Notre Dame played its best game of the season against Purdue and rolled to a 27-13 victory for the team’s 26th consecutive win inside Notre Dame Stadium. With the win, Irish head coach Brian Kelly is now tied with legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne for the program record of 105 wins.
It was a strong performance for the Irish on both sides of the ball, with the offense making big-time plays and the defense playing its best game of the season.
Though Irish quarterback Jack Coan completed just 15 of his 31 pass attempts, he still threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns and led what was a much-improved Notre Dame rushing attack.
Coan believes the Irish offense started to find its groove against the Boilermakers.
“I definitely think we took a step forward today,” Coan said. “We played a more complete game, but at the end of the day we just have to focus on getting more consistent, whether it’s in the pass game and my part or the run game as well. I think if we’re consistent throughout a whole game we’re going to be a pretty difficult offense to stop.”
Fifth-year wide receiver Avery Davis and sophomore running back Kyren Williams were two of the biggest starts offensively for Notre Dame against Purdue. Davis set career highs in receptions with five and receiving yards with 120, and broke the game open with a 62-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Williams was effective in both the pass and run games, catching a quick in cut and taking it 39 yards to the house to put Notre Dame on the board in the second quarter and then making defenders look silly on a 51-yard touchdown run to close out the game in the fourth quarter.
Davis spoke highly of the offense after the game.
“It’s a great feeling. I think we all knew coming out of camp that we have a really talented offense so I think the biggest thing that we preach is be ready when your opportunities come, that was a thing going forward,” Davis said. “It was kind of my day today I guess, my opportunity, my number was called so just wanted to capitalize on that.”
Davis has been a part of the past four double-digit win teams for Notre Dame and both trips to the College Football Playoff, and knew the team wasn’t performing up to standard the previous two weeks.
“I just know how those successful teams in the past have been because there’s not too many guys in the locker room that have been a part of those undefeated teams, those teams that went to the Playoffs, so I know how hard we worked in practice and I just wanted to translate that over and whenever it might be a little low I wanted to bring energy and just say what I needed to say to get the guys going,” Davis said.
Coan was effusive in his praise of Davis after the game.
“AD definitely had a huge game, especially on that post play," Coan said of his slot receiver. "He’s a big-time player and he stepped up in a big moment and he’s a guy I always trust to be in the right spot and doing the right thing. I’m definitely thankful to have him on the team.
“AD is an amazing person and an amazing leader of the team," continued Coan. "There’s a reason he’s a captain and one of the vocal leaders of the offense, when he’s in that huddle with you, you trust him that he’s going to do his job and make sure everyone is on the right page as well.”
Games like Saturday are why Davis returned for another year.
“I come back for moments like these and moments moving forward so right now I’m going to take advantage of it. It’s been a long time coming but I just keep my head on right, keep working and when the opportunity comes I just try to make the most of it.”
For Williams, Saturday was all about bouncing back from last week’s struggles.
“Last week we got a win, but it was a win that I could have taken away from the team, taken away from the program by fumbling the ball so I was mad at myself,” Williams said.
“I was upset at myself but I had to flip that switch immediately if I didn’t want that to repeat again this week," continued Williams. "Coach [Lance] Taylor told me, a lot of people told me, last week are the games that you come back from and really prove who you are as a player, as a leader, as a person. For me to be able to bounce back like I did this week after last week is big for me, it gives myself a lot of confidence.”
Davis didn’t hold back in his appreciation for Williams’ talent.
“He’s insane. His ability to just maneuver through tight spaces to make people miss, his strength to stay up like when you saw #6 get on his back, I was right there running next to him so I got probably the best view of it and it was just incredible,” Davis remembered. “It kind of was, just watching him for a second, I forgot I had to block for him at the same time because he’s just so entertaining man. He’s a really good football player.”
After two games where the Irish rushing attacked appeared out of sorts, against Purdue the team moved the ball more effectively on the ground. Williams is confident with where the offensive line is headed.
“If it wasn’t obvious today, they responded well," Williams said of the line. "I feel like we came out as an offense, and the o-line specifically, they dominated. They went out there and proved themselves each and every down to dominate the person in front of them.
“That’s all we were talking about, we’re keeping it simple in the run game, just go out there and play football and just do what you do best and that’s what they did. They drove people back and gave me and Chris opportunities to make runs happen.”
Defensively, Notre Dame played its best game of the season, giving up its fewest point and total yardage totals for the season.
Fifth-year defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa also thinks the Irish made major strides on Saturday.
“I think the biggest thing coming from the first two weeks our defense lacked a lot of attention to detail, we talked about that a lot," Tagovailoa-Amosa explained. "Coming into this week, our focus as a defense was making sure we close out in the third and fourth quarter.
“We also had a meeting last night with Coach [Marcus] Freeman, the entire defense, and he just told us, ‘Hey our key to victory is making sure we finish,’ and so that was what the guys did today and so I’m proud of them.”
After surrendering double-digit points in the fourth quarter against Florida State and Toledo, Notre Dame held the Boilermakers scoreless in the fourth quarter on Saturday.
“As a defense, we understood that the first two weeks we struggled with closing out games, so having this behind our back it definitely means a lot. It just goes to show that we can do a lot with this defense,” Tagovailoa-Amosa said.
The Irish looked like a complete football team on both sides of the ball against Purdue and have shown much improvement across the board in the two weeks since the season began. If the team can continue to improve at such a high rate, the ceiling for what the Irish can accomplish this season is very high.
The win streak inside Notre Dame Stadium remains intact, and as Tagovailoa-Amosa made clear after the game, the team doesn’t take any of it for granted.
“All the guys know to wear that gold helmet on Saturdays, to run out that tunnel, it’s tradition. It’s just truly a blessing to be out there.”
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