Chris Federico | Monday, September 29, 2003
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A new quarterback, the same result.
Freshman Brady Quinn was 29-of-59 passing for 297 yards but threw four interceptions as the Irish dropped their third straight game of the season to Purdue 23-10 Saturday.
While the 62 team pass attempts were the most for a Notre Dame team since 1967, the Irish managed only 49 yards on the ground. The quarterback, Quinn, was Notre Dame’s leading rusher with 25 yards on eight carries.
“To not be able to account for any more yardage than we did really hurts,” Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said. “That puts our quarterback and our offensive team in a very difficult situation, when you can’t have any type of balance.”
The Irish defense, which held the Boilermakers to just 223 yards of offense, was unable to force any turnovers. Meanwhile, Purdue scored 10 of its 23 points off four Irish turnovers.
“As a team, and especially as a defense, we need to step up and make more plays,” Notre Dame linebacker Courtney Watson said. “We played pretty well as a defense today, but we didn’t make enough plays, and we gave up two touchdowns.
“You can’t just give teams touchdowns, and that’s what we did today.”
Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton was 12-of-24 for just 127 yards, but the junior played relatively mistake-free football with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Boilermakers struck on their very first drive, when Orton found a wide-open Ray Williams for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 11:48 remaining in the first quarter.
Purdue kicker Ben Jones added a 46-yard field goal – his first of three on the day – with 4:04 remaining in the quarter to put the Boilermakers on top 10-0.
The Boilermaker drive started on Notre Dame’s 20-yard line after Quinn’s first interception of the day, but the Irish defense kept the Boilers out of the end zone.
The Irish saw their best opportunity of the first half slip away when fullback Rashon Powers-Neal dropped a pass from Quinn at the goal line on third and goal. Notre Dame had to settle for a 19-yard Nicholas Setta field goal instead to narrow the lead to 10-3.
“I’m never one to pinpoint any particular area, because it’s never just one area,” Willingham said. “We had dropped passes, we had other mental mistakes, we had things that didn’t go our way that we didn’t make plays on.”
The brightest spot of the day for the Irish came with just over a minute remaining in the first half. With Notre Dame backed up to its own 15-yard line on third and 15, Quinn recognized a Purdue blitz and hit receiver Maurice Stovall in stride for an 85-yard touchdown pass to narrow the score to 13-10.
“They had a blitz from the backside where they brought both the linebacker and the free safety,” Quinn said. “So it was wide open. [Stovall] just ran a slant, caught the ball and made a great run.”
But the rest of the game belonged to the Boilermakers, who owned all 10 points scored in the second half.
After the game, Willingham discussed the problems his team has had in stumbling to a 1-3 start in 2003.
“We’re not executing,” he said. “That’s a very simple term that covers a very broad array of problems, but when you don’t execute, you don’t have a chance to win.”
Despite Quinn’s four interceptions, Willingham seemed pleased with the play of his young quarterback in his first collegiate start.
“It was a very difficult situation for a young quarterback to be placed under,” Willingham said. “To ask him to do what he had to do today was a very difficult test. I thought he did a lot of things well, and he will continue to grow and become better and better.”
The Irish now have a bye week to heal from their third straight loss and prepare for a tough road trip to 3-1 Pittsburgh, who beat Texas A&M 37-26 Saturday.