WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — From a defensive standpoint, last week’s bout with Michigan was a night to forget. Aside from last year’s National Championship appearance, Notre Dame’s defense hadn’t allowed that many points to an opponent since the 2011 season.
Things would be much different tonight, though, as the Fighting Irish (3-0) defeated the Boilermakers (1-2) in West Lafayette 34-13. This comes as a relief to the Irish faithful, as many questions loomed around an under-performing, dominant defense.
A season removed from being one of the nation’s best, and after returning eight of its starters, Notre Dame’s once-stingy defense finally found its groove late in the 2nd quarter. Team captain, Bennett Jackson, picked off Purdue quarterback Rob Henry, and took the interception all the way to the house, giving Notre Dame its first touchdown of the game.
That would be all for the half, though, as both defenses held each other to field goals setting up a 10-6 halftime score.
“I was pleased with how our defense responded this week. There was a lot of pressure for them to perform this year, and I think that took away from some of the focus,” head coach Brian Kelly stated after the game. “They had a good week of practice, and they were very persistent in their communication with each other.”
Sophomore safety, Matthias Farley, spoke of the team’s amplified chemistry: “We hate dwelling on the past, especially when the past is forgettable. But, fortunately for us, we have a lot of guys who are willing to learn from mistakes and take the next steps in their own development. I think that was pretty evident tonight.”
Other than a costly miscue that led to a 47-yard touchdown pass early in the 3rd quarter, the Irish held Purdue scoreless in the second half.
Henry, who is coming off of knee surgery, had a difficult time escaping the rushes of Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Jaylon Smith, and Sheldon Day. The four combined for 4 total sacks, making the game nearly unmanageable for Henry. He did finish with 201 passing yards, but the constant pressure created too many missteps for them to ever recover.
Following a Farley fumble recovery deep in Boilermaker territory, starting quarterback Tommy Rees connected with sophomore receiver, Chris Brown, to retake the lead in the 3rd quarter.
The game would get no closer, as Rees connected with true freshman Corey Robinson (son of NBA Hall of Famer, David Robinson), on the ensuing drive.
With the game out of reach for the Boilermakers in the 4th quarter, Cam McDaniel’s only touch generated seven more points for the Irish.
“Take away Bennett’s pick-6, and we have a relatively close game. Our offense needs to be better than that. We’re built on speed. We’re built on getting our playmakers in open space. And we had a difficult time demonstrating either of those tonight,” Kelly said. “We’ve got all the weapons in the world; now it’s time to start putting them to use in live situations. Discipline. Once again, it boils down to discipline.”
After two straight away games, Notre Dame is back home against Michigan State next Saturday. The Spartans come into South Bend boasting a 3-0 record.
*All stats, quotes, and ideas are purely fictional. This is a simulated recap, is for entertainment purposes only, and does not reflect any actual outcome.