The Turning Point…Faced with 3rd-and-7 from his own 41-yard line and holding a tenuous 17-14 advantage, Irish senior quarterback Everett Golson fired a deep corner route high and slightly behind C.J. Prosise. The Irish junior slot receiver secured the leaping grab despite solid coverage from Purdue cornerback Frankie Williams. Prosise's catch and subsequent yardage fought for thereafter resulted in a 25-yard gain and an Irish first down at the Boilermakers 34-yard line.
Four snaps later, Golson fired high to a leaping Corey Robinson who used all of his six-foot-five frame to secure the 15-yard score, his second touchdown of the season, to give Notre Dame its first semblance of breathing room, 24-14, with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter.
Offensive MVP -- Everett GolsonNot explosive, as he was in a season-opening win over Rice. Not dynamic like against Michigan last week, but the Irish triggerman was again the unit's best player thanks to an efficient evening that included 25 completions in his 40 throws, with 259 yards and two touchdowns. Golson added another 56 net rushing yards (74 without sacks) on 14 carries including a season-best 15-yard scamper for a second quarter score, one that provided the Irish a 17-14 lead with 13 seconds remaining in the opening half.
Under timely, if not heavy pressure from the Boilermakers front seven, Golson fought through four sacks and six pressures on the evening. His 56 rushing yards led the Irish by a wide margin.
Offensive Game BallsSophomore Will Fuller again paced the offense in receptions (6) and receiving yards (51), adding his third touchdown in as many games, a first in the Brian Kelly era for a player to begin the season. (Michael Floyd accomplished the same against Nevada, Michigan, and Michigan State prior to Kelly's arrival in 2009.)
-- Corey Robinson added two receptions to his 15-yard scoring grab noted above, the first a 32-yard gain to set up Golson's touchdown run near the end of the first half, the second a 5-yard tunnel screen to convert a first down in Purdue territory.
Though Notre Dame's running game sputtered, sophomores Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston offered key contributions in the passing game. Bryant recorded the first two receptions of his Irish career, both good for 17 yards, while Folston secured two middle screens, the first for 16 yards, the second for 10. Combined the sophomore pair produced 111 yards from scrimmage on 19 touches.
Defensive MVP -- Romeo OkwaraForced into the greatest work volume of his collegiate career, Okwara shined without the aid of regular backup Andrew Trumbetti, out with a neck/head injury. Okwara led all tacklers with 11 including a half-sack and three tackles for no gain, one to force a Boilers' punt. Okwara added a forced fumble on Purdue running back Akeem Hunt with the Boilers charging inside the Irish 5-yard line, threatening a 14-10 early lead.
"We knew we had to play fast in this game. The defense had to show up in the second half and we played really well," said Okwara. Said Kelly of the 19-year-old junior, "He's a finely conditioned athlete."
Defensive Game BallsSophomore Jaylon Smith registered nine tackles including two for lost yardage with a sack, and a 4th-and-1 run blitz that stuffed Boilermakers running back Raheem Mostert for no gain at the Irish 28-yard line.
Said Kelly of Smith's presence as a pass-rusher and attacking edge player Saturday night, "I thought when we got into the fourth-down situations, we dialed it up. Jaylon this week was part of those pressure (schemes). He has not been. We've had him focused on that (weak side linebacker) job. That inside backer position has been a whole new thing for him. So we didn't want to put too much on him. But this week we really worked on a pressure package with him and were able to get it installed with him in this game."
-- Junior defensive tackle Sheldon Day added a fumble recovery, pass break-up, and a quarterback pressure to go with his three stops, all of which occurred within three yards of scrimmage. Day was double-teamed by the Boilermakers interior for the bulk of the evening.
-- Sophomore defensive end Isaac Rochell had his most productive game, recording a half-sack, a pass breakup, a QB pressure, and six stops.
Special Teams MVP -- Kyle BrindzaThe senior placekicker remains perfect in clutch fourth quarter situations, tonight knocking through a pair of final quarter field goals, the first a 48-yarder to extend the Irish lead to 13, 27-14 at the 9:31 mark; then later a 39-yarder to give Notre Dame a 16-point cushion with 5:30 remaining. Brindza added a 19-yard field goal in the second quarter after missing his first offering from 50 to open the contest.
His four punts averaged 48.2 yards (42.2 net) with two pinned inside the 20-yard line and two exceeding 50 yards. Five of his seven kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.
Up and DownThe hero of Saturday's contest was Notre Dame's second-half defense, a unit that limited Purdue to 121 net yards including just one rushing yard. Holding a 17-10 halftime edge, the Irish defense forced the Boilermakers into a trio of three-and-out possessions with four of Purdue's six second half drives resulting in 19 yards or fewer.
Three of Purdue's four fourth quarter possessions ended with Irish interceptions (Cody Riggs, Devin Butler, and Joe Schmidt) with the fourth concluding with an Irish sack. The Irish stopped Purdue on two of the Boilermakers three fourth-down conversion attempts.
-- Conversely, Notre Dame's offensive line struggled throughout the contest, not only protecting Golson (four sacks, at least six hurries), but in the running game.
"We're not sustaining (blocks). I mean, we're in position. We're falling off a block here. We miss a fit here. And maybe it's just the continuity took us a little bit longer. It's nothing big, but it's everything.
"They got to get cleaned up before we get to where we want to be offensively."
Notre Dame's trio of running backs were limited to three yards or less -- not including short-yardage opportunities where it would be advantageous -- on 13 of 24 carries.