Good, not great, in Kelly debut

It was a big day for Notre Dame football, but first there was the matter of a game. As Notre Dame's new coach put it, there was so much excitement leading up to the actual Notre Dame-Purdue contest, he was surprised his players managed to line up for pregame drills properly.

Here it finally was. The 2010 Notre Dame football opener. Center stage was new Irish head coach Brian Kelly, he of the gaudy 18-game regular season winning streak and unimpeachable track record of success. Kelly brought with him a rapid-fire offense, a unit of aggressive coaches, and attracted a hungry group of recruits.

The mood at packed Notre Dame Stadium? Enthusiasm greeted Notre Dame's first drive, but as the Irish initially stalled, many in the crowd seemed to take a wait-and-see approach. But they didn't need to worry too much, thanks to an offense that did enough to build a lead, and a defense that shut the door when it had to.

So how was Notre Dame's performance in Saturday's 23-12 victory over Purdue?

Solid early. Faltering a bit late. But in the end, a winning effort.

"Good all-around football," Kelly said in the postgame press conference. "It wasn't great, but it was good, in all three phases."

Kelly already was starting to focus on next week's game: at home vs. Michigan.

"We can get better," he said. "We missed a lot of tackles today. We're not quite there yet, but we've made some progress."

Freshman Tai-ler Jones caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Dayne Crist on a well-executed slant to give the Irish a 20-3 lead early in the second half, and Notre Dame appeared to be in control. But a safety on an Armando Allen rushing attempt and subsequent 23-yard touchdown run by Purdue quarterback Robert Marve brought the visiting Boilermakers to within a touchdown and 2-point conversion at 20-12.

Kicker David Ruffer gave the Irish breathing room with a 37-yard field goal. The clock showed 4:30 remaining in the game, and Notre Dame's defense didn't budge the rest of the way.

The much anticipated first Notre Dame offensive possession showed glimpses of what the Irish offense might be capable of accomplishing. The Irish came out in the expected spread attack, a no-huddle approach featuring one back, three wide receivers, and a tight end, all directed by Crist, making his first career start.

Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan made back-to-back big plays to halt Notre Dame's first drive, stripping Crist of the ball on a third-down pass attempt, though Crist recovered, and stuffing Allen for a loss on the previous rushing attempt.

Notre Dame got on the scoreboard for the first time of the Kelly era late in the first quarter, in a drive that took two and a half minutes. Allen took a handoff, read the defense and broke right, ducking inside a sustained block by Michael Floyd and leaping for the right plyon. The 22-yard touchdown run was the longest of the running back's career.

"We displayed today that we can do both," Allen said of the spread offense's run-pass balance. "You've always got those first-game jitters, especially when you're running new plays. All in all, we handled everything coach Kelly threw our way, in terms of playing with intensity all four quarters."

Slashing runs for big gains by fellow Irish running back Cierre Wood keyed the drive. He gained 41 yards on the first four carries of his career.

Ruffer's 22-yard field goal made it 10-0 early in the second quarter, as Allen continued to pile up rushing yards for Notre Dame. Star receiver Floyd caught his first pass of the season on this drive, a 19-yarder.

Purdue got on the board with a field goal midway through the second quarter following a long drive, mixing in running from backup quarterback Rob Henry.

Ruffer drilled a career-long 46-yard field goal just before the end of the first half to put the Irish ahead 13-3.

Allen gained 93 rushing yards on 18 carries. Crist finished 19-of-26 with no interceptions, and Floyd caught five passes for 82 yards.

Kerrigan, who teamed up with Charlton Williams on the safety for Purdue, had a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss, and also forced a fumble.

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