Thursday, September 6, 2012
Boilers believe timing right to beat Irish
By Adam Rittenberg
That Kawann Short thinks Saturday is "the perfect timing" for Purdue to beat Notre Dame has less to do with the Irish than it does the Boilermakers.
Sure, Short and his Purdue teammates are well aware that Notre Dame will be playing just a week after opening its season 3,600 miles away in Dublin (that's Ireland, not Ohio). While Purdue had a stress-free opener at home and will make the short trip from West Lafayette to South Bend, Notre Dame's body clocks are probably scattered over the North Atlantic.
Could jet lag slow down Notre Dame this week? It's possible. But there are no guarantees.
Tackle Kawann Short says the communication on the Boilers team has been better than ever.
"We can't count on that being the difference maker in the football game," Purdue coach Danny Hope said. "We have to go out there, play hard and execute, and play our best. If we do that, it won't matter who we play or where they've been."
Short, the Boilers' All-Big Ten defensive tackle, expects No. 22 Notre Dame to be geared up for its home opener Saturday.
"I wouldn’t take anything for granted," he said, "I wouldn't think they've got jet lag or anything like that."
Short's confidence stems from his immediate surroundings at Purdue. Like Hope, Short thinks this is the best Boilers team in recent years, one with a shared goal to win and much improved communication.
Two years ago, Hope talked about the opportunity that awaited Purdue at Notre Dame, where, like it or not, the national spotlight always shines. The Boilers opened the season in South Bend but couldn't complete a fourth-quarter rally and fell 23-12.
Purdue hasn't won at Notre Dame Stadium since 2004, when then-Heisman Trophy frontrunner Kyle Orton dismantled the Irish defense in an impressive performance. The Boilers have dropped four straight against the Irish.
Although wins against Notre Dame no longer carry the value they once did, both Hope and Short don't underplay the significance of a victory for a program trying to get noticed.
"It creates momentum for our program," Hope said. "... A win potentially could project our program in some ways from a national perspective. It would catch the attention of recruits. It would energize our fan base in some ways, and would certainly be a confidence builder for our football team."
Added Short: "It'll turn this program around. It'll make things more promising of what we want to do and what we're trying to do. It's going to give us a boost of what team we're trying to become this year."
Purdue needs a strong performance from its defense to slow down new Irish quarterback Everett Golson and an offense that put up 50 points and 490 yards last week against Navy. Although Cierre Wood, Notre Dame's top running back, remains suspended for the game, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III looked more than capable in Dublin, combining for 206 rush yards and four touchdowns.
The Boilers held Eastern Kentucky to six points, 10 first downs and 190 total yards in last week's opener, their first game under new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar. Short recorded a sack and two blocked kicks on special teams, and Purdue had eight different players contribute on tackles for loss.
"The communication is beyond a level we thought it would be," Short said. "You’ve got new guys adjusting to different positions, guys just jumping in and competing for each position. It's everybody stepping up and doing a lot of communication. That's one thing we thought we lacked in, but Saturday showed it."
Hope is stressing the need for a strong and steady start, a big reason why he picked Caleb TerBush to start at quarterback despite TerBush's suspension last week. Short also sees the need to set the tone against Notre Dame, which has outscored Purdue 21-0 in the first quarter of the teams' past two games. But the Boilers aren't expecting the Irish to sleepwalk out of the gate.
"The challenge is for us to perform," Hope said. "It's not to hope and anticipate that their performance level is going to be down. We don't want to bank on that."