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Week 2: Purdue

Mike Monaco | Sunday, September 9, 2012

With two minutes and 12 seconds remaining in the game, Notre Dame’s quarterback led the Irish down the field and into position for a game-winning 27-yard field goal to beat Purdue 20-17 Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. But it was not the quarterback everyone expected – sophomore starter Everett Golson. Rather, it was junior Tommy Rees.

Rees, who was suspended for last week’s season opener against Navy, replaced Golson on the team’s final drive with the score knotted at 17. He led Notre Dame (2-0) on a 12-play, 55-yard drive that culminated with the field goal from sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza.

“The story for me as the head coach is our mantra: next man in,” Irish coach Brian Kelly
said. “We had seven guys go down today. Our key players. We had two captains go
down. A leader in the secondary in [graduate student] Jamoris Slaughter. Our guys just
kept fighting. The next guy came in and battled. And as you know, the story finishes
with Tommy Rees coming in for Golson and leading us on a two-minute drive to win the
game.”

Golson led the Irish offense for much of the game, going 21-for-31 for 289 yards and one touchdown through the air. But the sophomore fumbled inside his own 20-yard line with 3:24 left in the game. The miscue led to the game-tying touchdown for Purdue (1-1) with 2:12 remaining in the game and left Golson with an injured hand.

Rees was that next man in for the Irish. The junior completed three of his eight passes on the game-winning drive, including two critical third-down conversions to keep the chains moving. Although he came in cold off the bench, Kelly said Rees is the type of mentally tough player that can lead the team in any situation.

“That’s what I knew about him and his makeup, his moxie, his mental toughness,” Kelly said. “Does he have all of the elite skills? No. But he’s a gamer. He’ll do anything.”

While Kelly was pleased with Rees’ mentality, the coach cleared up any potential quarterback controversy when he announced Golson as next week’s starter against Michigan State.

After a scoreless first quarter, Notre Dame struck first with 3:45 left in the first half when Golson scrambled to his right and dove toward the end zone, extending the ball over the goal line for a three-yard rushing touchdown.

The Boilermakers tied the game at seven with just nine seconds remaining in the first half when senior quarterback Robert Marve connected on a two-yard touchdown pass with senior receiver Antavian Edison.

The Irish responded on their first drive of the second half with a 65-yard drive, 50 of which came through the air, including a three-yard touchdown pass from Golson to junior receiver T.J. Jones. Senior captain and left tackle Zach Martin said the team knew Purdue would attempt to shut down the Notre Dame rushing attack that gashed Navy for 293 yards in week one. The Irish were held to just 52 yards on 32 carries and, as a result, the passing attack needed to rise to the occasion.

“We knew they were going to load the box,” Martin said. “If they were going to do that, we were going to put the ball in [Golson's] hand.”

Purdue coach Danny Hope echoed that sentiment.

“I thought our defensive front shut down their run game for the most part today,” Hope said. “I think out of necessity they had to throw it today.”

With the Irish repeatedly going to the air, Purdue’s defensive line went after Golson with reckless abandon, recording five sacks despite Golson’s elusiveness.

In a similar vein, the Notre Dame defense was stout throughout the game, even though Slaughter, graduate student defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, freshman defensive end Sheldon Day and sophomore linebacker Ishaq Williams all left the game with injuries.

“Losing [Lewis-Moore] and Slaughter early in the game was a big loss for our team,” Irish senior captain and linebacker Manti Te’o said. “But the guys who backed them up really came in and did a great job for us and helped us come out with a victory today.”

Though Kelly said none of the injuries are expected to be long-term issues, the Irish turned to other players to step up and make plays.

Sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt continued his strong start to the season with two sacks, giving him four total for the year. Te’o led the Irish with 10 tackles, and junior defensive tackle Louis Nix had two vital pass deflections at the line of scrimmage.

After the Jones touchdown made it 14-7, Irish junior cornerback Bennett Jackson snatched his first career interception and set Notre Dame up at the Purdue 20-yard line.

Brindza drained a 30-yard field goal, but the Boilermakers made one of their own at the start of the fourth quarter to cut the Notre Dame lead to 17-10.

From there the two teams traded punts back and forth, before Golson coughed the ball up late in the fourth quarter.

Purdue took over at the Notre Dame 15-yard line and eventually faced fourth-and-10 from the 15. Senior quarterback Caleb TerBush stood calmly in the pocket and delivered a strike to Edison for the touchdown. The extra point tied the game at 17.

After Rees led the Irish down the field, Brindza – who was filling in for injured senior starter Nick Tausch – nailed the game-winner to put Notre Dame on top 20-17.

“48 hours ago we had an injury to Tausch,” Kelly said. “[Brindza] had to step in. That’s why I’m so proud of my guys. Next m
an in. Went in and got the job done.”

The Irish will look to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 2002 when they travel to East Lansing, Mich., on Saturday to face Michigan State at 8 p.m.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu