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Train wreck

Sam Davis | Monday, October 4, 2004

Kyle Orton never got caught up in Purdue’s losing streak at Notre Dame Stadium. But Saturday, he played a pivotal part in breaking it.The Heisman Trophy candidate threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns, Jerome Brooks returned a kickoff a 100 yards for a score and Purdue’s defense bent, but didn’t break as the Boilermakers won at Notre Dame for the first time since 1974 in a 41-16 drubbing of the Irish.”You know, I think people made too much of that,” Orton said, referring to Purdue’s 13 straight losses at Notre Dame. “We don’t go around thinking about that too much but it’s nice for the fans and program to get a win here.”Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn nearly matched Kyle Orton in every offensive category, except for the one that mattered – touchdowns. Quinn finished his day with a Notre Dame Stadium record 432 passing yards on 26-of-46 attempts, but only one touchdown – a 40-yard fourth down completion to Rhema McKnight in the third quarter.Notre Dame’s passing wasn’t the problem; it was the team’s inability to run. The Irish managed just 76 yards, led by freshman tailback Darius Walker’s 62 yards on 19 carries.”There were things that we needed to do that we didn’t get done,” Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham said. “We wanted to pass, but we also wanted to run the ball. “We have to sustain the running game and we didn’t do that today. They just stopped us.”Several key plays turned the momentum of the game in the Boilermakers’ favor.After both teams exchanged field goals on their opening drives, Brooks caught the Notre Dame kickoff on the goal line raced through an open seam, spun away from Ambrose Wooden and had a clear path to the end zone, putting Purdue ahead 10-3 in the first quarter.”[Special team problems have been] something that’s kind of been nipping at our heels,” Willingham said. “At Michigan State we had one … and this one, we always know anyone can return a kickoff.”Then, with the score 13-3 in the second quarter, Notre Dame drove the ball inside the Purdue 5-yard line before Walker fumbled on a rush to the left side of the line. The Boilermakers recovered the ball and promptly drove 97 yards down the field for another touchdown, this time with Orton finding Rob Ninkovich on a 2-yard pass to give Purdue a 20-3 halftime lead.The Boilermakers put the nail in the Irish coffin on their first possession of the second half. On 3rd-and-10 at their own 3-yard line, Orton stepped back and lofted a perfect pass to receiver Taylor Stubblefield, who had a step on Irish defensive back Dwight Ellick. Stubblefield made the catch, broke Ellick’s tackle attempt and raced down the sideline for a 97-yard touchdown – the longest pass play ever against a Notre Dame team. “We made some stops early, but then they made some big plays,” Willingham said. “We just didn’t step up and make the big plays. We can’t give up the long kickoff and then turn the ball over in the red zone. “That was a significant swing going in the half. Those were some of the big plays they made. It’s not always experience, sometimes it’s just what day it is. Did you step up and make the play?”After the game, Irish defensive end Justin Tuck said the Irish must move on and look toward their next opponent, Stanford.”In life you’re going to have tough defeats and this is a tough defeat,” said Tuck, who is still one-half sack from the school record after recording one-half of a sack Saturday. “So we’ll cry tonight but tomorrow we’ll come back ready to get tough. “The leadership’s got to step up … Our leaders have to step up and it starts with me.”