Beyond the Boxscore: Notre Dame Picks Up Win After Early Struggles

-Notre Dame Gets Going to Avoid Upset and Uses Big Plays to Clinch It

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish stayed undefeated on Saturday with a 27-13 win over their in-state foes, the Purdue Boilermakers. Some definite bumps in the road were still evident after the victory, though this win didn’t require either overtime or a dramatic last-minute drive to send Irish fans home happy.

The victory tied Brian Kelly with the iconic Knute Rockne for wins at Notre Dame and gives the Irish a boost as they face a challenging pair of contests in their next two outings.

Below are some key aspects to the win:

Slow Start

Unlike their first two games, when they scored a touchdown on their opening drive, Notre Dame was struggling to get their footing during the early going against Purdue. During their first three drives, the Irish gained a total of 11 yards, with a pair of three-and-outs beginning and ending that stretch.

After allowing a sack on the first play of the game and narrowly avoiding a turnover on their second drive, Notre Dame’s stagnant beginning no doubt raised a level of concern among the Irish faithful. On Purdue’s first series, solid field position at just past midfield allowed them to put together a 10-play drive that gave them an early 3-0 advantage.

Positive Momentum

In the final three minutes of the opening quarter, Purdue again began a series with field position in Notre Dame territory. Facing a fourth-and-one at the Irish 34, the Boilermakers went for it and appeared on the verge of extending their drive until Kyle Hamilton‘s clutch stop behind the line gave the ball back to Notre Dame.

The Irish needed just five plays to go for 66 yards, with Jack Coan managing to tightly connect with Kyren Williams between two defenders, and Williams then running untouched for a 39-yard score. The next Notre Dame drive took 10 plays and resulted in a 28-yard Jonathan Doerer field goal that gave the Irish a 10-3 halftime lead.

Defensive Rubberband

While Notre Dame defenders allowed 348 yards in the game, they were largely able to keep the Purdue offense in check by allowing only one touchdown all afternoon. That score was set up by a temporary breakdown in which the Boilermakers collected 63 yards on back-to-back plays and committed pass interference on a third-down play near the goal line.

Otherwise, Purdue was either kept off the scoreboard or had to work to earn their points. On their two field goals, they needed 10 and nine plays, respectively, to collect just three points each time. The final two drives by the Boilermakers were ended by interceptions, while the Irish pass rush also making another key contribution by collecting three sacks during the game.

Kyren Kills

Prior to Saturday’s game, running back Kyren Williams offered a pair of solid performances, though neither game particularly stood out. That changed against Purdue when Williams scored a touchdown on the ground and through the air and did it in game-breaking fashion.

The first score helped shake the Irish from their lethargy, thanks to smooth maneuvering by Williams. The second tally offered Notre Dame some breathing room in the fourth quarter, when he dashed 51 yards on the first play of the drive to make it 27-13 with just over six minutes left. For the day, he gained 91 yards on 12 carries and 47 yards on two receptions.

Blemishes Need Clearing Up

Notre Dame racked up their third win of the year, but the performance wasn’t necessarily a work of art. To start, the Irish were flagged eight times for 61 yards, including three false start penalties. Two of those were called on tackle Tosh Baker, who was the latest starter on the makeshift offensive line.

While Notre Dame was slightly outgained in total yardage, a more glaring negative stat would undoubtedly be the struggles they experienced on third down. They managed to convert on just four of 17 occasions after managing a 50 percent success rate during the first two contests.

Next Up

The Irish head to Soldier Field for next Saturday’s big matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers for the first meeting between the two schools since 1964. The Badgers had the luxury of a bye week and will look to notch their first big win of the season. They lost their season opener to Penn State before bouncing back on September 11 against Eastern Michigan with a 34-7 victory. Badgers head coach Paul Chryst is in his seventh season as Wisconsin head coach and enters the game with a 57-20 mark.

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