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Notre Dame holds off Purdue 23-12

Published 1:30pm Sunday, September 5, 2010

Notre Dame's Darrin Walls celebrates his interception on Saturday against Purdue. The Fighting Irish defeated the Boilermakers 23-12. (Daily Star Photo/KELLEY SWEENEY)
Notre Dame's Darrin Walls celebrates his interception on Saturday against Purdue. The Fighting Irish defeated the Boilermakers 23-12. (Daily Star Photo/KELLY SWEENEY)

By SCOTT NOVAK

Niles Daily Star

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Brian Kelly era got off to a successful start as Notre Dame held off Purdue 23-12 at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday.

Like the previous three coaches before him (Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis), Kelly begins his career with a win.

After dominating the first half, the Fighting Irish had to hold off a hard charging Boilermaker squad in the final 30 minutes.

Notre Dame (1-0) ran up a 13-3 first half advantage, but Purdue was able to make a game of it in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 20-12 with 11:55 remaining in the contest.

But the Fighting Irish defense stepped up its play and contained the Boilermakers the rest of the game.

“We had talked on the sideline that, look, we put you in a bad situation here,” Kelly said about his defense. “We are putting it on your shoulders. Brian Smith had to play a lot of dog. Darius Fleming was out virtually the whole game with cramping. (Prince) Shembo couldn’t go. It was truly a next man in from a defensive standpoint.  (Jamoris) Slaughter didn’t play very much at all in the second half.  Zeke was forced in. I just think our depth defensively really slowed itself, and when you’re going with

your thirds and fourths, I think it shows that, you know, our guys get that we need them all this year to play for us, and they came up big.”

After holding Purdue and forcing a punt with 8:17 left to play, the Notre Dame offense regained its first half form and turned a 10-play, 39-yard drive into a David Ruffer 37-yard field goal that made it a two-score game with 4:30 remaining.

The drive, which capped the scoring, used 3:47 off the clock.

The Fighting Irish got the ball rolling in the opening quarter when Armando Allen raced 22-yards for the score – a career best.

Notre Dame upped its advantage to 10-0 when Ruffer connected from 22-yards out with 11:09 to play in the first half.

The Boilermakers (0-1) cut the lead to 10-3 with a Carson Wiggs 25-yard field goal, but that would be as close as Purdue would get until the fourth quarter.

Ruffer was called upon again with 43 ticks left on the stadium clock and he delivered with a career best 46-yarder and finished the day a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra points.

“I was obviously very pleased with our kicking game today,” Kelly said. “Ruffer effort came through. We concerned ourselves with his operation. We were never concerned about his leg strength and his ability to obviously get it through the goal post. Nick (Tausch) is a very good kicker, too. We think we are blessed that we have two guys that we can count on throughout the year, but he was big today. “

Freshman T.J. Jones made his presence felt in his first game for the Fighting Irish by catching three balls for 41 yards and a 5-yard touchdown in the third quarter that lifted Notre Dame to a 20-3 advantage.

The Purdue defense turned a bad situation into a score to open the fourth quarter.

After Notre Dame’s Ian Williams picked off Robert Marve on a fourth-and-one at the Notre Dame five-yard line, the Boilermakers tackles running Allen in the end zone on the very next play for a safety.

The Purdue offense fed off that defensive score and finally found the end zone when Marve scrambled out of the pocket for a 23-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 20-12 with 11:55 to play.

But the Boilermakers would not get anywhere near the end zone the rest of the game as the Notre Dame defense took over and sealed the victory.

“I thought they were aggressive,” Kelly added about his defense. “We can get better.  We missed a lot of tackles today and there’s some key players on our team that missed a lot of tackles today that when they go back and look at it, they will go, wow, that was not very good. We played aggressively. We played fast. We competed for the ball. And obviously had some huge stops in a short field. Any time you can do that, you can feed off that energy, and I thought we had great energy on defense today.”

The Fighting Irish finished the day with 358 yards in total offense, including 205 yards through the air.

Dayne Crist in his first start at Notre Dame went 19-of-26 with a touchdown and no interceptions.

Allen finished with 98 yards on 18 carries and a score as the Irish amassed 153 yards on the ground.

Cierre Woods, who did not play a down in 2009, finished with 58 yards on seven carries.

Michael Floyd led the team with five receptions and 82 yards, while Kyle Rudolph finished with five catches for 43 yards.

Purdue despite an inconsistent performance on offense, finished with 322 yards in total yards. The Boilermakers ran for 102 yards and threw for 220.

Marve, also making his first career start for Purdue, finished the game 31-of-42 with two interceptions.

Keith Smith had 12 catches for 80 yards. Dan Dierking led the ground game with 56 yards on nine carries.

Notre Dame will now turn its focus to rival Michigan, a 30-10 winner in its season opener against Connecticut.

The Fighting Irish will need to find a way to slow down the Wolverines’ sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson, who ran for 197 yards and threw for 186 yards.

“You learn a lot about your team after a game like this, and in particular, it wasn’t ‑‑ you know, it wasn’t a warm‑up game,” Kelly said. “We went right into the Big Ten and played a Big Ten rival in Purdue. And you learn a lot about your football team today.

“So a lot of things that we have got to work on, there’s no question about that. Clearly, what I was very pleased with that we battled, for four quarters. I told them, if you just give me great effort for four quarters, we’ll find a way to get it into the house. Now, we are going to have to get in a little bit more assertively at times, but that’s going to come. We are going to continue to develop and if we can be a better football team as we learn down the road when we are putting these kinds of positions again to close out games, I think we’ll be able to do it,” he added.

Notre Dame and Michigan will play at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday.

Purdue 0 3 0 9 – 12

Notre Dame 7 10 0 3 – 23

ND – Armando Allen 22 run (David Ruffer kick)

ND – Ruffer 22 field goal

P – Carson Wiggs 25 field goal

ND – Ruffer 46 field goal

ND – T.J. Jones 5 pass from Dayne Crist (Ruffer kick)

P – Safety

P – Robert Marve 23 run (Wiggs kick)

ND – Ruffer 37 field goal

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