Fans bear weather in victory
Patrick Cassidy | Monday, October 2, 2006
A week after its euphoric come-from-behind victory in East Lansing, the Irish football team returned home Saturday to face the Purdue Boilermakers in Notre Dame Stadium – and over 80,000 people were on hand to watch.
Fans like freshman Aileen Villarreal enjoyed the contest, despite the less heralded competition this weekend.
“This was a very important game for the students and fans,” Villarreal said. “I think the fans came out pumped because of the heart the players showed last week.”
The team gave the fans what they wanted right from the beginning, scoring a touchdown on their initial drive for the first time all season. The play calling for the Irish included some trickery as freshman receiver George West scored on an 11-yard reverse play. This decision would just be a precursor to an even more pivotal trick play by head coach Charlie Weis, a Jeff Samardzija fake field goal from five yards out.
“I love Charlie Weis’ aggressive play calling,” freshman Patrick Duffey said. “He has great confidence in his players and whether it is a fourth down attempt or a fake special teams’ play, he has the guts to do it.”
The key player in the Irish victory was junior halfback Darius Walker, whose 219 all-purpose yards sparked the offense and relieved the intense pressure placed on the passing game.
“Darius Walker finally stepped it up,” Anthony Bencivenga said. “If he can play like that the rest of the season, Notre Dame will be tough to beat.”
Walker’s glittering performance doesn’t mean the entire squad is gold, though – the defense gave up almost 500 yards of total offense. The steady “kill, kill” student section defensive chant was silenced as Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter threw for nearly 400 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown pitch and catch to Selwyn Lymon.
“The defense needs to get a lot tougher,” freshman Dan Mullaney said. “Hopefully our upcoming games will allow us to work out certain kinks before the end of our schedule.”
The weather decided to reflect the dismal defensive performance, pouring on the crowd through most of the third quarter. Rain also soaked Irish fans last week in East Lansing, but that storm was more severe, said Kathleen Donahue, who attended both the Purdue and Michigan state games.
“Compared to the treacherous weather in East Lansing, this was only a light shower,” she said. “It did however help to rile up the crowd even more.”
Ebullient fans now await the Stanford Cardinal contest and the rest of the season with measured optimism. Freshman Brett Berceau is placing his trust in the Notre Dame quarterback.
“We are all looking forward to Brady Quinn, who is back in the Heisman race, leading us to an unblemished finish,” he said.