Sept. 3, 2002
by Peter Stuhldreher
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – On a gorgeous Tuesday afternoon, the 23rd-ranked Notre Dame football team returned to the practice field for the first time since a 22-0 win over then-No. 21 Maryland in Kickoff Classic XX last Saturday. The game was highlighted by a Classic-record five Nicholas Setta field goals and a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown by junior cornerback Vontez Duff. Setta went on to earn Kickoff Classic MVP honors and was named the National Player of the Week by USATODAY.com.
One point that the Notre Dame coaches will look to improve upon this week will be offensive execution, especially in the “red zone.” Head Coach Tyrone Willingham noted the offensive execution issues already had been addressed on Sunday when the team watched film together.
“On Tuesdays, our focus is on preparing for our next opponent,” Willingham said. “That’s what we put all our energies towards.”
This week, that next opponent is Purdue. Tuesday, the Irish put Maryland behind them and turned their focus solely to a talented Boilermaker team that knocked off Division I-AA foe Illinois State, 51-10, last weekend. Willingham began preparing the Irish for the many threats that lie ahead for them in Saturday’s home opener against Purdue.
“They are a diverse offense that most people don’t see as being diverse, simply because you hear so much about their passing attack,” Willingham commented.
“But with (Joey) Harris, their runner, they have added that other dimension and that really stretches you as a defensive team because they can spread you with the number of receivers that they put on the field and now pound you pretty good with the running game.”
Besides these offensive threats, Willingham was quick to point out that Purdue is strong on both sides of the ball.
“Defensively, they have a mature group of eight returning starters they feel are one of the better groups they have had,” he said. “It will be a challenge to see if we can play some good offense and some good defense.”
The Irish will practice Wednesday and Thursday before Saturday’s noon (EST) game against Purdue at Notre Dame Stadium. The game will be televised nationally by NBC.
— ND —