For one last time, underdog Purdue competes but Notre Dame wins
INDIANAPOLIS – Surely it wouldn’t come down to a similar scenario again. Surely.
Last week Purdue was pretty much dominated by Mid-American Conference opponent Central Michigan on their home field by 21 points. The Boilermakers didn’t even lead.
Meanwhile Notre Dame decimated Michigan in their final meeting in the current series at home the likes which hadn’t been seen in the history of their 42-game series.
No, it seemed like this would be the year the Irish would take care of business early and often to end the year-by-year series with Purdue.
While it may have been 30 years since the teams met in Indianapolis the scenario played out as hit has for pretty much the last two seasons. The Boilers-a 28-point underdog-showed more fight then they had before in grabbing a first half lead to make the game interesting.
But in the end Notre Dame had just a little too much and Purdue too little late in the game as the Irish won it 30-14 Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“No, we didn’t play flat. I thought our first drive was really precise. We did the things that we wanted to do,” said Irish head coach Brian Kelly when asked if his team had a bit of a letdown against Purdue. “We missed some plays. We overthrow a launch play. We miss a block here or there. We were just a little off in areas.”
“I think a lot of that is attributed to some areas that we’re still learning.”
Still their lessons have brought a 3-0 record while a young Boilermakers team-the 7th-youngest in FBS-falls under .500 for the first time this season. Still head coach Darrell Hazell saw more light than dark as his team kept Notre Dame within striking distance for the better part of 60 minutes.
“Emotionally we were ready to play,” said Hazell of his team. “I thought we came out with a lot of energy and played hard the entire game. Obviously the second half, probably need to make some more plays on offense, specifically.
“We dropped a couple balls and kind of put us behind the 8 ball. I thought the defense played hard the entire time.”
They did so especially after yielding an easy touchdown drive that Everett Golson completed with a touchdown pass to William Fuller to put the Irish up 7-0 just 2:37 seconds into the game. Danny Etling, who picked by Hazell to start at quarterback this week after a shaky outing against Central Michigan, led Purdue on an 8-play, 61 yard drive to even the score.
He evened the score when he found Brandon Cottom on a swing pass and the running back bowled over two Irish players to get to the endzone.
After forcing a Notre Dame fumble in the second quarter, Etling got the Boilers to the lead when he hit DeAngelo Yancey in the back of the end zone for a 19-yard score. A heavily-Irish crowd of 56,832 was a bit stunned as Purdue led 14-10 with three minutes to go in the first half.
“I definitely felt more comfortable,” said Etling, who finished the first half 12-of-14 for 114 yards and two touchdowns. “Good to have a lot of faith from my teammates and coaches throughout the week of practice.”
Golson earned the faith of his teammates and the crowd at the end of the first half when the Irish swung the momentum back to their side. The quarterback used his arm to move the Irish down the field and then used his feet to get them in the end zone with a 15-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left.
“Well, he’s grown exponentially as a person in terms of his maturity, his leadership, his ability to communicate on a day‑to‑day basis, take responsibility,” said Kelly of Golson. “I could go on and on. He’s a man. Again, he had to go through some tough times to get to that point.”
Things weren’t exactly easy for Golson and the Irish in the second half but they did control the pace of the game. The quarterback opened up the lead in the third quarter with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Corey Robinson in the third quarter to push the lead to 24-14.
Meanwhile Etling had much less luck than he did before. He threw for just 120 yards in the second half and was intercepted twice. Even as the Purdue defense yielded just a pair of Kyle Brindza field goals in the fourth quarter, the offense had no answer as their upset bid fell short.
“Just disappointed after the second half of that,” said Etling of his game. “I really think that we let it slip away.”
At least it was at that point. Many thought it wouldn’t be. Based on the past of this series, everyone should have known better.