Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, left, hands off to running back Darius Walker in the first quarter.  (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Irish Battle Past Boilermakers

Sept. 30, 2006

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Brady Quinn, Darius Walker and the Notre Dame offense were at their best against one of the nation’s worst defenses.

Quinn picked apart Purdue, completing 24 of his first 28 passes to help the 12th-ranked Irish build a three-touchdown lead on their way to a 35-21 victory Saturday.

Quinn finished 29-for-38 for 316 yards against the Boilermakers, who entered the game with the fifth-worst pass defense in the country. The Irish, who entered the game with the nation’s 12th-worst rushing offense, got 146 yards on 36 carries by Darius Walker.

“Our offense did a great job capitalizing when it came down to it, especially in the red zone and third downs,” Quinn said. “We did a great job moving the chains.”

The Fighting Irish withstood a big day by Curtis Painter and the Boilermakers’ offense. Painter was 23-for-46 for 398 yards and Selwyn Lymon had eight catches for 238 yards – the second most by a Purdue receiver and the most ever by an Irish opponent.

“Sometimes you give up yards, but yards can be misleading,” Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. “Sometimes yards are garbage yards, too.”

The Irish improved to 4-1 for the second straight season – the first time they have had one loss or fewer after five games in consecutive seasons since the 1993-94 seasons. The loss ended a seven-game winning streak for Purdue (4-1).

The Irish offense, which had played inconsistently in its first four games, finally looked like last season’s record-setting group. They opened a 28-7 lead late in the first half, when they had 19 first downs – matching the season-high they had for an entire game in a 41-17 win over Penn State.

“As we marched down the field, I think we got a little confidence and the momentum definitely shifted in our favor,” Walker said.

Purdue simply couldn’t slow the Irish.

“They pretty much ran the ball at will the first half and that really put us in a hole,” Purdue defensive end Anthony Spencer said.

The Boilermakers finished with 490 yards offense, but also put themselves in a hole with a fumble and a missed field goal.

“We moved the ball pretty well all the time, we just kind of beat ourselves up a few times,” Painter said.

Purdue coach Joe Tiller said the Boilermakers can’t afford to squander scoring chances.

“I think that from an offensive point of view, there was no secret coming into 2006, we felt like we were going to have to outscore some people. So if they score 35, we need to score 36.” he said.

Rhema McKnight added a career-high 10 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns as the Fighting Irish, who scored on four of their first five possessions, had a season-high 454 total yards.

George West opened the scoring for the Irish on an 11-yard end around, marking the first time the Irish scored a touchdown on their first possession this season. Walker added a 14-yard run giving the Irish 14 points in the first quarter, surpassing the 10 first-quarter points they had scored combined in their first four games.

The Irish opened a 28-7 lead late in the second quarter with a faked field goal when Jeff Samardzija, the holder, picked up the ball and ran untouched for a 5-yard TD.

The Boilermakers cut the score to 28-14 just 32 seconds later, on the long hook up between Painter and Lymon. Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski and cornerback Darrin Walls both had a shot at Lymon at the Notre Dame 38, but Lymon broke free for the score.

But the Irish scored on their first possession of the second half, a 12-yard pass from Quinn to McKnight, and the Boilermakers never got any closer than two touchdowns.

Weis was asked whether one of his goals was to make the Irish offense less predictable, referring to comments made by Michigan players in their blowout win.

“When you’re down by a hundred and you’re throwing it on every down, it’s pretty easy to read,” he said. “When you can run and play action and mix and mingle and do all the things you want to do, it’s really tough to read.”