Notre Dame running back Robert Hughes had been quiet until Saturday, carrying the ball only seven times for 20 yards this season for the 2-1 Irish. But the 234-pound junior made a lot of noise against the Boilermakers.As part of a rotation replacing the injured Armando Allen, Hughes led Notre Dame with 68 yards rushing on 15 carries, and also had three receptions for nine yards. He gained 37 yards on four carries on the first Irish touchdown drive, which he capped with a 2-yard TD carry. "That's the hardest I've seen him run," Weis said of Hughes. "He wanted the ball and wanted to run people over. He had it this week, and it wasn't just today." Freshman Theo Riddick and sophomore Jonas Gray also took up bigger roles at running back. Gray had nine carries for 18 yards and two big first-half receptions, a 23-yarder and a 19-yard catch. Riddick had one carry for 24 yards and returned kickoffs four times for 96 yards.
Among the many big plays on Saturday, Notre Dame had one that was, one that wasn't, and one that happened to it.Robby Parris was an unlikely catalyst for one of the night's huge plays. On third-and-14 from the Purdue 36, Clausen hit Parris for a 15-yard gain and first down on Notre Dame's final scoring drive, connecting along the right sideline. Parris, who sees plenty of playing time, isn't targeted all that often. It was his only catch of the day, and had four catches for 26 yards and a TD entering the game. Clausen covered a lot of real estate to hit Parris on the medium-deep out pattern. "That was a heck of a throw for first down over there," Weis said. On the big play that wasn't, Crist had a wide-open Golden Tate in his sights on a second-half bomb, but overthrew the star receiver even as his defender fell down. Put some air under it and it looks like a touchdown, but as Weis said, Crist "throws a line drive." On the big play that happened to the Irish, running back Jaycen Taylor popped free on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott. No defender was close to Taylor on the play-action pattern. Irish strong safety Kyle McCarthy said "miscommunication" led to the big play. "Just a coverage breakdown," McCarthy said.
A tale of four drives
Trailing 7-3, Notre Dame broke out the wildcat formation, which involved runs and direct snaps to Tate. He ran three times for 20 yards on the first, Hughes-dominated scoring drive. Crist attempted one pass, which was incomplete.On the second second-quarter touchdown drive, the Irish kept it on the ground with seven runs for 62 total yards, ending in a Tate 14-yard touchdown carries. Notre Dame's two third-quarter drives were time-consuming, lengthy — and ended in exactly zero points. On the first drive (eight plays, 28 net yards, 5:20), an illegal formation penalty pushed the Irish to first and 15 from the ND 44. Two Gray rushes gained six yards, and Tate gained zero on third down, leading to a punt. On the second drive (13 plays, 42 yards, 6:20), the offense overcame another illegal formation to gain a first down on a 12-yard pass from Crist to Kyle Rudolph. Two more passing first downs went for naught when Hughes was stopped twice, Crist threw incomplete and was sacked on fourth and 10 from the Purdue 34 for a turnover on downs.
Second and goal from the Purdue 4, under a minute to go, Notre Dame driving for the win. Hughes is stopped two yards short of the end zone. The Irish are out of timeouts.But Purdue wasn't out of timeouts. And the Boilermakers used one. Thirty-seven seconds showed on the Ross-Ade Stadium scoreboard. Purdue postgame radio was buzzing with callers questioning the decision of coach Danny Hope, whose timeout gave Notre Dame a breather, stopped the clock and allowed the Irish time to plan their final two plays. Clausen threw incomplete after the break, but found Rudolph for the deciding touchdown on fourth and goal from the 3. "I wanted to leave enough time to run a couple of plays," Hope said after the game. "I wanted to save some time and be able to run three or four plays." Weis said he planned to spike the ball to stop the clock, leaving one more chance for the end zone. "That helped us out a little bit because we were going to 'clock it,' " he said, meaning spike it to stop the clock. "We had the opportunity to gather our thoughts and get the right call on fourth down."