SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Notre Dame's offense has been at its best throwing the ball.
When the Fighting Irish got into trouble against San Diego State, they rallied to win by passing. Against Michigan, Jimmy Clausen came out throwing. Last week against Michigan State, Notre Dame had its only success throwing the ball.
So against Purdue (2-1) on Saturday, look for Notre Dame to ... try to run the ball.
Why? Because coach Charlie Weis believes the Irish (2-1) have to be able to run to be successful.
``You can't make a living just being one-dimensional in football,'' he said. ``One of the themes of the day is how are we going to get the running game going. I think that you can address it some by scheme, but a lot of it comes down to working your butt off fundamentally to make an improvement. I think that's one of the main focuses for what we're doing this week.''
ichigan State last week.
The problem for the Irish is that they haven't been a dominant running team since averaging 213 yards a game during the 2000 season. Last year the Irish averaged just 75 yards a game - the worst season in Irish history by 50 yards.
So far this season, they're averaging just 3 yards a game better than that. That's after Weis' preseason proclamation that the Irish were going to ``pound it.'' So far the Irish have been pounded, averaging just 2.6 yards a rush. The Irish coaches and players, though, believe they are close.
``It's frustrating sometimes watching the film and seeing how close it is,'' tackle Sam Young said.
Although Purdue is 99th in the nation against the run, giving up 192 yards a game, and 89th in passing, giving up 234 yards a game, the Boilermakers feel good about how they have played defense so far.
``I still think we have things we need to tighten up on, being able to communicate better, playing with just a little bit more fire underneath us,'' safety Torri Williams said. ``Once we do that, we're going to be a very good defense.''
Linebacker Joe Holland said the key for the Boilermakers is stopping the run.
``I think what we really need to do is try to eliminate giving up any big plays,'' he said. ``Our defense has been solid, but we've given up too many big plays.''
me Stadium in their last 16 visits. They will also be trying to even coach Joe Tiller's record against the Irish at 6-6 before he retires at the end of the season.
Tiller tried to downplay the importance to him of a win over the Irish, saying the rivalry is most important to the fans, then the players and finally the coaches. But players said they are aware of how important it is.
``It's a must-win game for us,'' Williams said. ``It's a game that you come to Purdue to play in.''
It's an important game for both teams. After its game against Notre Dame, the Boilermakers play Penn State and Ohio State, so a victory would give them momentum heading into two tough Big Ten games.
The Irish, after going 1-6 at home last season, are trying to re-establish Notre Dame Stadium as a difficult place for opponents.
The game could be pivotal for the Irish. Weis said the team, coming off a dismal 3-9 season, believes it can win a lot of games. It's easier to keep that feeling at 3-1 than 2-2.
``With a fairly young team, you get to 3-1 with another game (next week) at home, that belief continues to grow,'' Weis said. ``That's why this game takes an added significance. It becomes even more important.''
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