Purdue 28, Notre Dame 17
September 13, 1997 – Ross-Ade Stadium

by Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – What happened here was no fluke. Purdue’s 28-17 victory over Notre Dame was not one of those college football glitches that happen a couple times each season.

It was a combination of an innovative Boilermaker offense and an Irish team that failed to live up to coach Bob Davie’s promise to always “play to win.”

“There’s no question right now we’re embarrassed as a coaching staff,” Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said. “We’re embarrassed as a football team. This certainly was no fluke. Purdue deserved to win that football game. I give them a lot of credit.”

What he gave the Irish, almost sure to disappear from any national polls, was plenty of blame.

He blamed the offense – though it generated 457 yards, it scored only 17 points. He blamed the defense – confused at times with Purdue’s intricate, pass-oriented attack. He blamed the special teams – giving up crucial yardage because of a penalty on a kickoff and failing to make any big plays in the return game.

“There are so many things,” Davie said. “There’s certainly enough blame for everyone. I’ve tried to send a message to our players. There’s only so much. There’s only so much organization. There’s only so much preparation. There comes a point when you just have to do it.”

Purdue did it, in almost every phase of the game. Boiler quarterback Billy Dicken, working under the new high-risk, high-return system of coach Joe Tiller, was phenomenal. Dicken (26-of-39 for 352 yards) and Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus (31-of-43 for 293 yards) both had career-best days. But it was Dicken who made his numbers count the most.

“We won this game for ourselves,” Dicken said. “You have to want to be the person under pressure. I like that role. This is definitely the best win I’ve had here.”

With everything else that went on throughout the game, one play was a telling factor. Trailing 14-10 with 8:37 left in the game, the Irish had the ball second-and-five on their own 39. Powlus rolled out right on a naked screen and felt he had some room to run. Purdue’s Roosevelt Colvin hit him from behind and knocked the ball loose. Safety Adrian Beasley scooped up the ball and ran 43 yards for a 21-10 lead.

“I was just trying to make a play,” Powlus said. “I got hit from behind and the ball came out. I have no idea what it looked like.”

It looked like the entire game looked – a jumble of confusion. So many glaring problems surfaced in the game that left both teams at 1-1.

– Purdue’s first touchdown came on a 99-yard drive in which three long gains were aided by missed tackles. Tailback Edwin Watson had a 24-yard run and a 28-yard reception on a pass during an Irish blitz. Watson then scored from a yard out.

– A special teams goof by Deveron Harper, in which he was called for a late hit after a 34-yard Jim Sanson field goal, gave Purdue the ball at the 50. A 17-yard shovel pass to tailback Kendall Matthews and an interference call on linebacker Ronnie Nicks set up Watson to score again from a yard out.

Irish tailback Autry Denson added some stability to the offense. He rushed for 52 yards in an 84-yard drive that cut the difference to 14-10. His 16-yard touchdown run was the first of two for the game. He finished with 104 yards on the ground.

“I can’t pinpoint things, but we’re not getting the job done,” Denson said. “This is a veteran team. We’re not getting the job done. There are no excuses.”

Notre Dame had an opportunity to move within a point, but passed it up. With the score 14-10 in the third quarter, the Irish got the ball to the Purdue 18-yard line with a fourth-and-five situation. Instead of trying a 35-yard field goal that could cut the score to 14-13, the Irish elected to go for it. As the Boilers blitzed, Powlus threw a quick pass in the flat to a covered fullback Joey Goodspeed. The pass fell incomplete.

Purdue never cashed in on the momentum from the stop. An interception by Irish linebacker Kory Minor gave the Irish another shot at midfield. That one sputtered after a penalty, two incomplete passes and a running play that lost yardage.

Purdue missed a 34-yard field goal after a 15-play, 63-yard drive, but again the Irish failed to capitalize. Notre Dame’s next possession was the one that ended with Powlus’ fumble that Beasley returned for a TD.

Scoring Summary

Notre Dame 0 10 0 7 – 17Purdue 7 7 0 14 – 28

First Quarter
PU: Edwin WATSON 1 run (Shane RYAN PAT), 4:30 left. Drive: 99 yards, 11 plays, 4:29 elapsed after Notre Dame punt. Key play: Billy Dicken to Brian Alford for 13 on 3rd and 9 from the PU 2. Score: Purdue 7, Notre Dame 0.

Second Quarter
ND: Jim SANSON 34 FG, 8:49 left. Drive: 60 yards, 11 plays, 3:48 elapsed after Purdue punt. Key play: Ron Powlus to Malcolm Johnson for 14 on 3rd and 7 from the PU 44. Score: Purdue 7, Notre Dame 3.

PU: WATSON 1 run (RYAN PAT), 6:28 left. Drive: 50 yards, 5 plays, 2:21 elapsed after Notre Dame kickoff. Key play: Chris Clopton 33 kickoff return followed by Notre Dame personal foul penalty, giving Purdue the ball at midfield. Score: Purdue 14, Notre Dame 3.

ND: Autry DENSON 16 run (SANSON PAT), 2:39 left. Drive: 84 yards, 9 plays, 3:49 elapsed after Purdue kickoff. Key play: Powlus 7 run on 3rd and 6 from the PU 32. Score: Purdue 14, Notre Dame 10.

Fourth Quarter
PU: Adrian BEASLEY 43 fumble return (RYAN PAT), 8:37 left. Score: Purdue 21, Notre Dame 10.

ND: DENSON 1 pass from POWLUS (SANSON PAT), 1:47 left. Drive: 71 yards, 11 plays, 3:06 elapsed after Purdue missed field goal. Key play: Powlus to Denson for 10 on 4th and 9 from the PU 38. Score: Purdue 21, Notre Dame 17.

PU: Kendall MATTHEWS 2 run (RYAN PAT), 1:02 left. Drive: 42 yards, 3 plays, 0:45 elapsed after Notre Dame kickoff. Key play: Dicken to Vinny Sutherland for 38 on 2nd and 8 from the ND 40. Score: Purdue 28, Notre Dame 17.

Attendance – 68,789 (sellout)


ND PUFirst Downs 26 25Rushing 10 8Passing 16 16Penalty 0 1Rushing Attempts 41 34Yards Rushing 191 151Yards Lost Rushing 27 18Net Yards Rushing 164 133Net Yards Passing 293 352Passes Attempted 43 40Passes Completed 31 26Had Intercepted 0 1Total Offensive Plays 84 74Total Net Yards 457 485Average Gain Per Play 5.4 6.6Fumbles: Number-Lost 2-1 0-0Penalties: Number-Yards 8-67 7-60Number of Punts-Yards 6-261 5-228Average Per Punt 43.5 45.6Punt Returns: Number-Yards 1-13 2-19Kickoff Returns: Number-Yards 5-91 2-33Interceptions: Number-Yards 1-33 0-0Fumble Returns: Number-Yards 0-0 1-43Possession Time: 38:51 21:09Third Down Conversions 7-16 6-12Fourth Down Conversions 1-2 0-0Sacks by: Number-Yards 3-16 1-7

Notre Dame

RUSHING ATT GAIN LOST NET TD LGAutry Denson 22 112 8 104 1 18Ron Powlus 7 37 12 25 0 14Joey Goodspeed 6 29 5 24 0 14Jamie Spencer 3 6 0 6 0 3Allen Rossum 1 4 0 4 0 4Clement Stokes 2 3 2 1 0 3

PASSING ATT COMP INT YDS TD LGRon Powlus 43 31 0 293 1 23

RECEIVING RECPT YARDS TD LGBobby Brown 7 76 0 23Autry Denson 7 54 1 11Malcolm Johnson 4 50 0 16Dan O’Leary 4 49 0 16Jamie Spencer 4 22 0 14Ken Barry 2 19 0 11Mike Denvir 1 15 0 15Joey Goodspeed 1 4 0 4Raki Nelson 1 4 0 4

PUNTING NUM YARDS AVG LGHunter Smith 6 261 43.5 58

RETURNS PR KO INTSAutry Denson 1-13 2-34 -Kory Minor – – 1-33Allen Rossum 1-0 3-57 –


RUSHING ATT GAIN LOST NET TD LGKendall Matthews 12 56 0 56 1 11Edwin Watson 9 34 0 34 2 23Billy Dicken 10 38 16 22 0 12Isaac Jones 1 20 0 20 0 20Vinny Sutherland 2 3 2 1 0 3

PASSING ATT COMP INT YDS TD LGBilly Dicken 39 26 1 352 0 47Isaac Jones 1 0 0 0 0 0

RECEIVING RECPT YARDS TD LGVinny Sutherland 8 100 0 38Brian Alford 5 65 0 26Isaac Jones 4 82 0 47Edwin Watson 4 44 0 28Kendall Matthews 3 42 0 17Willie Tillman 2 19 0 15

PUNTING NUM YARDS AVG LGDanny Rogers 2 88 44.0 45Brandon Kaser 3 140 46.7 48

RETURNS PR KO INTSBrian Alford 2-19 – -Robert Tolbert – 1-0 -Chris Clopton – 1-33 –