BY SHANNON O'KEEFE
NOTRE DAME INSIDER
College football fans – and those of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in particular – are a peculiar lot, believing as much in magic as in talent. There are no mid-season trades here, and stocking the bench can take years. What you having coming into the season is all you’ve got -- so it better be enough. You can redshirt, you can transfer, you can recruit, but it won’t have any implications until the following year, and maybe not for years to come. So you have to believe that each year’s team is full of new possibilities, that the starter who went in the first round of the draft was fully replaceable. That your team can win every game, even when statistics tell you otherwise.
As the Irish prepare to take on the Purdue Boilermakers this Saturday, a feeling that has not been felt by Irish faithful in recent memory is sweeping Notre Dame Nation and infesting the hearts of Irish fans everywhere: not magic, so much as resignation. Charlie Weis can take the kids back to training camp. He can make subtle adjustments that lead to subtle improvements and essentially make the next few games more watchable.
But when did college football fans – especially die-hard Notre Dame fans – ever go into game day thinking the next few hours might be watchable, tolerable, not as bad as that opening game, or the one after that, or the one after that?! At least Coach Weis believes the Irish players think otherwise, though he’s not saying anything about his own beliefs.
"I think they believe they can win the game. I don't know if anyone else believes that, but I think the players believe they can win the game. And if the players don't believe they can win the game, you have no chance." BCS bids out the window, sure. But winning the next four games out the window too? Well that’s something else altogether, yet Irish fans seem to be there, watching with one eye closed, waiting it out, waiting until 2009 in many cases.
What the one open eye will see this week is another loss, and likely another rout. Purdue’s offense is ranked eighth nationally, so they’re more than capable of running the board. Boilermaker quarterback Curtis Painter has thrown for 16 touchdowns with only one interception. Three of those touchdowns arrived care of receiver Dorien Bryant, who has caught 32 passes for 368 yards. The entire Irish team has collected half as many yards and should find containing Purdue’s pass-oriented offense to be a challenge. Look for strong efforts by Maurice Crum, and continued heroics from the young Darrin Walls. Purdue’s defensive efforts to date have them hovering around the 60th team nationally, which just might give Jimmy Clausen and his offense a few precious seconds to shoot back. Look for more pitches to tight end John Carlson, who should begin to lead his young teammates on offense; more (positive!) yardage on the back of James Aldridge; and two more offensive touchdowns, which will double, yes double, the tally to date.