INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Everett Golson threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score as No. 11 Notre Dame beat Purdue 30-14 on Saturday night.
The Irish are 3-0 for the second time in three years.
Purdue (1-2) has lost seven straight in this series, which has been played every year since 1946. The two teams will not meet again until 2020.
But, as expected, this game didn’t follow the expected script.
“They play so well every year,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “We knew it was going to be a battle, we lost some players and we battled through it.”
They didn’t have a choice, especially Golson, the senior quarterback who led the Irish to the national championship game two seasons ago and sat out last season.
His 15-yard TD run with 13 seconds left in the first half erased Notre Dame’s only deficit of the season. Golson closed it out by throwing a 15-yard TD pass to Corey Robinson late in the third and leading the Irish to two fourth-quarter field goals.
He was 25 of 40 for 259 yards and rushed 18 times for a season-best 56 yards.
With the already short-handed Irish losing more players to injury and safety Max Redfield to an ejection, and a series of uncharacteristic mistakes, Notre Dame needed Golson to pull out every move he had.
His nifty scramble just before halftime gave Notre Dame the lead for good. In the third quarter, he kept a scoring drive moving by sprinting right and throwing a 17-yard completion to Greg Bryant. Two plays later, he connected with Robinson for the score in the back of the end zone. And Golson ended any hope Purdue had of a comeback with two time-consuming drives in the fourth quarter. Both ended with field goals.
The Irish celebrated by taking home the Shillelagh Trophy yet again and on the verge of cracking the Top 10 for the first time this season after No. 6 Georgia lost to No. 24 South Carolina. But Kelly isn’t sure they’ve lived up to that hype yet.
“We’re still not a finished product by any means, we’re still such a young team,” he said. “At 3-0, we’re extremely pleased with where we are, but we know we’re nowhere close to where we need to be.”
Purdue, which has traditionally performed well against its rival, did it again Saturday — exactly one week after an inexplicably poor showing in a loss to Central Michigan. Quarterback Danny Etling kept the starting job and rewarded coach Darrell Hazell by going 27 of 40 for 234 yards with two touchdowns. He also had two interceptions.
Brandon Cottom scored on a 7-yard TD pass in the first quarter to tie the score, and Etling somehow fit in a 19-yard TD pass to DeAngelo Yancey, who tip-toed the end line despite drawing a pass interference call, to give the Boilermakers a 14-10 lead with 3 minutes left in the first half.
But against Golson’s improv act, it wasn’t nearly enough to derail the unbeaten Irish.
Notre Dame receiver Amir Carlisle left in the first half with what appeared to be a medial collateral ligament injury in his right knee. Redfield was ejected in the second quarter for targeting, safety Nicky Baratti left with a shoulder injury on the next play and starting cornerback Cole Luke left with a neck injury later in the game.
The Irish improved to 6-2 all-time in Indianapolis, though it was the first time the Irish had played in their home state’s capital city since 1984 and only the second time since 1923.
Kelly thought it was a showcase moment for the two winningest Division I programs in the state.
“College football sometimes in Indiana doesn’t get the notoriety it deserves and hopefully a little bit of it was shown on national television tonight,” he said.