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Published: Saturday, 10/1/2011

Irish hope to avoid mistakes

Notre Dame coming off wins over Michigan State and Pittsburgh. Notre Dame coming off wins over Michigan State and Pittsburgh.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- For all the progress Notre Dame has made the past two games, the Fighting Irish could be back in the doldrums with another rash of mistakes today at Purdue.

Notre Dame is coming off wins against Michigan State and Pittsburgh, but the Fighting Irish (2-2) might have a better record if not for their 15 turnovers. The team ranks last nationally in turnover margin.

"They are an excellent football team and loaded with talent," Purdue coach Danny Hope said. "They have turned the ball over a lot in their first four games, and that's probably why they are not undefeated."

Quarterback Tommy Rees is directly responsible for nine of Notre Dame's turnovers -- six interceptions and three fumbles. More miscues could give the underdog Boilermakers (2-1) a boost under the lights at Ross-Ade Stadium.

"It's not a secret, I need to cut down on some of the turnovers and some of the mental mistakes," Rees said.

Rees took a giant leap in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh. He completed all eight passes on the go-ahead drive, including a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Eifert with less than 7 minutes remaining in a 15-12 win.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said the effort was a sign the Irish are moving in the right direction.

"It was the first game that we exhibited what I consider necessary ingredients ... poise and confidence," Kelly said.

Eifert's development as a target is a key because teams have gone to great lengths to stop receiver Michael Floyd.

Floyd still has 35 catches for 424 yards. Theo Riddick and TJ Jones have two receiving scores. Running back Cierre Wood has rushed for 393 yards and four touchdowns.

"They have great players," Hope said. "That's a real challenge for our defense that we have to spread out and match up; we have to, and we have to do something to slow down the production."

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