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Purdue’s Kirsch is a multi-faceted threat

Matt Puglisi | Friday, September 30, 2005

There is no shortage of talent at the quarterback position in college football these days. The Irish defense can attest.

After battling gritty, versatile Tyler Palko in the season opener at Pittsburgh, Notre Dame was forced to challenge rising star Michigan quarterback Chad Henne, Michigan State’s multi-dimensional threat Drew Stanton and Washington’s inexperienced, yet talented, Isaiah Stanback in subsequent weeks.

With reigning Heisman trophy winning quarterback Matt Leinart coming to town Oct. 15, to say the Notre Dame defense will continue to have its hands full would be an understatement.

However, before the Irish can worry about subduing the projected No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in a couple of weeks, Purdue’s Brandon Kirsch stands in Notre Dame’s way.

Appearing in six total games last season, including a pair of starts in place of then-injured and current Chicago Bears quarterback Kyle Orton, Kirsch provided a glimpse of Purdue’s future at quarterback. He threw for 711 yards and seven touchdowns.

The senior has picked up right where one-time Heisman hopeful Orton left off this season, leading the Boilermakers to 115 points in the team’s first three games.

While his individual numbers don’t scream all-star – Kirsch has thrown for 638 yards and four touchdowns to go along with three interceptions – Notre Dame recognizes his passing statistics thus far don’t tell the whole story.

“He’s a talented guy, [he] can throw it, run it, they run a little of everything,” Irish cornerback Ambrose Wooden said. “We’re definitely going to have our hands full.”

Kirsch’s ability to captain a multi-faceted offense that couples a strong, wide-open passing attack with a unique option offense makes him particularly dangerous, a skill which defensive coordinator Rick Minter attributes to Purdue head coach Joe Tiller’s creativity on offense.

“[Kirsch is] a typical Purdue quarterback, a good quarterback,” Minter said. “You know he’s going to be well-schooled, well-coached and fundamentally sound. I’ve always had great respect for Purdue and Joe [Tiller], and the job they’ve done.”

For Minter, the continued success of the Boilermakers offense doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

“They’re always going to give you everything you can handle, from personnel to style,” Minter said. “It’s a system that has been in place a long time. They’ve tweaked it a little bit coming into the new year, but all in all, it’s hard to beat the success they’ve encountered in West Lafayette over the past eight or nine years since Joe’s been there.”

Combined with Kirsch’s natural quarterbacking talent, Purdue’s tendency to use a spread-out, open passing game – a trademark of Tiller’s offense – provides an effective foil to the new, option-based running attack.

“Purdue is one of several teams in college football that spread the field, they make you play in space,” defensive backs coach Bill Lewis said. “And I think that any time that happens, and you have the level of talent that they have at the quarterback, that puts as much strain on the defense as possible.”

Though he’s yet to find the end zone, receiver Dorien Bryant is Kirsch’s most dangerous option, leading the team with 18 catches for 247 yards

Receiver Kyle Ingraham (eight catches, 133 yards) and tight end Charles Davis (nine catches, 130 yards) round out Purdue’s top three receiving core targets.

After criticism concerning its “bend but not break” style of defense last week against Washington, the Irish secondary knows that while Purdue’s multi-dimensional attack may not be ideal for righting the pass defense ship, it’s nevertheless another chance to improve on the previous week.

“You just have to come out and play,” Wooden said. “Every week is a new opportunity to redeem yourself. We’ve got a big task in front of us.”