INDIANAPOLIS – The annual Shamrock Series was anything but a sham for the Notre Dame football team on Saturday night. The Fighting Irish met at Lucas Oil Stadium in the state’s capital to take on in-state rival Purdue for the 86th time.
The visiting Boilermakers did everything in their power to keep things close but Notre Dame would use a surge of 20 unanswered points to claim a 30-14 victory over its rival in the two team’s final meeting until 2020.
Notre Dame looked practically unstoppable on its first drive. After Amir Carlisle returned the opening kick to Purdue’s 45 yard line, Everett Golson led the the Irish offense on a six play scoring drive. Golson capped the drive with a six-yard pass to Will Fuller giving Notre Dame a 7-0 lead.
The two rivals would exchange possessions before Purdue answered the Irish score. Danny Etling conducted a nine play, 67-yard drive that ended with a nice scoring grab from Brandon Cottom.
Due to both injury and suspension the No. 11 ranked Irish entered Saturday’s game with very little depth in the defensive secondary. That depth took an even bigger hit in the second quarter when starting safety Max Redfeld was ejected for targeting sliding Etling on a quarterback keeper.
At the time Notre Dame held a slim 10-7 lead, thanks to a field goal from Kyle Brindza, but the Boilers were suddenly primed to take the lead. The long Purdue drive would be cut short following a fumble by Akeem Hunt. However, Etling would get the Boilers their first, and only lead of the night a few minutes later with a 19-yard strike to DeAndre Yancy.
Notre Dame, now facing adversity for the first time in 2014, needed a big play and Golson delivered. On second down from the 15 yard line, Golson used his feet to scramble for the go-ahead score with just 13 seconds remaining in the half. Now with a 17-14 lead, Notre Dame would never look back.[*** ERROR: Weaver X-Plus Shortcoder undefined id: 'spo-photo' *** ]
As scrappy and determined as Purdue was in the first half, the Boilers were as ineffective and putrid in the second half. Purdue had seven possessions in the second half, three ended with a punt, two with interceptions, one on downs and the final drive ended as the clock expired.
The depleted Domer secondary held up to the upset-minded Boilers, much to the pleasure of head coach Brian Kelly.
“I was proud of the way our team responded to adversity for the first time this season,” Kelly began. “We’re playing a lot of young guys and we had some injuries and the ejection today but we had guys step up and respond.”
Notre Dame was able to open the game up in the second half with two field goals from Brindza and Golson’s second scoring toss of the night, this time Corey Robinson was on the receiving end. Golson finished the day 25-40 through the air for 259 yards and two scores.
Defensively the Irish settled down and were able to get plays from their young players. Sophomore linebacker and Fort Wayne Bishop Luers product Jaylon Smith led the team with one sack and added nine tackles. Romeo Okwara led the Irish with 11 total tackles. Fort Wayne Carroll product and true freshman Drue Tranquill filled in for the ejected Redfield, tallying four tackles, and earned compliments from Kelly during the post game presser for his efforts.
“We’re really young,” Kelly continued. “We will benefit from every day spent on the practice field. We’re still not a finished product by any means, we’re such a young team.
“At 3-0 we’re extremely pleased with where we are. But we know we’re nowhere near where we need to be to be the kind of football team we want to be.”
As for Purdue, head coach Darrell Hazell knows his team lacks nothing in terms of effort, but that it still has a lot of things to fix.
“I think the biggest thing we learned about our football team after that performance is that they can set the standard by how hard they play,” said Hazell. “There is no going back by not playing at that intensity level.
“Obviously in the second half we needed to make a couple more plays. We have to continue to get better and get this thing right in a hurry.”
Purdue was led offensively by Etling’s 234 passing yards and Raheem Mostert’s 47 yards of rushing. Defensively Purdue was led by Landon Feichter and Sean Robinson who had 10 tackles each.
Notre Dame (3-0) will rest up with a bye week before playing Syracuse University at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Purdue (1-2) will play host to Southern Illinois next weekend.