The Irish have won 26 of 42 games played in West Lafayette with the teams tying twice. Notre Dame won the teams' last meeting in Ross-Ade Stadium, 24-21 on a last-minute, 3rd-and-goal touchdown pass from Jimmy Clausen to Kyle Rudolph.
Below is a closer look at the Irish and Boilers and at the history of the Notre Dame/Purdue series…by the numbers.
1 – Boilermakers quarterback to beat Notre Dame three times as a starter. Signal-caller Mike Phipps accomplished the feat each season from 1967-69. In each instance the Irish were ranked among the nation's Top 10 (as was Purdue) and the wins included upsets over the #1 and #2 ranked Irish led by coaching legend Ara Parseghian. Both Kyle Orton (2003-04) and Jim Everett (1984-85) defeated the Irish twice during their time under center in West Lafayette. (Super Bowl champion Drew Brees finished 1-2 in three career starts vs. Bob Davie's late 90s Irish.)
2 – Longest winning streak by Purdue over Notre Dame in the last 40 years. The Boilers beat the Irish in both 2003 and 2004 – the latter snapping a 30-year drought in South Bend; and also in 1984 and 1985 – the former played in the newly-minted Indianapolis Hoosier Dome.
3 – Tackles-for-loss by senior outside linebacker Darius Fleming vs. Purdue in a 2009 Irish victory – Notre Dame's last trip to West Lafayette. Then a sophomore defensive end, Fleming's three TFL were fifth, sixth, and seventh of the season through just four contests. He finished with a team-high and career-best 12.5 TFL over 12 games.
4 – Combined victories over Purdue by the pair of coaches that followed Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. Bob Davie defeated the Boilers in 1998, 2000, and 2001 – the latter his final game as Irish head coach, one postponed to the season's final contest by the events of 9/11.
Davie's successor, Tyrone Willingham, beat Purdue in his first meeting, 24-17, a game that featured just one offensive touchdown and none from the victors.
Notre Dame won with back-to-back fumble recovery touchdowns, first defensively by Gerome Sapp, then on the ensuing kickoff by Lionel Bolen. Cornerback Vontez Duff (pictured) provided the game-winning, 33-yard interception return for a score late in the contest. (Purdue scored one of its two touchdowns via kick return.)
Willingham lost his last two matchups with Purdue, 23-10 in West Lafayette, and 41-16 in South Bend.
Previously, Notre Dame won 11 straight vs. Purdue and has won five of six since.
5 – Consecutive games between the teams over a five-season span decided by a touchdown or less. From 1998 through 2002, the winner in the Purdue/Notre Dame battle enjoyed margins of 1 (ND), 5 (PU), 2 (ND), 6 (ND), and 7 (ND), respectively. (Incidentally, the 1998 classic, a 31-30 victory by the Irish over then-sophomore signal-caller Drew Brees, was the first Irish game I covered for any publication.)
Since that 5-year run, only one game between the teams has been decided by fewer than 13 points (the aforementioned 24-21 Irish victory at Purdue in 2009). And previous to the streak, none of the 13 consecutive meetings between ND and PU were determined by fewer than 11 points. In fact, outside of the '98-'02 span, just seven of the team's previous 40 matchups were played within a touchdown margin.
6 – Sacks by the Irish last week in Pittsburgh – the highest total since the 2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl victory over the host Warriors (8) and the best regular season pass-rushing effort since the season-finale at Stanford (7) in 2005.
7 – Touchdowns scored by an explosive Irish offense over the favored Boilers in September 2005, a game also played on October 1. Underdogs by a field goal despite the nation's #13 ranking, Notre Dame destroyed #22 Purdue, 49-28, with junior wide receiver Jeff Samardzija cementing his status as a national breakout player. Samardzija caught 7 passes for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns, with this one-handed gem from quarterback Brady Quinn the game's highlight.
Quinn finished 29-36 for 440 yards with three touchdowns as the Irish jumped to a 28-0 lead in the 21-point victory.
8 – Matchups between the teams since the outset of the Ara Parsghian era (1964) in which either Purdue or Notre Dame entered the contest ranked #1 or #2 in the nation. Six of those occurred between 1965 and 1974, with the Irish earning the #1 ranking in '65 and '67 and the #2 ranking in '68, '71, and '72; Purdue the #1 ranking in '68.
Notre Dame was also the nation's top-ranked team entering its September matchup with the Boilers in 1989 and 1990. Since 1964, both teams entered the contest ranked on 10 occasions, but just five since and including 1979 ('80, '99, '00, and '05).
Including this season's game, the contest has been between unranked teams in five straight matchups; an event that occurred just five times previously (2001, '86, '86, '78, and '76) dating back to the dawn of the Parseghian era.
9 – Tackles by Irish cornerback and Game MVP Gary Gray vs. Purdue in last year's season opener for both teams. Eight of Gray's nine stops occurred in the first half; five in the first quarter, and Gray offered a solo stop on three of the Boilers first four snaps. Gray also deflected a goal line pass attempt that was intercepted by senior nose guard Ian Williams, helping to quell a Purdue rally. .
10 – Purdue players that carried the football in a 59-0 win over FCS foe Southeast Missouri on September 17. The Boilers piled up 393 rushing yards during the contest en route to a 627-yard day, offensively.
11A – National rank of Purdue's rushing offense. The Boilers have piled up 258.6 yards per game, albeit vs. lesser foes Middle Tennessee State, Rice (a loss) and Southeast Missouri. The Boilers ran for just 74 yards on 26 carries in the '09 matchup vs. Notre Dame (though threw for 289) and found 102 yards on 32 carries last year, throwing for 220 in defeat.
Only 56 combined yards have separated the teams over the last two meetings.
11B – Consecutive wins by the Irish over the Boilermakers during Lou Holtz's 11 seasons as Notre Dame's head coach. 10 of the 11 wins by the Irish showed at least a 17-point spread; seven by 25 or more and 10 of the 11 Irish squads were ranked among the nation's Top 10 entering the contest.
Purdue once played within a touchdown of the Irish during this span: a 35-28 defeat at Ross-Ade over the #25-ranked Irish. Notre Dame finished the regular season at #6 in the polls with a 9-2 mark. The Boilers finished 4-6-1 with six games decided by a touchdown or less.
On the HorizonA look at Irish players who could reasonably accomplish statistical milestones Saturday vs. the Boilermakers
Michael Floyd: Floyd's next 100-yard game will set him apart from former teammate Golden Tate; the pair is tied with 15 games of at least 100 yards receiving over their respective careers. Floyd holds career records for receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and yards-per-catch. Of note, Floyd has been held out of the end zone in two previous matchups vs. the Boilers – missing the 2009 game due to a broken collarbone.
Ethan Johnson and Darius Fleming: With his next (full) sack, senior defensive end Johnson will move into 11th place ahead of the late Wally Kleine (13 sacks from 1983-86) on the program's career sack list. With 12.5 sacks to date, Johnson was passed by classmate Darius Fleming in the pair's dual-pursuit last week; Fleming recorded two sacks vs. Pittsburgh and now has 14 in his career, 10th-best in program history. Up next for Fleming: mid-90s linebacker and NFL 10-year veteran Bert Berry, who recorded 16.5 for Lou Holtz's Irish from 1993-96.
Current New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck (2002-04) holds the program record with 24.5 sacks in 36 career games.
Harrison Smith: With 23 career pass breakups, Smith's next will pair will tie him with former first-team All-America cornerback Shane Walton (25) for third place on the program's all-time list. Smith has an outside shot at setting the program record, currently owned by star cornerback Clarence Ellis, who broke up 32 passes from 1969-71, earning consensus All-America honors in his final season.
Two weeks ago in a 31-13 win vs. Michigan State, Smith recorded a career-best four passes defended and in the process passed program legend Todd Lyght (1987-1990). Lyght posted 20.5 en route to two first-team All-America seasons.