Cue the Music

At some point in every great story there is a moment when the hero breaks free from the ordinary, the mediocre, or the mundane. Luke Skywalker picks up a light saber and realizes that he is the heir to the Jedi legacy. Forrest Gump literally breaks free from the shackles of his leg braces and runs towards the adventure of life.

Air Bud realizes that, despite being a dog, he can play basketball. In the movies this moment is usually accompanied by a swell of bombastic music to signal the event to the audience. In real life we don't have the luxury of a soundtrack, but if we did you would have heard the orchestra playing a John Williams tune in the second half of today's game.

In the first half it seemed as though the coaches were playing whack-a-mole with the team's problems. One problem would be solved and another would pop up. The Irish do a decent job of stopping the run and then Curtis Painter starts racking up yards with his arm. They contain Painter and then Corey Sheets wakes up and starts running the ball. By the end of the first half the coaches were content with a 14 – 14 tie and to let the clock run out with a minute left rather than risk getting into field goal territory and putting the fans through that sort of tension.

As the team left the field for the half-time break there was a litany of complaints that needed to be addressed including Clausen still not checking down to open receivers, a running game that was closer to a limping game with few if any attempts to the outside, and stubborn play calling that insisted on numerous fade passes as soon as the team got a whiff of the end zone.

It's possible that Charlie Weis has been keeping a different team of players in the locker room and that during the break he opened their wrappers and replaced the team that we had been seeing. It's more likely that the players suddenly realized that they are not a team of mediocre pseudo-athletes starring in a straight-to-video Disney movie about the importance of trying your best. They realized that they were, in fact, a group of talented athletes that were highly touted coming out of high school and they now represented the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish. And when they came to that bright shining conclusion they came out of the tunnel ready to play. Someone had finally cued the music.

The offense came out fired up and marched down the field to come away with points on their next four possessions. In the first drive alone many of the complaints from the first half were addressed and rectified (in some corners of the world they call this half-time adjustments). Jimmy Clausen made some great decisions and even checked down to Armando Allen when Purdue came with good coverage and a lot of pressure. Then there was a 4th and 1 situation and, instead of a cutesy hand-off or play-action pass, Clausen attempted a sneak and the O-line made room for him to get the first.

Allen gave the fans the running game for which they had been clamoring and sprinkled in a few well designed runs to the outside. In his entire career before today Allen had only 2 runs for over 15 yards. In today's game he had 5 runs for over 15 yards and most of those were for over 20. Then came the red zone and the inevitably transparent fade pass to the left corner, but wait, this time it was a play action pass to Kyle Rudolph who brought in a ball thrown so hard that the ND logo is now permanently imprinted on his hand.

The defense had its share of missteps in the first half, but things turned around when David Bruton dropped a pass that hit him in the hands (it would have been negated by a penalty anyways) and decided to spend the rest of the game making up for it starting with a pick six. With the exception of a great pass from Painter to Greg Orton, Purdue couldn't get anything going in the second half. Finally the kicking game which has been a bone of contention for the team for far too long had a burp of success today as Brandon Walker was able to make 41 yard field goal.

Yes, the music swelled and our heroes had their moment in which they realized they may just be destined for glory. The Michigan game also felt like the moment where everything turned around and the next week proved differently. This win is different though. It wasn't brought about by the combination of bad weather and rivalry game spirit. This game was won with skill and emotion that was born not out of rivalry, but out of a pure desire to win. The Irish were dominant in the second half and that's something to get excited about, but there was that pesky first half. The first half reminds us that, while this team's future may be filled with greatness, they are not there yet. There's still plenty of season left and this team will no doubt give the fans plenty more moments of doubt and moments of pure joy.


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