in total offense, averaging 202 yards per contest on the ground and another 324 through the air.

The Irish's best defensive statistic is being ranked No. 4 nationally against the pass. The number is inflated a tad because teams have pounded Notre Dame on the ground instead of through the passing game. Last week, the Irish allowed Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer to throw four touchdown passes in 11 total completions. This weekend, Notre Dame will be playing a team that wants to pass first and run second and, in the process, spread out the Irish defense.

"I think playing in space is a different challenge than when we really have gone against in the first four games because this is a team that that's their mode of operation," Weis said. "We've given up a few play action passes but for the most part the passing game as far as to move the ball has not been the critical factor that's beating us so far. It's been the run game.

"So now the challenge becomes kind of flipped. It becomes more unique where now you have to stop the passing game as well as the run game rather than just try to stop the run game and leave yourself vulnerable to play action pass."

For the Boilermakers, it starts at the quarterback position. Purdue's Curtis Painter has been nearly flawless this season. The senior signal caller has averaged 322 passing yards a game to go along with a 68.7 completion rate. The most important stat: Painter has 16 touchdowns to only one interception. Helping the senior quarterback is a stout offensive line that's allowed two sacks in 171 pass attempts. Last season, Painter threw 19 interceptions to 22 touchdowns while completing 59 percent of his passes. The senior signal caller has made the jump in his third season as the starter.

"The difference is the experience, which he now has," Weis said. "He really wasn't that experienced at the time we played him last year. Now, with that experience that he has, you look at a guy who's got a 16-1 touchdown/interception ratio. That's a scary thought when you think about it. That's as good as it gets. 16-0 is the only thing better. 16-1 means the guy's doing things right."

The defense will have their hands full on Saturday in West Lafayette. The new 3-4 scheme employed by defensive coordinator Corwin Brown has had its share of growing pains. Teams have been exposing Notre Dame on the ground to the tune of 232 yards per a game, which is 111th in the country.

The Irish have allowed 33 points a contest through four games. Since Weis took over in 2005, Notre Dame is 2-10 when surrendering 30 points or more. Not surprisingly, Purdue's mark is 23-4 when breaching this mark on offense under head coach Joe Tiller but 21-21 when scoring between 20-29 points. As the season progresses, the players on defense are adapting to the new scheme.

"I think what's happening is we're intertwining more and more people into the mix," Weis said. "A bunch of guys are getting better because they're playing more. And I think with the exception of a couple of guys, like Trevor (Laws) and Mo (Crum) and Joe (Brockington) and a couple of those guys on the secondary, I think some of these guys are getting better just by pure reps out there of playing.

"And it's one thing to just practice it, but I think another thing is actually playing in the games. And I think we definitely see upside by the fact that these more and more people are getting more and more game experience."

The offense sure hasn't helped the defense. The Irish rank dead last nationally in total offense and rushing offense, 118th in scoring offense and 117th in passing offense.

In the time of possession category, a stat that Notre Dame has owned in Weis' first two seasons in South Bend, the Irish are 111th in the country. Teams possess a 33-27 advantage and it's caused the defense to wear down in the second half. A productive offensive showing, through a consistent ground attack and conversions on third down, would keep the explosive Purdue offense on the sidelines and the defense fresh in the fourth quarter.

"You have an offense that's averaging over 500 yards," Weis said. "And if you said all they did was throw it all the time, then you could try to just stop the pass. But they're averaging over 200 yards a game rushing as well. So I think that you have to try your best to try to keep their offense off the field."

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