By: Evan J. Thomas
Electric… That was the feeling as new head coach Brian Kelly led the 2010 version of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish onto the field Saturday at an unseasonably cooler Notre Dame Stadium. Kelly stated before the game that the pageantry of college football and seeing his first game at Notre Dame was a little overwhelming.
The first quarter featured a slew of short passes, draws and dump offs by junior Quarterback Dayne Crist in Kelly’s spread offense. The offense moved the ball in those first ten minutes but with the short plays didn’t get down the field too far.
Late in the first quarter, Irish defensive back Darren Walls snagged an interception off of a misguided pass from the Miami Hurricane transfer and Purdue quarterback Robert Marve. The interception set off a series of big runs by the Irish offense and sophomore Cierre Wood and included some great downfield blocking by All American Junior wide receiver Michael Floyd. Seven plays and 84 yards later and senior running back Armando Allen scampered into the end zone for the first touchdown in the Brian Kelly era. The first quarter ended with Crist having only one incompletion and the Irish leading 7-0 over the Boilermakers.
The second quarter began just as the first one ended as Notre Dame’s offense moved briskly down the field. One highlight included Crist, who is coming off a season ending knee injury last season galloping down the sideline for his first significant run of the season. Crist showed no ill effects of the knee injury as he smartly ran out of bounds before taking a hit. After a few incompletions out of the end zone, the Irish added a short field goal for a 10-0 lead with 11:10 remaining in the half.
The Boilermakers finally showed some life in the remaining minutes of the second quarter as they brought in red shirt freshman Rob Henry and used some trickery to move the ball on the Irish defense. Purdue did manage to get the ball inside the Notre Dame 10 yard line but the Irish defense held their own and made some great tackles in holding Purdue to a field goal.
Notre Dame’s offense though countered in the final two minutes of the half and moved the ball on the Boilermaker defense. With some swift running by Allen and Wood, the Irish put themselves in position for a 47 yard field goal attempt. Senior kicker David Ruffer nailed the long attempt and put the Irish up 13-3 with under a minute remaining.
Kelly stated at halftime that his defense came up big in the first half and made some good plays. He also said that Crist was trying to be too perfect on his passes and just needs to let the game come to him. At the half, Crist completed 12 of his 16 passes for 123 yards. The talk of the first half for the Irish was the emergence of the Irish running game in Kelly’s spread offense. The Irish rushed 19 times and tallied 107 yards on the ground including the one touchdown run by Allen.
The second half started out with a bang as junior defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore sacked Marve on the first series for a 15 yard loss. After a three and out by the Boilermaker offense and a punt from deep in Purdue territory, Armando Allen took the 49 yard punt and returned it 40 yards to the Purdue 30 as Allen used his blocks wisely to weave in and out of traffic to give the Irish great field position to start the half. After a couple of quick passes and a nice run by Cierre Wood, Crist connected with freshman wide receiver TJ Jones in the end zone for an Irish touchdown as Notre Dame padded its lead to 20-3 with a little more than ten minutes left in the third quarter.
On the next Purdue series, Ethan Johnson and Ian Williams manhandled the offense line and added two big sacks to back up the Boilermakers into their own end zone for a 4th and 32 punt. On the next Irish offensive possession, Crist completed a nice toss down the sideline to Michael Floyd for 34 yards as Floyd had a defensive back draped all over him. On the next play, Floyd went over the middle and hauled in a pass from Crist at the Purdue 5 yard line that should have been a sure touchdown and then promptly fumbled the ball into the end zone as Purdue picked it up for huge turnover. Marve and senior running back Dan Dierking led the Boilermakers downfield into Irish territory. Purdue's offense then fizzled at the ND 5 yard line as Dierking came up short on a 3rd and long as the third quarter came to an end.
Purdue being down 20-3 took a gamble and attempted a 4th and 1 at the ND 5 yard line. The Irish defense blew by the lineman and got into the face of Marve and forced him into an ill advised throw that ended up being tipped at the goal line by Gary Gray and then grabbed by defensive lineman Ian Williams for his 2nd career interception. On the first play of the next Irish possession, the Purdue defense stuffed Armando Allen in the end zone for a safety as they cut the ND lead to 20-5 with 14:45 left in the game. After a free kick, the Boilermakers and Marve guided the offense downfield on the Irish. Facing another 4th and 1 at the Notre Dame 22, Marve took the snap and as the offense crashed right Marve took the bootleg and went left beating the defense to the end zone for the Boilermakers first touchdown and cutting gap to 20-12.
Cierre Wood took the kickoff and had a nice return before putting it on the ground. Lucky for the Irish, Zeke Motta pounced on the ball for the recovery. On the next Irish series, the offense line gave up consecutive sacks. After a sack and three and out Purdue had to kick. The kick landed at the Irish 47 giving ND pretty good field position in Purdue territory with just over six minutes remaining. Crist led the Irish on the drive that halted at the 26 yard line for a field goal attempt. David Ruffer connected on his third field goal of the game to give the Irish a 23-12 cushion with just under five minutes remaining. Ethan Johnson added another sack on the following Purdue possession. Sophomore linebacker Manti Te’o made a great stop on a wide receiver screen to force the Boilermakers into their third 4th down attempt at a conversion. The Irish defense again forced Marve into a inaccurate throw that basically dashed the hopes of any type of Purdue upset with 2:03 left. With a couple of runs and kneel downs to run out the clock the Irish held off a slight Purdue comeback with a final score of 23-12 to give Notre Dame and Brian Kelly their first win of 2010.
Kelly said after the game “It wasn't so pretty, but it’s a great win. For the opener, just getting the win is really big but we made it a lot harder on ourselves. We have to catch the ball and protect it better. We made some mistakes but at the end of the day Purdue is a good football team and we got a good win today.” Kelly also said that “I would rather be cleaning some things up (that we did wrong) after a win, than cleaning things up after a loss.”
This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.