So what if Notre Dame is once again vacant from the AP top 25 poll. If there was balloting for “most entertaining team in the country,” there’s no question who’d be number one.
Like a Spielberg flick, the Fighting Irish have a knack for dramatics. Their last three games have been decided on the final drive, two of which the Irish won. However, they could easily be 1-3 instead of 3-1. But Notre Dame’s maturity is evident, and it shows with their ability to come out on top.
Time to hand out hardware:
Offense: Watching a limping Jimmy Clausen on the final drive of the game gave me goose bumps. It’s too bad there’s no category for “guts” in the box score. He played on six of 11 Notre Dame Possessions and threw for 171 yards and a touchdown. But with the game on the line, he hit his big TE Kyle Rudolph on fourth down to give the Irish yet another thrilling victory.
The rushing game also stepped up big for ND. As a team, they rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns, led by Robert Hughes’ 68 yards. Dayne Crist, who stepped in for the injured Clausen, managed the game effectively, and never turned the ball over. And that’s all you want from a backup. Grade: B
Defense: They were challenged by defensive coordinator Corwin Brown going into this matchup, and for the most part, they played okay. Purdue only had seven points entering the fourth quarter, but then garnered two quick scoring drives. The Irish rush defense was sensational, as they held one of the nation’s leading rushers, Ralph Bolden, to a mere 67 yards.
The secondary still needs a lot of work though. Purdue QB Joey Elliot threaded the Irish for 289 yards and three touchdowns. But as the saying goes; an eye for an eye, right? Two weeks ago, the defense bailed out the offense. This time, the defense needed the offense to seal the game. Grade: B-
Special Teams: Nick Tausch connected on his only field goal try (39 yards) and was perfect on PATs. Theo Riddick didn’t have a sensational day returning kicks, but did have an exciting 35 yarder on Notre Dame’s first possession. The punting game wasn’t anything spectacular, especially with that costly kick catching interference called on them in the fourth quarter. Grade: B-
Overall: A win is a win and I’m not sure if anybody understands that better than the Fighting Irish. They took advantage of a questionable timeout by Purdue coach Danny Hope in the waning seconds of the game and escaped with another nail biting win. But hey, we’re not complaining. Grade: B