Offensive MVP: Everett GolsonThe offensive line struggled to protect or punch holes, two of the team's best pass catchers missed nearly half the contest, and last week's two-headed monster at running back, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson, managed just 53 rushing yards (Atkinson had 1 carry for no gain), but throughout the contest, Golson's quick feet and quick twitch right arm kept the Irish offense afloat.
Golson lost more yards rushing thanks to sacks (46) than he gained (36) but it was his kamikaze three-yard sprint and dive to the right pylon that put the Irish on the board first (26-plus minutes into the contest), and his momentum-changing connections with tight end Tyler Eifert that put the Irish on in the second half as well.
Faced with a 3rd and 16 near midfield early in the third quarter, Golson moved his tenuous pocket with a roll left. He stopped short in dead sprint, pivoted to square his shoulders, and fired a post-pattern strike to Eifert that gained 22 yards, breaking Purdue's stranglehold on scrimmage. A 29-yard back shoulder throw to Eifert down the seam followed to put the offense inside the red zone and a quick roll right and fire to junior T.J. Jones provided the point.
Golson was far from perfect, but a 21-31 effort for 289 yards with two scores and one turnover (a costly fumble late/no interceptions) were crucial components in the team's first 2-0 start of the Brian Kelly era.
Offensive Game Balls: Despite missing most of the second half with what Kelly deemed, "a slight concussion" Eifert again led the team in big plays in the passing game, securing four balls for 98 yards including a pair of big plays (noted above) that led to the team's only second half touchdown. Also showing well prior to injury was redshirt-freshman receiver DaVaris Daniels (4 receptions, 70 yards). It was Daniels' "Sluggo" route, a slant-and-go late in the second half, that set up Golson's aforementioned dive to the pylon. The 41-yard pass play was the longest of both Daniels and Golson's two-game playing career.
Senior running back Theo Riddick was held in check most of the afternoon, but with nary a hole to find or effective lead block to follow, Riddick still spun, darted, and leapt his way to 53 rushing yards and another 44 receiving on four receptions.
Connection of the Day: Faced with 3rd and 10 at the Purdue 41-yard line, backup quarterback Tommy Rees found senior slot target Robby Toma for 21 yards and a first down, a pass that placed the pigskin at the Boilermakers 20-yard line with 1:18 remaining. Two Riddick rushes and two spiked snaps ensued, positioning the Irish in the idle of the field for a game-winning 27-yard connection by backup kicker Kyle Brindza.
Rees had previously connected with 5th-year senior backup John Goodman for 10 yards and a first down when faced with 3rd and 6 from midfield.
Defensive MVPs: Tuitt and NixSophomore Stephon Tuitt and junior Louis Nix padded the stat sheet and often dominated up front, combining for eight tackles, 3.5 sacks, two passes defended (Nix) and a pair of additional QB pressures (Tuitt). Both of Tuitt's sacks occurred in the second stanza with the latter in defense of the Irish goal, a third-down take down of quarterback Robert Marve that forced the Boilers to settle for a field goal that cut the Irish lead to 17-10.
Nix broke up two passes including one inside the 10-yard line and another that on 3rd and 3 in the second half that forced a Purdue punt. Nix combined with blitzing cornerback Keivarae Russell for a first down sack on Purdue's game-tying scoring drive that pushed the Boilermakers back to a 2nd and 23 situation, though the Irish defense broke three plays later, allowing the tying score.
Defensive Game Balls: Junior outside 'backer Prince Shembo shined for the second straight week, his five-tackle stat sheet total belying his overall effort up front. Shembo served as a defensive end in the team's base 4-3 defense (more on that below) for the bulk of the afternoon and was a consistent pocket presence, pressuring Purdue quarterbacks with two official QB hurries, recording a tackle just past the line of scrimmage to help force a second half punt, and setting the edge of the defense vs. the run while collapsing the pocket for much of the afternoon.
It was Shembo's diagnoses of a Marve roll-right deep inside Irish territory that cut off the athletic quarterback from his trio of receivers flooding the right side that allowed Tuitt to register the previously mentioned red zone sack, limiting Purdue to three instead of seven in a game won at the gun. Of Shembo's five tackles, three limited the Boilers to a single yard.
Senior linebacker Manti Te'o led the way with 10 tackles and a QB pressure; three of his stops limited Purdue runners to two yards or fewer with another pair of stops short of the chains that forced Boilermakers punts.
Special Teams MVP: Kyle BrindzaWith senior kicker Nick Tausch a late-week scratch from the lineup due to a hamstring injury, Brindza stepped to the fore to connect on two field goals including the game-winner with under 10 seconds remaining. Brindza bounced back from an ugly early miss, a badly hooked kick from the Purdue 40-yard line, to drill two short boots, the first from 30 yards out to give the Irish a 17-7 lead and later the game-winner from 27 yards away.
Said Kelly of Brindza's efforts, "Kyle had to step in, that's why I'm so proud of my guys: 'Next Man In'," said Kelly. "Went in and got the job done."
Brindza's game-winning kick was the first in Notre Dame's favor since D.J. Fitzpatrick's 40-yarder beat Navy, 27-24 in 2003.
Quotes to NoteOnly two Notre Dame players were available to speak post-game: captain Manti Te'o represented the defense while fellow captain Zack Martin stood at the podium to speak for the offense.
Said Te'o of the boos reigned down upon Tommy Rees upon his entrance late: "Yeah, I was a bit surprised. Yeah, I was a bit surprised. But I think Tommy knew it didn't really matter because he knew what was most important is that the guys out there on the field and the guys on the sideline trusted him and had confidence in his ability to make plays.
"I think he got a lot of respect today in the way that he was the general out there. He stayed focused at the task at hand. He did a really good job."
Martin offered of Golson's all-around efforts: "I thought he played great. Like I said before, we game-planned. If they were going to load the box, we were going to put the ball in his hand. I think he did a great job. He led our team all day. When his number was called, he did a great job."
And of the crowd's classless reaction to Rees' entrance, Martin noted, "That doesn't really get under Tommy's skin. He's been through some hard times. People have certain opinions of him. The great thing about him is he doesn't let it bother him. He went out there and did his thing."
Purdue Head Coach Danny Hope on Kelly's decision to insert Rees: "Well, I thought that was a really good decision by their head coach. That was a pressure situation and certainly would have been a tough assignment for a rookie quarterback.
"I was kind of excited about the idea of maybe having a rookie quarterback in there on the last drive. I thought that may have given us an opportunity to get after him some and get ourselves in position to win. I thought it was a good coaching decision."
Kelly regarding Golson's reaction to the final drive benching: "I want a guy that's upset he wasn't in the game, but he's not selfish. He understands that we support whoever goes in the game. Just like Tommy and Andrew supported Everett, it's his turn now to support his teammates. That's the way we roll. If you don't support each other, then you won't be part of what we do. That's what we expect from him and that's what we got."
Kelly on the apparent emergence of Rees as the No. 2 QB: I" didn't decide. If we had to make a decision for three or four quarters, it might have been different. Tommy's a guy, if you look at it in baseball terms, he's a closer. He can close for you. Maybe your middle relief guy is (Andrew) Hendrix. But maybe next week it changes."
The Numbers GameWIth Saturday's win, Kelly evened his September record a 5-5 since taking over in South Bend. He's now 4-3 vs. Big 10 foes and 3-0 vs. Purdue. Saturday was the Notre Dame program's fifth straight victory over the Boilermakers and seventh in eight seasons. Purdue had previously beaten the Irish in both 2003 and 2004.
- Notre Dame is 2-0 for the first time since 2008 and just the 12th time in the last 30 seasons...
- Tuitt's two-sack day marks the first time since 2006 an Irish player recorded two sacks in consecutive weeks. Victor Abiamiri did the same vs. Navy and North Carolina en route to a 10.5-sack season...
- Golson accounted for 83 of his team's 88 yards on the game's first touchdown drive; he accrued all 59 yards on Notre Dame's only scoring drive of the second half, hitting for passes of 9, 22, 25, and ultimately three yards for the score. The 9-yard gain was a quick shuffle pass from the backfield to runner Theo Riddick…
- At one point late in the first half, Golson had accounted for 196 of Notre Dame's 210 total yards…
- T.J. Jones' third quarter touchdown reception was the seventh of his Irish career. Only seniors Tyler Eifert (8) and Theo Riddick (8) have scored more than Jones among active Irish players…
- Notre Dame is now 16-3 under Brian Kelly when leading after three quarters…
- Saturday's 39 passes were the most thrown by the Irish in victory since Rees fired 41 at Purdue last October, a 38-10 blowout win in West Lafayette…
- Notre Dame's paltry 52 rushing yards were the fewest accrued in victory during the Kelly era, the previous low an 87-yard effort vs. Pittsburgh during a 23-17 win in October 2010. Kelly's Irish were 1-5 entering the contest when rushing for fewer than 100 yards…
- Junior cornerback Bennett Jackson recorded the first and second interceptions of his Irish career. Jackson's first help set up a Notre Dame field goal in the third quarter that staked the Irish to a 17-7 advantage; his second pick ended the contest…
- Notre Dame's five sacks allowed ties the most in a contest during the 28-game Kelly era. Stanford sacked Irish QBs five times in a 28-14 win last Thanksgiving weekend…
- The Irish defense limited Purdue to 288 yards of total offense. It was the 12th time in the last 19 outings that the defense held an opponent under 300 total yards.