Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Irish put it all together (pretty much) vs. Purdue

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. --- His team's performance in a 38-10 victory over Purdue on Saturday night was what Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had in mind when he went public with this team's BCS bowl aspirations before the season.

The Fighting Irish dominated Purdue in every phase, racking up 551 yards and --- most importantly --- did not turn the ball over after a turnover-plagued first four games was threatening to define their season. Running back Cierre Wood had 191 rushing yards and receiver Michael Floyd 137 yards receiving yards.

Quarterback Tommy Rees, who played poorly in the first half against Pittsburgh last week, completed 24 of 40 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns while guiding an offense that finished with 34 first downs, two shy of the school record of 36 first downs against Navy in 1974.

"There's a lot left for us," running back Jonas Gray said. "We haven't scratched the service of the firepower we can bring."

The game couldn't have started out better for Notre Dame (3-2). Irish cornerback Gary Gray intercepted quarterback Caleb TerBush on Purdue's first offensive play. One play later, Rees hit Floyd in stride for a 35-yard touchdown that quieted the crowd of 61,555 at Ross-Ade Stadium just 24 seconds into the game.

The Boilermakers were penalized four times on Notre Dame's second scoring drive, for example, including an unsportsmanlike conduct after an incomplete pass by Rees on third-and-goal from the Purdue 10. Purdue would be penalized for holding on the next play, setting up Gray's 2-yard touchdown run that made it 14-0 with three seconds left in the opening quarter.

From that point forward, when the Boilermakers (2-2) weren't being overwhelmed they were self-destructing. Purdue had 13 penalties for 118 yards .

Notre Dame's domination continued in the third quarter when Rees completed 4 of 4 passes for 46 yards on a seven-play, 69-yard drive that ended with the sophomore hitting tight end Tyler Eifert in the end zone to make it 28-3 with 12:00 minutes left in the third. Eifert's father played on ex-Purdue coach Gene Keady's first Big Ten champion basketball team.

"That was big for us to march down the field after the half," Eifert said. "I don't think we've done that all season."

Notre Dame's defense continued its season-long trend of shutting down opposing offenses. Purdue managed just three first downs and 126 total yards at halftime. The Boilermakers finished with 276 total yards, but 95 of those came on a drive that resulted in Purdue scoring in the final seconds and making the game appear closer than it was.

Notre Dame kicker David Ruffer had one field goal blocked and missed a 49-yarder. They also had eight penalties for 85 yards, which will give Kelly something to harp about as the team begins preparations for Air Force.

"We can't take a deep breath and say we've arrived," Kelly said. "Air Force can beat us."

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on October 2, 2011 10:21 AM.

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