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Notebook: Young receivers continue to improve

Chris Federico | Monday, September 29, 2003

The improving Irish passing game has been evident in the play of sophomore wide receivers Rhema McKnight and Maurice Stovall during the past two games.

“The wide receivers have really been stepping up lately,” Stovall said after the Purdue game. ” I think that shows we have some good leadership on the team.

Against Michigan State, McKnight put up big numbers, grabbing eight catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.

Against the Boilermakers, it was Stovall’s turn. The 6-foot-5, 221-pound Stovall grabbed nine passes for 171 yards. Those numbers include an 85-yard touchdown catch near the end of the first half to narrow the Purdue lead to three points. The play was the longest of the year for the Irish.

“The touchdown was a regular backside slant, and Brady found me for the big play,” Stovall said.

On the year, the pair has 30 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns.

Shooting themselves in the foot

The Irish struggled with penalties – particularly illegal procedure and false start infractions – Saturday, being flagged nine times for 68 yards.

“I was disappointed with the penalties down the stretch,” Irish offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said. “There were a lot of procedure penalties. I don’t know if noise was a factor down the stretch, but that was disappointing.”

The real breakdown came in the last half of the fourth quarter, when the Irish committed three false start penalties on one drive. The plays cost Notre Dame 15 yards on a drive that had progressed to the Purdue 19-yard line, before stalling on fourth and 16 from the Purdue 25.

“I don’t know what to say after something like that. It definitely was not one of my better performances,” Irish offensive tackle Dan Stevenson said of the infractions. “Obviously that was a big disappointment on my behalf. I don’t really know how to describe it. It was my fault, and I should never have let it happen. It’s unacceptable.”

Off the burner

The bye week could come at no better time for the Irish, who are caught in the midst of a three-game losing streak and have had some injury troubles recently.

Offensive linemen Sean Milligan and Jeff Thompson did not make the trip to Purdue due to injuries. Sophomore Jamie Ryan started at the right guard position in place of Milligan.

Defensive tackle Cedric Hilliard left the game in the first quarter with a leg injury. He would later re-enter the game, but sophomore Derek Landri filled in his spot along the defensive line for most of the remainder of the game.

Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham sees the week off as a time to get his players healthy.

“Number one, we’ve got to get healthy,” Willingham said. “We’ve still got a lot of young men that are nicked up. We’ve got to get them healthy and back to full speed.

Standeford breaks record

Notre Dame wasn’t the only thing falling at Ross-Aide Stadium Saturday, as wide receiver John Standeford set the Purdue career receptions record with his second catch against the Irish.

The senior had six catches for 63 yards, setting the new mark at 209 and passing Tim Stratton, who held the previous record with 204. Standeford is just 63 yards shy of becoming Purdue’s career receiving yards leader as well.

Game day captains

Game day captains for the Irish Saturday were cornerback Vontez Duff, safety Glenn Earl, wide receiver Omar Jenkins and offensive tackle Jim Molinaro.