Sept. 29, 2007
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Charlie Weis was looking for something he recognized as winning football. He finally saw it … just not enough of it.
Purdue extended the worst start in Notre Dame history to five losses when Curtis Painter threw two touchdown passes and Chris Summers hit four field goals in a 33-19 win on Saturday.
The Irish fell behind 23-0 at the half, and Weis let his players know he’s tired of playing catch-up.
“This time, I was maybe a little more rough at halftime,” he said. “I’d had about enough. It was a collective effort. Offense, defense, special teams.”
Notre Dame outscored Purdue 19-10 in the second half, something Weis hopes to build on.
“For the first time this year, we played a half of football where you could win,” he said. “That’s closer to winning football.”
Freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw his first career touchdown pass before leaving with an injured hip, and the Irish gained 426 yards, by far their best output of the season.
It’s a start.
Meanwhile, the Boilermakers (5-0) are off to their best start since 2004.
Kory Sheets had 141 yards rushing and Dorien Bryant caught eight passes for 82 yards for Purdue, which hosts No. 8 Ohio State next week.
With Purdue seemingly in control, Notre Dame’s Tom Zbikowski intercepted a pass by Painter on early in the second half, and the Irish took advantage. On a fourth-and-goal at the Purdue 5-yard line, Clausen completed a pass to John Carlson to cut the lead to 23-6.
Purdue got a few gifts from Notre Dame on its next possession. The Irish bailed the Boilermakers out on a third-and-21 with a late hit and Summers’ 29-yard field goal gave the Boilermakers a 26-6 lead. The Irish committed three penalties for 35 yards on the possession.
Clausen limped often in the game, and at times was shuffled in and out of the lineup. Weis expects him to play on Saturday against UCLA. Backup quarterback Evan Sharpley completed 16-of-26 passes for 208 yards, and Golden Tate caught three passes for 104 yards.
They gave Notre Dame a chance early in the fourth quarter with a 43-yard completion on a fourth-and-5 from the Notre Dame 37. Sharpley eventually threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Duval Kamara with 12:43 left to cut Purdue’s lead to 26-12.
On Notre Dame’s next possession, Sharpley completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to a falling Tate to cut Purdue’s lead to 26-19 with 7:58 to go.
Purdue righted itself on the next possession. Four running plays netted 35 yards before Painter connected with tight end Dustin Keller for a 14-yard touchdown.
Notre Dame then drove to the Purdue 18, but Terrell Vinson intercepted Sharpley in the end zone to end the threat. It was Vinson’s second pick of the game.
The Irish converted 4 of 6 fourth downs, including two in their territory in the fourth quarter. Weis said he was playing for the win, no matter what.
“I told them with seven minutes to go if we cut it to seven, if we scored again, we were going to go for two and try and win in regulation,” he said. “Why not go for two?”
Notre Dame will focus on playing a complete game after Weis said they showed potential in the second half.
“If we can do 60 minutes of that, maybe we can come away with a victory,” Sharpley said.
Perhaps, but things don’t get any easier for the Irish who face UCLA, No. 12 Boston College and top-ranked Southern California the next three weeks.
“It’s been tough,” Notre Dame defensive end Trevor Laws said, “but you just have to keep playing and show the young guys how to fight.”