Tommy Rees was the villain turned hero as Notre Dame dragged victory from the jaws of defeat against Purdue.
A week ago Rees was suspended as punishment for his skirmish with police at a party last May.
He sat out the historic visit to Dublin for the opening day win over Navy and was benched for Saturday’s clash with the Boilermarkers.
The Huffington Post reports that Rees spent most of Saturday watching the Fighting Irish struggle with Purdue. Then he rescued them.
The former starting quarterback got one chance late in the game and inspired a last-minute drive that led to a 20-17 victory.
A 12-time starter last year, Rees told NBC afterwards: “I was just thinking we’ve got to win this game.”
Rees came in for first-year starter Everett Golson and moved the Irish into position for Kyle Brindza’s 27-yard field goal with seven seconds to go.
Rees connected on key third down passes of 10 yards to John Goodman and 21 yards to Robby Toma to set up the winning kick and now Notre Dame is 2-0 for the first time since 2008.
The Post reports: “Purdue (1-1) had tied the game at 17-17 when Caleb TerBush threw a 15-yard TD pass to Antavian Edison with 2:12 left, the score set up by Josh Johnson’s recovery of a Golson fumble. Golson was shaken up on the play, so the Irish turned to Rees.
“Golson, in his home debut, completed 21 of 31 for 289 yards with a TD and ran for another but he was sacked five times during a sloppy game that featured 16 penalties – eight on each team.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Golson would start next week at Michigan State.
Coach Kelly added: “This is not going to be an excuse for Everett that he’s pulled out because of an injury.
“We also made the decision with the flow of the game that Tommy could come in there and manage out two-minute and he did a great job.”
Purdue coach Danny Hope said: “That was a pressure situation and certainly would have been a tough assignment for a rookie quarterback.
“I was kind of excited about the idea of maybe having a rookie quarterback in there on the last drive. I thought that may have given us an opportunity to get after him some and get ourselves in position to win. I thought it was a good coaching decision. Tommy Rees is a good player, heck of a quarterback, too.”
Notre Dame tackle and captain Zack Martin told reporters the team still has plenty of confidence in Golson headed into next week’s game in East Lansing.
Martin said: “Everett didn’t get booted from the game. He played a great game. I think it was a situation, a two-minute drill.
“Tommy is more of a pocket passer. Kind of one of those things. Everyone has a 100 percent confidence in Everett, what he does on the field. We’re ready to go with him next week.”