The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Bruton sniffed out the go-route, before Spartans quarterback Brian Hoyer even threw the ball. Playing cover one, Bruton was on the wrong side of the middle of the field, but started sprinting towards the front corner of the end zone and the streaking receiver just before the ball went into the air. He arrived to meet the football at its highest point in the air, corralled it, and fell into the end zone for a touchback.
"Once it left his hand, I was like I got a real good break, this is mine," Bruton said with a smile. He also had a career-high 15 tackles, and is ranked second on the team with 35 stops. "Then I just did what we usually do in drills, and go up for the ball at the highest point. Everybody was saying I was up high. My dad was like boy you know you jumped. I thought I did enough to get high enough, but I guess I just jumped out."
First-year defensive coordinator Corwin Brown said he will use this play as a cut up for many years to come.
"You won't see a better play," he stated.
Head coach Charlie Weis agrees.
"That is not just an okay play, that's a guy having great range and not only taking the proper angle to the ball but just being able to get from the middle of the field all the way to the fade ball up the sidelines," Weis explained. "There aren't that many people who have the speed to cover that much ground."
Brown said that Bruton is still learning, but the sky is the limit for him.
***Weis said there isn't a player in the Notre Dame (0-4) secondary asked to do more than sophomore Raeshon McNeil. Against Michigan State, the 6-foot, 187-pound sophomore lined up at cornerback, nickel back and safety.
"He's really had more put on him than just about anyone there, and he's shown he's versatile enough to play outside at corner, play inside on the slot and when we want to get extra coverage guys in there, play deep as a safety as well," Weis said.
"What that has allowed us to do is take (Tom Zbikowski) and drop him down and get him into underneath coverage and bring another, everyone has seen David Bruton's range already, but that allows us to drop Zibby down and get another guy with that type of range back there in the secondary."
McNeil has five tackles and one pass breakup in a reserve role this season. Against Purdue's (4-0) spread offense, he'll likely see the most extensive action of his young career.
"I started out basically as a corner, that's how I came in," McNeil said. "I guess with my size, coach has looked at me at a few other positions like safety and the star, playing inside being a little bigger. Just being a little bigger and being a little more physical has helped me out to get on the field. It made me a little more versatile, play a lot more positions."
***Purdue is 21.5 point favorites over the Irish this weekend. Just another piece of fuel for the fire.
"It's disheartening," Bruton stated. "It drives me personally because I feel like we're better than we've shown. We should be able to step up. This is going to be a real challenge and a real test for the secondary, and I believe we're going to step up to the challenge."
Others didn't even know or care what the betting line is.
"I don't know what it is," senior defensive end Trevor Laws said. "I don't really care."
The only spread he is concerned with is Purdue's offense.
***Quotes around the Guglielmino Athletics Complex on Wednesday.
"I think we've seen good teams. I certainly think each of the teams that we've played, they've had good skill players. I don't think any of them have had quite the production that Purdue has had," defensive backs coach Bill Lewis explained. Purdue's offense ranks eighth nationally at 527 yards per game. "From that standpoint, if you want to use that word prolific, this is the most prolific offense we've seen in terms of where they've put themselves nationally at this point in the season. They're at the top of almost every offensive category that's out there."
"We feel as a defensive unit, that we're much better than we have shown," Bruton said. The Irish defense is ranked 52nd nationally at 352 yards allowed per game. "And we believe as a team we're a lot better than we have shown. Just things haven't fell in the right place. There's been difficulties not only on the offense but the defense as well and special teams. We just all know we can play better and that's what drives us that we are actually better than what we've shown."
"This week in practice we've been playing spread out, people have been flying around," Laws said. He is tied with Bruton for second on the team in tackles with 35. Linebacker Maurice Crum Jr. leads the way with 38. "People always say we're a slow team, but we've got a lot of fast guys on our team and we can play a spread offense pretty well I think."
"I think it boils down to individual battles even more, because a lot of times you're facing a five-wide, four-wide types of offense," senior cornerback Terrail Lambert said. "Their guys are going to get the ball in space, so there might be opportunities where you find yourself in one-on-one situations."