Notre Dame has mastered winning ugly early in the 2021 season, but the key is the Irish keep winning, this time beating Purdue by a 27-13 score in a game Notre Dame didn't break open until late in the fourth quarter. But at the end of the game the Irish won its 26th consecutive home game and remained unbeaten.
Purdue got the scoring started thanks to a short field after Notre Dame's first drive stalled. The Boilermakers went 32 yards on 10 plays to take an early 3-0 lead on a Mitchell Fineran 34-yard field goal.
The Notre Dame offense - which had started fast in its first two games - struggled to get anything going early in the game. A struggling offensive line continued to give up pressure and the pass game could not get into rhythm in the early portions of the game.
Head coach Brian Kelly had the offense go for it on 4th-and-3 early in the second quarter in hopes of finding a spark, and quarterback Jack Coan fit a short throw to running back Kyren Williams, who made a defender miss before racing 39 yards for a touchdown.
A quick three-and-out got the the offense the ball back, and the Irish converted another fourth down, this time thanks to a penalty, to set up a 28-yard field goal for Jonathan Doerer.
The Irish defense continued to shut Purdue down in the first half, forcing a second straight three-and-out, which gave the offense the ball in Purdue territory, but a false start was followed by a third-down incompletion and a missed 45-yard field goal.
Purdue opened the scoring in the second half, making it a 10-6 score after Fineran nailed a 34-yard field goal following an eight-play drive.
Coan responded with a beautiful post throw to Avery Davis that ended with Davis crossing the goal line from 62 yards out to make it a 17-6 game.
A defense that had controlled the action for much of the game once again fell victim to big plays, as a missed tackle from cornerback Clarence Lewis led to a 31-yard run by Purdue back King Doerue. That was followed up by a 32-yard gain to standout receiver David Bell to give the Boilermakers the ball inside the 10-yard line. The defense seemed to buckle down but an unnecessary pass interference by Lewis on third-down gave the Boilers a first-and-goal that was immediately turned into a 2-yard scoring pass from Jack Plummer to Milton Wright.
After the teams traded punts the Irish got on the board with a Doerer field goal to make it 20-13 early in the fourth quarter on a drive that was sparked by a 19-yard catch and run by Chris Tyree and another third-down connection between Coan and Davis.
Notre Dame had a chance to break the game open on its next series. The Irish defense forced a three-and-out and the offense took over at the Purdue 39-yard line. Coan hit wideout Braden Lenzy on a post route in the end zone but the Irish wideout dropped the pass.
A Jay Bramblett punt pinned Purdue at its own 1-yard line, but a quick strike over the middle from Plummer to Jackson Anthrop beat the Irish linebackers and gave the Boilermakers some breathing room, but the Irish forced back-to-back incompletions to force a punt.
Williams returned the punt 23 yards to give the offense another drive with great field position.
Williams wasn't done.
The struggling Irish run game finally broke free on the first play of the ensuing drive when Williams cut back behind great blocks by Tosh Baker and Zeke Correll, broke some tackles, made some defenders miss and then sprinted to the end zone for a 51-yard back breaking score that put the Irish up 27-13 with 6:05 left in the game.
Williams and Davis were the stars for the Irish offense, which relied on big plays to beat the Boilermakers. Williams rushed for 91 yards and a score to go with 147 yards through the air and another score. Davis led the offense with 120 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Purdue came into the game averaging 39.5 points per game and 480 yards per game, but the Irish shut the Boilers offense down, limiting them to 13 points and 348 yards offense.
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