Sept. 4, 2002
From the Associated Press
It was supposed to take a while for Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham’s system to take hold on his new team.
After a memorable debut, the new-look Irish open Willingham’s career at Notre Dame Stadium as they play host to annual rival Purdue on Saturday.
The 23rd-ranked Irish are coming off a 22-0 win over Maryland last Saturday that quickly showed that quarterback Carlyle Holiday could run a West Coast offense – as he threw for a career-best 226 yards.
“Some people questioned me, so that motivated me,” Holiday said. “I knew I could pass the ball.”
The change in the offense was evident from the start. The Irish, who rarely threw on first down last year, opened with a pass as Holiday connected with Omar Jenkins, the first of eight receivers he hit. The Irish had four games last season in which they didn’t complete eight passes.
Willingham is far from satisfied however, as the rushing game was as poor as the passing game was impressive.
The Irish were held to 130 yards rushing on 45 carries and the entire offense failed to score a touchdown.
“I think the thing we’ve got to do in our offense, not just running the football, is eliminate a lot of the unforced errors,” Willingham said. “We’ve got to sharpen up a great deal.”
Saturdays game marks the 74th meeting between Notre Dame and Purdue. The Irish lead the series, 48-23-2, with a 25-10 record at South Bend.
That trend has continued of late as well as Notre Dame has won 14 of the last 16 meetings, including the last two – 23-21 win in 2000 at Notre Dame Stadium, and a 24-18 last season at Purdue.
Purdue is coming off an impressive performance as well, in a 51-10 victory over Illinois State.
Though the Redbirds were a Division I-AA opponent, Boilermakers quarterback Kyle Orton was satisfied with his game, passing for 250 yards, earning his first victory as a starter.
“I thought I played well,” said Orton, who completed 14 of 28 passes. “Whenever you throw three touchdowns and no interceptions that’s always a good game. So I was pleased with my performance.”
The Irish figure to be a much tougher test for Purdue, who have lost to Notre Dame 57 times. Only Navy with 65 losses, have lost more games to the Irish than the Boilermakers.
“Let’s not fool anybody here, they were not a physical football team, and (not) the type team we’re going to see in the Big Ten,” Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. “More than anything, this helped us get up to game speed. It’s not going to be as fast as the Big Ten or Notre Dame will be, but it’s better than scrimmaging.”