The victory over No. 17 Northwestern was Purdue's first road win over a ranked team in Tiller's four seasons. Asked after the game whether his players have taken his lesson to heart, Tiller smiled and said, "So far."
Notre Dame's Secret
Irish Taking Care of the Ball
Even after putting up 447 yards in a 45-14 rout of winless Navy last Saturday, Notre Dame ranks 96th out of 114 teams in total offense. Of the 20 teams with the least productive offenses, the Fighting Irish are one of only three with a winning record. One reason Notre Dame is 4-2 and ranked 20th is that the Fighting Irish, who last year committed a whopping 30 turnovers, have handled the ball 493 times (265 rushes, 55 incomplete passes, 56 receptions, 81 kicks and punts, 36 returns) without losing a fumble. Notre Dame has thrown a scant four interceptions.
That the Fighting Irish have started three inexperienced quarterbacks—finally settling on freshman Matt LoVecchio—makes their trusty ball handling all the more remarkable. Oddly enough, experience at quarterback contributed to the glut of turnovers a year ago. With young offensive linemen and running backs, Notre Dame relied heavily on senior quarterback Jarious Jackson's ability to run, pitch and pass, primarily out of the option attack mat the Irish have replaced with a traditional multiple set. "We felt that Jarious had to create plays," says coach Bob Davie. "We got reckless."
A year later, with less seasoned players at quarterback, the Irish have been more conservative. In addition, the defense and kicking are better. "We don't feel the offense has to create plays to win," says Davie. Notre Dame has proved that so conclusively that hope has sprung up among players and fans that the Fighting Irish will go to a BCS Bowl.
Youth Is Served
Freshmen at Quarterback
When Peyton Manning took over as Tennessee quarterback in the middle of his freshman season in 1994—only after the No. 1 and No. 2 signal-callers had been injured, mind you—his ascent was considered a tribute to his once-in-a-generation skills. Six years later four freshmen are running sophisticated passing attacks and doing it pretty well. Phillip Rivers is 5-1 at North Carolina State, Rex Grossman has started and won Florida's last two games, Craig Ochs led Colorado to its Oct. 7 upset at Texas A&M in his first collegiate start, and Jared Lorenzen is third in the nation in total offense (321.4 yards per game) for 2-5 Kentucky.
The increase in coaches willing to gamble on freshmen is another by-product of offenses that spread the field. "[The spread offense] helps young quarterbacks read coverages," says Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, whose attack was adeptly run by freshman Joe Hamilton in 1996. Coaches often don't make freshmen their first option, though Rivers and Lorenzen have started every game this season. At Colorado, Gary Bamett started sophomore Zac Colvin and junior Bobby Pesavento before putting Ochs on the field in the second quarter of the fourth game of the year, a 44-21 loss to Kansas State. By the time Colorado had fallen to 0-4, there was less pressure on Ochs to perform. He responded by completing 15 of 25 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown in the 26-19 victory at Texas A&M. Ochs still has plenty to learn, however: Last Saturday in a 28-14 loss to Texas, he completed just 11 of 32 passes for 69 yards.
The urge to get a talented offensive player on the field as quickly as possible used to benefit tailbacks. But here's more evidence of how offenses have changed: Mewelde Moore of Tulane, who has run for 465 yards in five games, is the only freshman among the top 40 rushers in the nation.
Akron's Interception King
Smith Having Breakout Year