Mon, Oct 04, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Purdue shows it's for real while on a visit to South Bend

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , SOUTH BEND, INDIANA

Purdue receiver Taylor Stubblefield began pumping his fist in celebration 40 yards before he reached the end zone.

Notre Dame cornerback Dwight Ellick fell to the ground about 30 yards behind as Stubblefield sprinted untouched to finish a 97-yard touchdown reception.

After providing the signature play of Purdue's 41-16 victory over Notre Dame, Stubblefield may have also provided the game's defining moment. He nudged Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton in the chest, and then did a quick Heisman pose.

But this game did more than solidify Orton as a leader in the Heisman Trophy race. By beating Notre Dame in South Bend for the first time since 1974, Purdue legitimized itself as one of the nation's top teams by showcasing its opportunistic defense and strong special teams.

Orton finished 21 of 31 for 385 yards and 4 touchdown passes. Purdue was so dominant that he threw only one pass in the fourth quarter.

Orton, who provided a highlight buffet, hit Stubblefield on a streak pattern for the 97-yarder and lobbed a pretty 9-yard pass to the 6-foot-9 receiver Kyle Ingraham in the corner of the end zone.

He used a deft ball fake to fool the defense on a 2-yard lob to Rob Ninkovich and whizzed a ball over the middle that led Stubblefield into the end zone for his second touchdown catch.

"What hurt us more than anything else was the big plays," Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said.

Orton even managed to get into the Notre Dame record book. The 97-yard pass to Stubblefield was the longest Notre Dame ever yielded. His four touchdown passes tied the record for an opponent at Notre Dame Stadium.

Stubblefield, projected to become the NCAA's career leading pass catcher before the season ends, finished with seven catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns.

Despite getting blown out, Notre Dame had a solid day offensively as Brady Quinn finished 26 of 46 for 432 yards, the second-most yards by an Irish quarterback.

But it was Purdue's defense that swung the game's momentum and made the game's biggest play with just under five minutes remaining in the first half.

Trailing by 13-3, Notre Dame drove 78 yards and was on Purdue's 2. But defensive end Anthony Spencer stuffed tailback Darius Walker behind the line of scrimmage and ripped the ball out of his hands.

Purdue's Brent Grover recovered the ball, and the Boilermakers began to pull away. The fumble launched a 97-yard drive that Orton capped with his lob to Ninkovich for a 20-3 halftime lead.

Heading into the season, Purdue's biggest weakness was considered to be its inexperienced defense. The Boilermakers lost eight defensive starters, seven of whom were selected in April's NFL draft.

While it yielded a lot of yardage, Purdue held when it needed to and Spencer emerged as its defensive star. He had two sacks and a tipped pass to go along with the game-changing forced fumble. Notre Dame finished with more total yards than Purdue, 497 to 496. But the Boilermakers dominated the scoreboard by never allowing the Irish into the game.

By holding Notre Dame to 6 rushing yards on 16 carries in the first half, Purdue's defense forced Quinn to pass. The Boilermakers sacked Quinn five times and tipped four of his passes at the line of scrimmage.

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