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Football: Irish aware of Purdue option

Matt Puglisi | Thursday, September 29, 2005

Navy isn’t the only team on the Notre Dame schedule running the option.

With the graduation of one-time Heisman hopeful Kyle Orton, Purdue head coach Joe Tiller realized the offense needed another component, despite the talent of quarterback Brandon Kirsch.

Enter the option.

Not only can the option give opposing defenses fits, but the Boilermakers also effectively couple the technique with a high-flying passing game.

“This is a unique running game, it’s not the same [as Navy],” Irish head coach Charlie Weis said. “Any team that runs the option, you have to do some serious studying to make sure you can get ready to go in a week, in addition to all the wide-open passes they have.”

While parallels can be drawn between the hybrid option running-passing attack and the triple-threat wishbone offense, Purdue brings a different flavor to the old formation.

“Purdue combines all of this spread offense with what amounts to be the old wishbone, though it doesn’t resemble anything like the wishbone, because they’ve got people spread out,” defensive backs coach Bill Lewis said. “But they’ve taken the quarterback and put him back at a level of five years, and what he does is function up and down his line of scrimmage at the depth of five yards, doing what the conventional option quarterbacks do on the line of scrimmage.

“They still have all the triple option reads with the pitch, and they’ve got all the triple option playaction passes off the option, and they do it from back where at any time they can snap the ball and be in the gun with potentially five receivers.”

Ultimately, more so than other offensive systems, Purdue’s style of play caters to the exploitation of one-on-one match-ups within the defense.

“It’s basketball on grass when you think about,” Minter said “It’s about match-ups and playing in space and making the one on one play – that’s their intention. It’s also caused them to become a little more physical in that they are committing themselves to run the ball a little more, so it was an addition they probably thought they needed.”

For Weis, the incorporation of the option presents more challenges than those that naturally accompany defending such a quick, multi-faceted style.

“They have evolved that offense into such a more balanced offense than they have been in the past,” Weis said. “It causes a whole bunch of problems. When a team is basically a throwing team first, if you can go in there and make sure that they don’t run the ball on you, at least you’ll have a fighting chance because you can play a mentality where they are just going to throw it on every down. Now, you no longer can perceive their offense as one-dimensional.”

Building on an already well-respected Tiller offense, the Boilermakers hope to confuse Notre Dame defenders with the inherent difficulty of the offense, an intention acknowledged by cornerback Mike Richardson.

“With them being able to spread out as much as they do, and then be able to incorporate the option into it, it’s going to be pretty complex to defend against,” Richardson said. “As a team, we’ve been preparing for it as much has possible.”