Surprising Purdue took a 17-10 lead on 21st ranked Notre Dame to the 4th quarter at Ross-Ade Stadium. But the Fighting Irish scored three touchdowns in 3:29 early in the final quarter, then ran out the final 7:22 on the game clock to beat the Boilermakers, 31-24.
"I really like the way they fought and some of the things that came out tonight," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of his team. "Tommy Rees settling in in the second half and really showing veteran leadership, the ability to run the ball late to close out a game against a very good front four."
After a slow start, Rees completed 20-of-33 for 309 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. The senior quarterback opened the fourth quarter with a 9 yard touchdown pass to DaVaris Daniels that tied the game at 17. Just over two minutes later, he found Daniels again, this time deep down the sideline for an 82 yard score. Daniels tight roped the sideline to stay inbounds and give the Irish their first lead of the game at 24-17 with 12:40 to go.
"We had a good match up with DaVaris outside," said Rees. "He can go and run. Just put the ball out there for him and he'll go run and make a play. I didn't really see it, but he had a great run after the catch to stay inbounds."
"We had all the momentum," said Daniels, who finished with eight catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns. "You could feel it in the crowd and their players a little bit. It was fun. That's how you got to play. We've got to play like that throughout the game and not just one half."
Notre Dame (2-1) took control when Bennett Jackson stepped in front of a Rob Henry pass and returned the interception 34 yards for a touchdown, completing the scoring burst that quickly and completely turned the game around. Notre Dame led 31-17 with 11:18 left in the game.
"It's huge," said Jackson. "I was ecstatic about it. I know the team was fired up."
Notre Dame was favored to win by three touchdowns. But Purdue (1-2) jumped in front 10-0. Senior quarterback Rob Henry found Akeem Hunt for a 15 yards touchdown pass on the Boilermakers opening drive. Henry finished the game 25-for-40 passing for 256 yards and three touchdowns, all career bests. The interception ruined what was otherwise his best game as a Boiler.
Paul Griggs made a career long 47 yard field goal in the second quarter. Purdue led 10-3 at the half. But Notre Dame outscored Purdue 28-14 in the 4th quarter. The Irish have beaten Purdue six straight years. Purdue is now 0-4 against Notre Dame in night games.