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Football: Aldridge ready to hit holes

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, September 26, 2006

With the Irish rushing game stuck in a rut, Charlie Weis will get some help today in the form of freshman running back James Aldridge.

One of three freshmen who enrolled in January, Aldridge suffered a knee injury in spring camp and has not seen action in Notre Dame’s first four games. But Weis said the 6-foot, 209-pound product of Crown Point, Ind., would suit up with the first two offensive units this week, starting with today’s practice, and likely be ready to play Saturday against Purdue.

“He’s going to start practicing for real this week,” Weis said in his press conference Sunday. “He’s been practicing now. We just have not repped him with the first group up there.”

Aldridge will join an Irish offense that has gained just 299 yards on the ground all year, led by Darius Walker’s 243 yards on 63 attempts. Excluding sacks, Notre Dame is averaging only 3.72 yards per carry – compared to 5.27 yards per rush for Irish opponents.

But Weis isn’t blaming Walker for the ground game woes.

“I definitely do not find Darius as being a problem,” Weis said. “I think Darius is running hard. I think this problem is more of an offensive problem. It’s a problem that we’re going to have to work to rectify.”

But in the past two games, Notre Dame hasn’t had time to try to rectify the problem against its opponents. Notre Dame fell behind 30-7 in the first half against Michigan and 17-0 after one quarter against Michigan State.

“I’d like to run the ball 40 times every game,” Weis said. “If I had my druthers, I’d like to run it 40 times. It just doesn’t play out like that.

Discounting yardage lost on sacks, Notre Dame gained just 23 yards against the Wolverines. Against the Spartans, the total was 58 yards.

“I also am not ignorant to the fact that if things aren’t working … why keep calling them?” Weis said. “You got to be willing to go off the plan, to find something that’s going to give you a chance of winning the game, because if not you lose a game like [Saturday’s].”


– After facing unbeaten teams in the first four games, Notre Dame will face another undefeated squad to continue the team’s tough opening stretch. Purdue enters the contest 4-0, with wins over Indiana State, Miami (Ohio), Ball State and Minnesota.

In this week’s Sagarin Ratings – one of the computer polls used in the Bowl Championship Series rankings formula – the Irish have the No. 1 strength of schedule in the country. Thanks to that, Notre Dame is ranked No. 7 in the version of the ratings used by the BCS – the highest of any team with a loss. By comparison, Sagarin lists Purdue No. 154 in strength of schedule and No. 27 in the BCS-used ranking.

– Irish quarterback Brady Quinn was named the Walter Camp Foundation National Player of the Week award Monday. Quinn completed 20-of-36 passes for 319 yards and five touchdowns.

A week ago, the Irish were on the other end of the award. The foundation honored Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham Sept. 18 after his three-touchdown performance against Notre Dame in Week 3.

– Notre Dame was named the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week for the 16-point deficit the Irish erased in the final 8:18 of play. The award is voted on by members of the Football Writers Association of America who vote in the Grantland Rice Super-16 poll.

– ESPN Classic will broadcast an “Instant Classic” replay of Notre Dame’s 40-37 comeback victory over Michigan State Wednesday at 9 p.m.