Let me be upfront about a couple things. First off, I probably like Purdue more than most Notre Dame fans; at the very least, I’m not as relentlessly condescending and pompous as some of my Irish peers when it comes to discussing the Boilermakers . My sister is a Purdue alum—two sisters actually attended, one graduated—and I can recall (or not recall) many drunken moments spent at Harry’s Chocolate Shop (I went ugly early), T.A. Toms (our Breakfast Clubs during Grand Prix weekend were epic) and various fraternities and sororities (shout out to the Phi Kaps and KKGs). Sure, West Lafayette is somewhat of a dump, but when you’re on a campus surrounded by South Bend, you hardly have room to cast aspersions.
Secondly, I still don’t really respect this year’s Purdue team. To me, Notre Dame’s serial mismanagement of its football program has incapacitated some of you to the point of complete idiocy. No, we should not be afraid of the Boilers.
“But Mac, their defense returns pretty much its entire front seven.”
Uh, would that be the same front seven that was DEAD FREAKING LAST against the run in the Big Ten last season? Open your eyes, people. Purdue’s strength was its pass defense. And how many starting DBs did they lose to graduation in the offseason. ALL FOUR OF THEM!
“But Mac, Miami-transfer Robert Marve is a dangerous weapon at QB.”
So, let me get this straight. Marve had three times the talent at Miami, he had an abysmal 1-1.5 TD-INT ratio while being sacked 18 times, and we’re supposed to assume he’ll come to a team with less talent and suddenly be great? He’ll be throwing to arguably one semi-elite receiver, and Purdue’s best offensive skill player from 2009, running back Ralph Bolden, is out for the year with a torn ACL.
Prediction: Notre Dame by 14+.
But enough about that. The Kelly Era is finally upon us, and I leave it to other more knowledgeable talking heads—i.e. anyone but Desmond Howard—to break down the matchups. For me personally, as I said, Purdue will always hold a soft spot in my heart. I remember attending the ND-Purdue game in ’84, the first-ever football game in the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. It was a disappointing 23-21 loss that finally forced my father to utter the words, “I’m beginning to think Faust isn’t the man for the job.” Faust was kind enough to lose again to Purdue the following year 35-17 and leave no doubt in anyone else’s mind. But then in ’86, reeling from two heartbreakingly close losses to Michigan and Michigan State, the Lou Holtz Era finally got off the ground with a 41-9 drubbing of the Boilermakers. In Lou’s eleven years at Notre Dame he not only went a perfect 11-0 versus Purdue, he beat them by an average score of 39-11.
My lasting memory of Lou’s streak will forever be the 17-0 win at West Lafayette in September of 1993. I attended the game with my sister and my girlfriend, a girlfriend who by February of the following year would be my fiancé and by August of ’95 would be my wife. The game was played in a driving rainstorm, and Notre Dame was sloppy. They held a 7-0 lead for most of the game, and Lou later apologized for scoring a late touchdown, lamenting that Purdue had played their hearts out and somehow didn’t deserve to be scored on again. (Needless to say, I disagreed with that sentiment.) About halfway into the fourth quarter I said to my sister, her clothes soaked to the bone, “We can go if you want.” The Purdue sophomore wearing ND gear from head to toe looked at me crying and said, “Then you’re going to have to drag my ass out of here.”
My sister had attended the last Purdue game in South Bend on September 26, 1992 with our father. Five days later, on October 1, Dad was killed in a car accident. My sister never made it to the hospital. For her, at least until the passage of time could mollify what sheer willpower could not, seeing the Irish take down the Boilermakers was her desperate attempt to hold on to a memory of Dad, if not Dad himself.
If you want to stick out your chest and start spewing hubris about the Boilermakers being a backwater Indiana school that regionalizes our identity, go for it. But I’m not taking that hill with you. I hope we play Purdue forever, preferably beating them forever by an average score of 39-11.
McSweeney is a longtime blogger and poster on UHND. His novel, EXOTIC MUSIC OF THE BELLY DANCER, a coming-of-age story about sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, and Notre Dame football, is available as an e-book on Amazon by clicking here.