Notre Dame used a dominating first half performance, 613 total yards on offense and an almost perfect outing by Brady Quinn to propel the 13th-ranked Irish to a 49-28 beat down of the No. 22 Purdue Boilermakers. The win moves Notre Dame to 4-1 on the year and sets up a huge showdown with top-ranked and undefeated USC two weeks from now in South Bend.
"I didn't expect it," head coach Charlie Weis said. "We were hoping for it. We thought sooner or later we were going to play a more complete game. I thought the quarterback had an exceptional game. The offense kept moving the ball. Our defense kept stopping them in the first half in the red zone. It seems like every time we get down in the red zone, they end up making a critical play."
Purdue's secondary had no answer for Quinn, who shredded a unit that was ranked 113th in the nation and allowing over 300 yards a game through the air. The Irish junior was 30-of-37 for 443 yards and threw three touchdowns, including 20-of-23 for 283 yards in the first half to help pile up an insurmountable halftime lead. The 283 yards are the most ever by an Irish quarterback in the first half and he went over 6,000 career passing yards. Only two other players in Notre Dame history have achieved this feat.
"I think it was pretty good," Weis said. "The only thing we would have liked to have back was that out to ‘Mo. It was a hell of a performance."
The Boilermakers (2-2), to their credit, did not go down without a fight. Purdue quarterback Brandon Kirsch hit Dorian Bryant for an 18-yard touchdown on the opening possession of the second half to make it 28-7. Quinn had an answer, and his name was Jeff Samardzija, who caught a pass on the left sideline and made a nifty run to complete a 55-yard touchdown. It was Samardzija's eighth TD reception of the year, just three short of the single season record of 11, and finished the contest with 8 catches for 156 yards.
Kirsch hooked up with Bryant again for a 3-yard score to cut the lead to 35-14. Bryant finished the day with 14 receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns. A Quinn interception gave the Boilers some hope but Mike Richardson picked off Kirsch in the end zone to stop the rally, his second takeaway of the night. Kirsch finished the night 29-of-44 for 274 yards, with most of his yards coming in the second half. Quinn hit John Carlson, his first touchdown grab, for a 22-yard strike early in the 4th quarter to make it 42-14 to seal the deal for the victorious Irish. A lot of second and third team players made appearances late in the game, including Travis Thomas, who scored on a 10-yard run for Notre Dame's last points.
"Obviously there was a lot of garbage points in the second half," Weis said. "The only concern of mine was when they cut it to three scores, I wanted to put the second offense in. I was like, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?' But sooner or later you are going to have to play theses guys. I was happy that the second offense went down and scored that touchdown."
Quinn got some help on the first scoring drive. Samardzija made an immaculate one-handed catch from Quinn to give the Irish first and goal from the Purdue 1. Rashon Powers-Neal bulled his way into the end zone on the next play to give Notre Dame an early 7-0 lead.
The Irish defense came up big once again in the red zone on the following possession. A 38-yard run by Boiler running back Kory Sheets put the ball at the Notre Dame 2. But senior captain Brandon Hoyte forced a lunging Jarod Void to fumble at the goal line and the ball was recovered by Richardson. The defense held Purdue to 143 total yards in the first half. The Boilers oddly chose not to exploit a Notre Dame secondary giving up 294 passing yards per game in the first half, opting to run it 13 times and pass it 12 plays the first 30 minutes of the game.
It was Maurice Stovall's turn to get into the action after the turnover. The senior wide out caught four balls on the drive, including a 24-yard grab and an 18-yard reception down to the Boiler one-yard line. Stovall finished the night with 8 receptions for 134 yards. Powers-Neal busted his way to pay dirt on fourth-and-goal to give the Irish a 14-0 lead. It was Powers-Neal's sixth rushing score of the season. On the drive, Quinn was 7-of-9 for 99 yards.
Notre Dame made it 21-0 on Samardzija's first touchdown catch of the game. Quinn threw a perfect play-action pass to a wide open Samardzija in the back of the end zone to extend the lead. The junior receiver caught five balls for 71 yards on the drive and Quinn was 6-of-6 for 57 yards. The Irish completed their picture perfect first half with a five play, 63-yard march concluded by a 10-yard Darius Walker scamper up the middle to make it 28-0 heading into the locker room. Walker ended his consecutive 100-yard rushing games at four, finishing with 80 yards on the ground.