Heather VanHoegarden | Wednesday, September 29, 2004
No player on either Purdue or Notre Dame was alive the last time the Boilermakers beat the Irish on their home turf.
The last time Purdue did accomplish this feat was in 1974, when the Boilermakers upset the then-No. 2 Irish, 31-20. Since 1896, this series has been a rivalry of two top football teams.
“I think this is the second most common opponent that Notre Dame has, and this will be [meeting] No. 76,” Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham said. “There are only about roughly three hours or so separating the two schools, and those two things usually give you a pretty intense rivalry.”
Irish defensive coordinator Kent Baer downplayed the amount of time since the Boilermakers (3-0) beat the Irish in South Bend.
“All our kids know [Purdue] hasn’t won here since 1974, we all know that,” Baer said. “That’s about as far as it goes. [The Irish team] understands the rivalry. In fact, games like this, hopefully you don’t get ready too early. There’s a lot of intensity involved, they know what happened a year ago. There’s no problem getting these guys ready to play.”
The series began in 1896 when Purdue beat Notre Dame in South Bend, 28-22. Ever since that game, the Irish have registered a 49-24-2 record against their rivals from West Lafayette.
However, the games have been close. Notre Dame (3-1) has not been shutout by Purdue since 1933, and the last six games have been decided by seven points or less.
“That’s good football,” Willingham said of the close games. “It only makes it more intense that it goes right down to the wire. That just makes for and improves the intensity of the rivalry.”
Last season, the Irish left West Lafayette with a bad taste in their mouths, losing 23-10, snapping a three-game Notre Dame winning streak. And this year, the Irish want to avenge that loss against a team that is arguably better than last year’s. But the Boilermakers are also ready to win at Notre Dame Stadium for the first time in 30 years.
“I’m sure it’s more of a motivational tool for them right now, getting ready to play,” Irish Baer said of Purdue. “They’re going to play their best football game against us. They played great every year we’ve played them. It’s always a close game.”
In order to knock off the No. 15 team in the country, the Irish must play the complete game they have searched for this season.
“I think our mindset going in is that you have to go out and do the things you have to do to be successful and win the football game,” offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said.
And the Irish know the importance of not only the rivalry with Purdue, but this game as well. Purdue sports a Heisman Trophy candidate in Kyle Orton, and his partner in crime, Taylor Stubblefield, who is second all-time in receptions at Purdue. The duo has hooked up for eight touchdowns in just three games.
“Those two [Orton and Stubblefield], are truly, truly talented,” Willingham said.
If the Irish win, it will be the second time in four wins this season they will have knocked off a top-15 opponent.
“Right now, this ballgame that we’re playing against Purdue is that game,” Willingham said. “It’s that game, it can help us be the kind of team we’d like to be.”