Sept. 27, 2008
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame’s offense answered coach Charlie Weis’ challenge.
The Fighting Irish put together their most productive third quarter of the season, scoring three touchdowns behind Jimmy Clausen’s passing and Armando Allen Jr.’s running, in a 38-21 victory over Purdue on Saturday.
Notre Dame hadn’t scored in the third quarter this season and were tied 14-14 with Purdue at halftime.
“Basically I told them, ‘This is the most important drive of the season here,”‘ Weis said of the opening drive of the second half. “Because that game could have gone either way at that point.”
Notre Dame (3-1), which entered the game averaging 78 yards rushing a game rushing, ran for 90 yards in the third quarter against Purdue (2-2).
Allen Jr., who ran for a career-high 134 yards on 17 carries, had a 21-yard run to set up his 16-yard TD run. He then had two runs of 21 yards on the next possession to help set up Notre Dame’s next score, a 5-yard pass from Clausen to Kyle Rudolph.
Clausen passed for a career-high 275 yards and three touchdowns.
When Purdue cut the lead to one touchdown on a 54-yard TD pass from Curtis Painter to Desmond Tardy, the Irish answered with a 30-yard TD from Clausen to David Grimes.
“The response they had in the third quarter was probably the probably the most significant part of this football game,” Weis said.
Tardy had 10 catches for 175 yards.
The Irish ran for 201 yards on 40 carries. Purdue coach Joe Tiller said because of his team’s lack of depth at linebacker he wasn’t surprised to see the Irish run the ball so often.
“We played an awful lot of nickel defense, and if I’m coaching against a team that’s going to play nickel all the time, I’m going to run it. At least I’m going to run it more than I normally run,” he said.
The Boilermakers fell to 1-15 at Notre Dame Stadium since 1976. The loss also left Tiller, who is retiring after the season, with a 5-7 record against the Irish. Purdue had lost 11 straight to Notre Dame before Tiller arrived.
Allen, who had run for 71 yards on 24 carries coming into the game, had the five longest runs of his career.
“I said, ‘Where you’ve been?” Weis said.
Allen said, “It feels great to go out there and prove to people what I’m capable of.”
Irish guard Eric Olsen said it wasn’t surprising.
“He has great vision, and for his size, he has great power,” Olsen said. “When he gets his legs churning it’s hard to bring him down.”
Clausen’s previous career-high was 246 yards passing against Air Force. Michael Floyd added six catches for 100 yards and Golden Tate caught a touchdown pass.
Weis said Clausen made good decisions and threw the ball away when he needed to.
“It seemed like every ball we had a chance of making a play on. I thought he had a good day,” Weis said.
Clausen, using a no-huddle offense, was 20-of-35 passes with no interceptions,
“I know I’m capable of doing stuff like this, it was just a matter of time and preparation and practice,” Clausen said.
Purdue linebacker Anthony Heygood said the Boilermakers just gave up too many big plays.
“We’re a talented defense and we know we can play much, much better than we did today,” he said.
Painter was 29-of-55 passing for 359 yards and two touchdowns for Purdue as he kept the Irish off balance in the first half. But the Irish defense came up with some big plays, including a 47-yard interception return by cornerback Robert Blanton.
“We missed some opportunities early,” Painter said. “We got behind a team that was doing some things well and really had to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Weis said the win was big for the Irish.
“The confidence continues to grow,” he said. “I’d say it’s huge.”