Watson still recovering from viral infection
By KATIE McVOY
Associate Sports Editor
Despite the fact that Courtney Watson was still first on the depth charts for the Irish, he was not on the field on Saturday. The only returning starting linebacker for the Irish again watched his teammates from the sidelines.
The Irish linebackers had another stellar performance, led by junior Mike Goolsby. Goolsby had 11 tackles and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
"Sometimes we don't want to get off the field," Goolsby said. "After we got that touchdown, I want to get right back out there."
Brandon Hoyte added nine tackles and, despite allowing Joey Harris to get some long runs, the Irish defense managed to shut down part of a very dangerous Boilermaker attack.
Mmmm … Duff
Vontez Duff has scored touchdowns in three straight games for the Irish. Last season the junior cornerback had a career-long 96-yard kickoff return against Purdue in Notre Dame's final game.
He added a 76-yard punt return against Maryland last Saturday and came up with an interception return against the Boilermakers this year. Duff intercepted Kyle Orton's pass in the fourth quarter to break a 17-17 tie and, ultimately, give the Irish the victory.
"I saw a collision because it was special coverage that we had to double up on a couple of their receivers," Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said when asked about the interception. "There seemed to be a collision and then, all of the sudden, out of the dust and out of the collision came Vontez [Duff]. And when he gets his hands on the ball he can do some marvelous things."
Staying cool despite the heat
There are a few items on Willingham's list that are considered inexcusable. One of them is being out of shape.
"I tell our team that there are a couple of things that make him a coward on the field. One is lack of conditioning," Willingham said. "If you're not in shape, then you can't raise your level of play."
The Notre Dame defense seemed to be conditioned enough. At game time, NBC reported that the temperature on the field at Notre Dame Stadium was 100 degrees. Despite the heat, the Irish defense managed to put a stall on Purdue's running game and keep the pressure on Orton. The defense recorded two sacks.
"It was pretty tough, especially in the end," said safety Gerome Sapp. "Coming into the homestretch, the defensive backs, the linebackers, the D-line, all of us were well conditioned. So all of us still had the energy to compete."
Dangers in the rankings
The Michigan Wolverines were ranked sixth in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and seventh in the AP Poll on Sunday. Under coach Lloyd Carr, the Wolverines are 32-10 when ranked in the top 10.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, September 10, 2002