Weis Notebook 9/26

A lot of the focus for Notre Dame through four games has been the lack of production on offense. This week, though, the Irish travel to West Lafayette to face a 4-0 Purdue team that's had no trouble lighting up the scoreboard. The Boilermakers have scored at least 45 points in each of their four wins and also gained over 500 yards of total offense in those contests.

Kickoff between the two teams is scheduled for 12:02 PM and ESPN will have the television broadcast. This will be the best offense Notre Dame has faced in 2007. The Irish do rank 4th nationally against the pass but opponents have focused mainly on running the ball with great success.

Purdue can hurt teams on the ground and in the air. The Boilermakers average 324 passing yards and 202 rushing yards per contest. With playmakers such as quarterback Curtis Painter, wide receiver Dorien Bryant, tight end Dustin Keller and running back Kory Sheets, preventing big plays is a top priority for the Notre Dame defense.

"You better keep everything in front of you," Weis said, who doesn‘t think 14 points will be enough offense to beat Purdue. "When you have dynamic players in the inside position, if you let them get anything cheap like bubble screens with Bryant, something that's a short gainer can turn into a long gainer. You have to make sure they nickel and dime it and you don't give them chunks."

***Training camp-like practices have resumed this week for the Irish. In the lead-up to the Michigan State contest, Weis put his team through an intense week of physical practices where the first-team offense battled the first-team defense. The Notre Dame head coach said the players would go through similar sessions through the first hour of practice on Tuesday. The focus then would turn totally to Purdue.

The tough practices actually differ from what the Irish went through in August. Though both were physical in nature, there was one noticeable change from then and now.

"The only thing I can think of that we're doing more is we're actually tackling more," Weis said. "Maybe go live more. The catch-22 when you're going through training camp and you're going two-a-day, one-a-day, two-a-day, one-a-day is that you can start losing them in a hurry. Physically, you can start losing them in a hurry if you go live too many times."

***Two true freshman saw extensive action in the loss to Michigan State. Outside linebackers Kerry Neal and Brian Smith came in on passing downs and were effective in rushing the quarterback off the edge of the defense. Neal recorded his first sack, tackle for loss and pass breakup while Smith notched three tackles, including 0.5 for a loss. Weis thinks both are now using their instincts to make plays out on the field.

"When you have guys that have fast twitch, which both those guys have that first step or two off the line of scrimmage, early when you're learning the defense, usually you're thinking about what to do," Weis said. "Anytime you're thinking about what to do, usually you don't play at a fast pace. Now that they've been more integrated into playing, it looks to me like their tempo has increased. I would think that's correlated to them not thinking about what to do."

***Weis said senior defensive end Justin Brown is "iffy or a game-time decision" this week for Purdue. The senior did not dress for the Michigan State contest because of a rolled ankle. The Notre Dame head coach did say Brown looks better this week than at any point last week. Derrell Hand started in Brown's place against the Spartans, totaling three tackles.

***Sophomore offensive lineman Dan Wenger, who sat out last weekend with an injury, will not be ready for the Boilermakers contest. Weis said Wenger would "optimistically" be ready for UCLA, although there are no guarantees as to the sophomore's return date.

***At the beginning of the season, Weis stated on numerous occasions that all five running backs could see action in games. True to his word, that's been the case. All five have gotten carries, with Junior Jabbie totaling the least (three carries for one yards) and James Aldridge garnering the most (35 rushes for 171 yards). After Aldridge's 100-yard performance against Michigan State last weekend, it looks like the sophomore is now the lead dog as far as carries are concerned. It's been a process to sort out what responsibilities each will handle during the season.

"The way this has evolved this year, because you don't know how it's going to go, the way this has evolved is these guys have all settled into roles," Weis said. "That's just being evolved over the last few weeks. They settle into roles. When everyone settles into roles and accepts roles and is involved in the game plan, no one is stagnant thinking they're going to sit on the sideline the whole game."

***By now, almost everyone who has turned on a television set or surfed the Internet has seen the rant by Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy. After a column by Jenni Carlson of the Daily Oklahoman questioned the mental strength of quarterback Bobby Reid, Gundy exploded in a post-game press conference. The Cowboys head coach went on for several minutes and aimed most of his diatribe in the direction of Carlson, who was in attendance. On Wednesday, Weis gave his take on the hot discussion topic.

"I'm sure all the coaches in America would side with the coach on this one and most of the journalists would side with the journalist," Weis said. "I'm saying as a dad, that would bother me. Let me take myself out of the coach/journalist role, as a dad that would bother me."

***Weis on the team's confidence heading into the Purdue game, where the Irish are three touchdown underdogs to the 4-0 Boilermakers: "I think they believe they can win the game. I don't know if anyone else believes that. But I think the players believe they can win the game. And I think that if the players don't believe they can win the game, you have no chance. You have no chance. Players will always say they're going to win. I truly believe the players believe they can win the game."


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