With a 20-3 lead, Notre Dame had chances to put Purdue out of its misery, but the Irish couldn't close it out like their new coach wanted them to.
coach Brian Kelly talked about how his team isn't quite there yet when it comes to putting away an opponent on the ropes. The Irish had two chances to deliver a knockout blow midway through the third quarter in their 23-12 opening-game victory over Purdue
Purdue's offense was on its heels. On the first play of the second half, Notre Dame defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore
, tripped up Purdue quarterback Robert Marve
for a sack. Marve avoided a safety amid pressure from Kerry Neal
on second down, throwing incomplete, and Carlo Calabrese
wrapped up Dan Dierking
after a short pass over the middle to complete the three-and-out. Notre Dame drove right down to score on a 5-yard pass from Dayne Crist
to Tai-ler Jones. Notre Dame 20, Purdue 3.
Next possession, second and long: Notre Dame defensive lineman Ethan Johnson
collapses the pocket and sacks Marve. Lewis-Moore was nearly the hero on the next play. Ian Williams
crushed Marve on a sack, forcing a fumble, and Lewis-Moore picked it up and ran into the end zone. The officials ruled it a touchdown, but after viewing the instant replay, Marve was determined to be down on the 14.
Notre Dame drove right down and appeared about to score a touchdown anyway, but wide receiver Michael Floyd
fumbled after making a catch at the 5. Purdue ball.
"It's about developing a mentality," Kelly said. "Call it what you want. Just the instinct of the champion senses that he's got the opponent on the ropes. We have not acquired that yet, but we will. Today, obviously, it was a pretty clear case that when we had our opponent in a position to put him away, we didn't execute when we needed to."
The eyes of many Irish fans were likely on the Notre Dame defense, which gave up big plays and points in bunches last season.
Cornerback Gary Gray
made his presence felt right away, recording a tackle for loss on Purdue's first play of the game, a pass to Dierking, and making another tackle on the very next play.
Gray made one of the game's biggest defensive plays at the start of the fourth quarter, on a fourth-and-1 near the Notre Dame end zone. Marve passed for Keith Smith, but Gray tipped the pass forward and Ian Williams cradled the interception.
Gray tied for the team lead with nine total tackles, eight solo. Cornerback Darrin Walls
was another secondary standout, recording seven tackles and an interception.
"We played aggressively," Kelly said of the defense. "We played fast. We competed for the ball. And obviously had some huge stops in a short field. Any time you can do that, you can feed off that energy, and I thought we had great energy on defense today."
Purdue's Marve finished 31-of-42 passing, but for just 220 yards, and a long of 16, with Notre Dame consistently closing in and tackling well on the Boilermakers' variety of short screen and hitch passes to wide receivers.
An OK day at the office
Floyd, Notre Dame's most explosive offensive player, had a quiet day, for him anyway, in the new spread offensive attack.
His first catch didn't come until early in the second quarter, a 19-yard gain that was his only grab of the half. He made some more noise midway through the third, emerging from a tangle along the right sideline with a sweet 34-yard catch that included an interference penalty that was declined. But a play later from the 17 came the play that Floyd would like to forget, the aforementioned fumble near the goal line.
"Something like that, it always bothers me, but you've got to focus on the next play and put that in the past," Floyd said.
Floyd finished with five catches for 82 yards, both team bests. Not a bad day at the office for most receivers, but far from the best that we'll see from Floyd this season.