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FOOTBALL: Purdue looms before bye

Heather VanHoegarden | Wednesday, September 28, 2005

One more game until the Irish get a break, and a tough game it will be.

No. 13 Notre Dame (3-1) faces No. 22 Purdue (2-1) this weekend in the fourth game on the road of five games the Irish have played this season. After Saturday, Notre Dame will have a bye week before facing Southern California at home on Oct. 15.

Irish head coach Charlie Weis said at his Tuesday press conference that it’s nice to have only one team to prepare for this week.

“It gives you an opportunity to put all your energy into just beating Purdue,” Weis said. “The fact that you don’t have a game the next week, what do you have to save it for? You do everything that you can to beat Purdue. And it’s going to take everything we have for that to happen.”

Weis has reasons to be concerned, two of them found in quarterback Brandon Kirsch and wide receiver Dorien Bryant. Kirsch is in his first season as a starter after last year’s starter Kyle Orton graduated and now starts for the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Kirsch and Bryant, along with running back Jerod Void, lead a balanced Purdue offense that has not scored fewer than 35 points in its first three games.

“Purdue this year in this offense has become a very balanced offense, where in the past they were more of a passing offense,” Weis said. “Now statistically, they have become more of a run and pass, which presents a whole bunch more problems.”

The Boilermakers are 2-1, with wins coming against Akron (49-24) and Arizona (31-24). Their only loss came last week in two overtimes to Big Ten foe Minnesota.

With Purdue hungry for a win at Ross-Ade Stadium, the Irish, 3-0 on the road this season, are focused on getting to the bye week with another road win.

“I think that what happens then, then you get a chance to regroup, and the first thing you do, rather than worrying about your next opponent, is you identify problem areas that need to be fixed,” Weis said. “[You also] try to get some guys with bumps and bruises healed up for the next period that you have coming up.”

After Saturday’s game, the Irish will only have one more road game, a Nov. 26 game against Stanford, the regular season finale.

But for now, Notre Dame is focused on getting to the bye week with a 4-1 record. Only after that will Weis start to worry about how the rest of the schedule shapes up.

“That’s why I’m looking at the strange part of my schedule really coming from after the Purdue game until the Tennessee game, because you’ve got bye, game, game, bye, game,” Weis said. “That’s a little unorthodox. So if you don’t lay it out exactly how you want it to go, all of a sudden it’s November and you’ve screwed up the month of October. I don’t want to screw up the month of October.”

Irish running back Darius Walker wants Notre Dame to have bragging rights in the state of Indiana for the first time since 2002.

“Whoever wins that game is basically the ruler of the state and can talk all the trash in that state for that particular year,” Walker said.

Last year bragging rights went to Purdue, as the Boilermakers dominated the Irish 41-16 at Notre Dame Stadium.

“Purdue’s always been a great rivalry,” Walker said. “They’ve always been one of the powerhouses, so it’s always been a great game between us and them.”