Sunday, October 02, 2005

ND 49, Purdue 28

Quarterback: Coming into the 2003 season, Terry Hanratty had his name littered throughout the Notre Dame's passing records. I don't know if Brady Quinn has anything personal against Hanratty, but the current ND quarterback sure is doing his best to remove the former Irish star from the record books. Before Quinn, Hanratty's 366 yards vs. Purdue in 1967 stood second all time. Now, Quinn has passed the 400 yard mark three times. His latest effort, 440 yards to go with 3 TDs and 1 INT, is the most passing yards by an Irish QB in a win. On top of that, Quinn completed an impressive 80.6% of his passes. The effort earned him Sporting News National Player of the Week honors.
David Wolke, who entered a third of the way into the last quarter, completed his first career pass to receiver Rob Woods.

Running Back: Darius Walker was as close to an off day as he's been all season. On 23 carries, Walker was still able to pound out 80 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, Travis Thomas is turning the backup running back role into the easiest job in all of college football: show up for one drive, score a TD, and go sit back down. After Thomas, Jeff Jenkins added 30 yards on 6 carries.

Fullback: Rason Powers-Neal rushed for a tough 10 yards on 8 carries. But, he did hit the paydirt of the endzone twice, including once on fourth and goal from the one.


Courtesy AP/Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Maurice Stovall had another big day as he grows into the receiver he was hyped to be. Stovall did have one key drop, but he ended with 8 catches for 134. Of course, guess who had an even bigger game. That's right, it was Jeff "The Shark" Samardzija, whose catch above made an (almost) entirely sober me fall off my bar stool in amazement. Last week, former ND coordinator Kent Baer said, effectively, "They said we couldn't recruit, but Notre Dame has some pretty good players over there." Yes, they do. But, look at Samardzija's case. During his freshman year, Samardzija only played in garbage time, but during that time he started to develop into a go-to receiver for Brady Quinn. So, come his sophomore year, he barely played at all. Now, under Charlie Weis, Samardzija is thriving. Anyone want to give me advice on how to dress as "The Shark" for Halloween?
Matt Shelton quitely added 7 catches for 68 yards. Shelton is being used primarily on quick slants, on the hope he will one day break one for a big gain. As mentioned above, Rob Woods caught a pass from David Wolke. The senior walk-on appeared in eight games on special teams last year, but this reception was the first of his career.

Tight End: It was a quiet day for the tight end position. But, once again, you have to go with what works. Stovall and Samardzija were open downfield all day, so there was little need to dump off to Anthony Fasano or John Carlson. As it is, Fasano ended with 2 catches for 30 yards, and Carlson with 1 for 22 yards.

O-Line: If Notre Dame handed out pride stickers, John Sullivan, Dan Stevenson, and Mark LeVoir would each have one coming their way for the fourth down play from Purdue's one yard line. On that play, the right side of the line got a fantastic push, and RPN simply slid down the line into the end zone. Or, perhaps you can give the entire line pride stickers on a day when the offense ended up with 621 total yards and no sacks.
Or, you can say "screw the pride stickers," and stay with the philosophy of team effort.

D-Line: It was another quite day for the defensive line. No one on either side had a sack, and in fact cornerback Leo Ferrine was the only Irish player to make a stop in the backfield. On the line, Victor Abiamiri and Trevor Laws each had two tackles.

Linebacker: By normal standards, this was a quiet day for the Irish linebackers as well. Corey Mays and Brandon Hoyte tied for third on the team with 5 tackles a piece. Hoyte did force a key fumble on the goal line, simply by having his helmet in the right place at the right time. The Purdue running back reached back over his head to get the ball over the goal line, and the collision with Hoyte's dome jarred the ball loose. Also, Hoyte added a pass breakup, another sign that he has developed into a complete player.

Safety: Pop quiz: which safety turned in the best performance in this game? No peeking! If you answered David Bruton, you either cheated, or you live down the hall from him. Bruton had 5 tackles and a pass breakup. Tom Zbikowski added 4 tackles, and Chinedum Ndukwe 2.


Courtesy AP/
For a man who's been on his share of posters, Mike Richardson finally got to be the posterizer instead of the posterized. A pessimist could say that Richardson was simply channeling Clifford Jefferson from the Bob Davie "Beat Purdue Bowl" from three years ago. An optimist would say that Richardson's team-leading 9 tackles, two pass breakups, goal line fumble recovery, and the interception pictured above are a sign of Richardson's improvement as a cornerback. (I'll leave any comments on Richardson's eyes being closed to the reader.) Ambrose Wooden once again ended near the top of list with 7 tackles; I've yet to determine whether or not that's a good thing. In his first career start, nickelback Leo Ferrine added four tackles, including one for a loss.

Other defensive players: As a lifelong bench player in little league, I could always appreciate getting my name in the newspaper. For that reason, here's a list of the many backup players who had at least one tackle in this game (besides those listed above): Terrail Lambert (2), Chase Anastasio (2), Jake Carney, Casey Cullen, Justin Hoskins, Marcus Freeman, Pat Kuntz, Paul Duncan, Steve Quinn, LaBrose Hedgemon, James Bonelli, and Nick Borseti.

Kicker: DJ Fitzpatrick didn't attempt a field goal in this game, but he was 7 for 7 on extra points.

Punter: Once again, it wasn't a very busy day for Fitzpatrick and the punt team. DJ had two punts, one for 32 yards and one for 41.

Kick Returner: After a 31 yard run back against Washington, David Grimes was given the primary return role. In his debut, Grimes had returns of 22 and 40 yards.

Punt Returner: Tom Zbikowski's lone return went for 0 yards.

Special Teams: As usual, ND's punt coverage team was solid. On Fitzpatrick's two punts, Purdue returner Lance Melvin had returns of 13 and 5 yards. On kickoffs, Purdue gained 126 yards on 5 returns. The long was a return of 67 yards by playmaker Dorien Bryant.