No fistpumps. No singing. Just a big sigh of relief from Irish fans.
Despite losing some key players and faced with adversity, Everett Golson threw for 259 yards and a pair of scores in addition to running for another as Notre Dame survived a physical contest with Purdue, 30-14, in Indianapolis.
The game looked set to be a rout early, as the Irish drove down the field with ease on their opening possession, as Golson found his favorite target in Will Fuller for a score.
But then on a Saturday where things got weird all over the college football landscape, the Irish fell victim to the same.
Purdue moved the ball at will against an Irish front that shut out Michigan the week before. QB Danny Etling was a perfect 7-7 in the first quarter alone and put the Irish on their heels with a pair of first half scoring drives that saw the Irish face their first deficit of the game, 14-10.
But the Irish buckled down and drove for a score to close out the half, moving back into a 17-14 lead.
The Irish defense adjusted very well at the half. Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder tried a mixture of defenses in the first half with limited success and made the right corrections at half. The Irish swarmed Etling in the second half and forced a pair of interceptions that effectively ended any chance at a comeback by the Boilermakers.
But the win came at a cost. Safety Max Redfield was ejected early in the first quarter for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Etling. His replacement, Nicky Baratti, injured his shoulder almost immediately after entering the game. Elsewhere in the defensive backfield, Defensive End Andrew Trumbetti didn't dress for the game, and defensive back Cole Luke also left with an injury.
The biggest loss though was on offense. After having the game of his career, Amir Carlisle left the game with what looked like a significant knee injury, though various reports had him dancing on the sidelines with teammates after the win while he wore a big brace on his leg.
The Irish move to 6-0 in the Shamrock Series and face Syracuse next.
Some thoughts below:
In prime position for a let-down game, the Irish ground out a win
On a day where the eyes of Joe College Football Viewer was focused on the previous weekend's dominant teams playing Goat (USC upset by Boston College, Virginia Tech upset by ECU, Georgia Tech squeaking by Georgia Southern, Pitt being Pitt), the Irish were in a precarious position. Boosted in the rankings by shutting out Michigan, they faced a Purdue team that was rocked the week before by a MAC school (CMU, who lost to Syracuse today, 40-3). Against the Irish, Purdue played with reckless abandon and QB Danny Etling played essentially a flawless first half. Yet the Irish dug in and found a way to win. Key defensive stops in the second half and Golson played a big role in tonight's tough win.
Everett Golson should be a serious Heisman contender
Yep. Gauntlet thrown. You think he had a bad game tonight? Sure, his yards-per-attempt tonight were a paltry 6.5 and his 25-40 completions to attempts was acutely Reesian, but he made plays. Golson found the end zone with his feet yet again, in addition to tossing a pair of scores. Golson also played a very strong second half and his 300+ total individual yards are nothing to sniff at. The Irish's first drive of the game was a thing of beauty as well. Golson is yet to toss a pick and you have to admit at this point that Golson is one of the top QB's in the nation and worthy of the consideration.
Next Man In worked again
Tonight's Irish defense was a revolving door of injuries and ejections. Redfield was ejected and replaced by Baratti, who was replaced himself by Drue Tranquill. Cole Luke, who was replacing Russell at corner, was himself replaced by Devin Butler after an injury. And those players made plays. Butler had his first career interception. Tranquill continues to shine on the defensive side of the ball and Head Coach Brian Kelly's "Next Man In" philosophy was in perfect form tonight.
Outside of Golson's legs, the running game struggled for a second week in a row. Greg Bryant's 4.8 yards per carry is nice, but he only carried the ball 6 times (his two catches were arguably more important and significant). All three Irish backs had 10+ yard long runs, but again didn't move the ball well at all. Might be scheme, might be a struggling offensive line, but whatever the reason, if the Irish want to have a shot at the playoff, they need to find a way to grind out yards on the ground.