There had been the overwhelming temptation to write: "Outlined against a nearly cloudless sky, the most boring team ever to challenge for the national championship put a record crowd to sleep today."

Sorry, Granny. But after that first game, Notre Dame seemed a better bet to whip insomnia than a suicidal schedule. Somewhere, the Four Horsemen and Knute surely were grabbing No Doz and Subway Alumni beginning to hum:

"Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame Vagas off tackle, follows with same."

There was a reason Dan Devine's entire offensive play book could be written on a leprechaun's thumb a week ago, why Vagas Ferguson carried the ball 35 times against Michigan. It was the same reason that led Devine to run exactly counter to that philosophy against Purdue here today, to offer more frills than a June bride.

Simply put, Notre Dame is without a quarterback this season -- and all the fancy disguises and no-nonsense battering up the middle will not hide it.

That Notre Dame lacks a quality quarterback will surprise much of America and be considered a sin by zealous Irish followers. But the Irish have tried four quarterbacks in two games -- and none is going to strike terror into Southern Cal, or even Navy.

The starter a week ago was Rusty Lisch, whose modest claims to fame include being knocked out here two years ago and giving the relatively unknown Joe Montana a chance to show off his considerable skills.

With Lisch injured, Devine decided to attack Purdue and its wondrous passer, Mark Herrmann, with three quarterbacks and all manner of trickery. Ultimately, as expected by anyone with a sense of history about this rivalry and about how football teams operate, Purdue beat the fifth-ranked Irish, 28-22.

Purdue won for the most part because one excellent quarterback means more to an offense than all the glittering numbers after his name on the statistics sheets. And because any team that uses more than two quarterbacks in a game usually has none.

Devine hardly is known for an inventive mind. In the past, his idea of a really daring play has been a 20-yard sideline route. He has been as quietly conservative over the years as anyone in semiamateur sport, although Woody Hayes and Bo Shembeckler have hogged all the attention.

So in the first quarter today, after the Irish recovered a fumble in Purdue territory and stalled after several runs and Tim Koegel threw one safe 13-yard completion, the largest crowd ever to watch an intercollegiate game in Indiana settled back for the predictable field goal on fourth down.

This is how Notre Dame upset Michigan a week ago: stout defense and Chuck Male's right instep. Somebody go for beer.

Suddenly every jaw in the place went slack. What had overcome the holder, Greg Knafelc? What made him whisk the ball off the tee just as Male was moving toward it?

Devine inspiration.

As events later proved, Knafelc is the fourth-string Irish quarterback. He rose up from that kneeling position and fired a strike to tight end Dean Masztak at the goal line and Notre Dame was up, 7-0.

But the Irish had more up their sleeves. You have heard of designated hitters. Notre Dame had designated quarterbacks today. Koegel was the passer, Mike Courey was the runner and Knafelc was in charge of trickery.

The first time Knafelc entered the game as anything other than a holder was late in the second quarter, with the Irish ahead, 10-7. He took the snap and handed the ball to the overworked but splendid Ferguson.

But Ferguson handed the ball to the wide receiver, Pete Holohan. Wonderful, a reverse. There was more. Holohan stopped, raised his right arm and sent the ball 34 yards downfield to freshman receiver Tony Hunter.

Hunter was 10 yards behind every Purdue defender when Holohan took the ball from Ferguson. But by the time Holohan would up and let fire Purdue sensed what was about to happen. Embarrassed defensive backs turned and hunted for Hunter.

A touchdown would have resulted had Holohan put any zip on his pitch. But Hunter had to stop -- and the ball and Purdue defenders arrived at the same time.

Ferguson and Koegel, the passer, took the Irish to the eight and then Courey, the runner, took the ball to the center of the field for Male's short field goal.

Matters had become so intriguing that the pressbox announcer said before that effort: "It will be a 32-yard field-goal attempt, IF Male goes for it." He did.

And reasonably soon, Purdue caught on to Notre Dame's act, although Koegel did complete a 29-yard pass to a wide open Ty Dickerson to help the Irish to a 20-7 lead with 8:17 left in the third quarter.

The Irish were telegraphing their punches. And the final 22 minutes showed they could not fool all the Boilermakers all of the time.

This came at almost the exact time Herrmann began showing the reasons so many pro scouts are so excited about him. His reputation had been enough to make the Notre Dame defense vulnerable to the Purdue runners and short passes even the Golden Girl could complete.

But the 6-foot-5 junior completed four fine passes during an 80-yard drive that cut the Irish lead to 20-14. And when Marcus McKinnie stole one of Koegel's passes and returned it to the Notre Dame eight, Purdue took the lead for keeps.

In all, Herrmann completed 14 of 20 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Surprisingly, Notre Dame had more passing yards, but its most effective effort had been from an end, Holohan.

The game had been a test of talent and minds, and also of offseason judgment three years ago. And Purdue won that also, for the Irish gave their undivided attention that recruiting season to Koegel instead of Herrmann.