SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly didn’t make a popular decision at the end of Saturday’s 20-17 home win over Purdue. But it was the right decision for the No. 22 Irish (2-0).
Tommy Rees came off the bench to lead Notre Dame’s game-winning drive against Purdue (1-1). And the junior, who started 12 games last year but was suspended for the season opener because of a May arrest, paid no mind to the crowd’s boos as he replaced starter Everett Golson.
That’s what I knew about (Rees) and his makeup, his moxie, his mental toughness, said Kelly, who didn’t allow any players besides captains Manti Te’o and Zack Martin to be interviewed after the game.
Does he have all of the elite skills? No. But he’s a gamer. He’ll do anything.
Kelly said Golson, who fumbled to set up Purdue’s game-tying score late in the fourth quarter, was having trouble gripping the ball before the final drive. The Irish coach also made it clear that Golson could have played and that the sophomore will start next weekend at Michigan State.
Rees completed 3 of 8 passes for 35 of the 55 yards on the final drive that began on Notre Dame’s 35-yard line with 2:12 to play and the game tied at 17.
The drive ended with Kyle Brindza connecting on a 27-yard field goal.
I thought that was a really good decision by their head coach, Purdue coach Danny Hope said of Kelly using Rees. That was a pressure situation and certainly would have been tough assignment for a rookie quarterback (Golson).
The pressure was also on Brindza, who had missed on a 40-yard attempt in the first quarter but made a 30-yarder in the third.
Kelly said Brindza was handling field goals because Nick Tausch suffered a groin strain in the days leading up to Saturday’s game.
It shows a lot of maturity on his part to miss a field goal, then come back in and kick possibly the most important field goal of his career so far, Te’o said of Brindza.
Purdue had to do its own quarterback shuffle to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
After Golson lost a fumble on the Irish 15-yard line and Purdue had to move back five yards because of a false start, Boilermakers quarterback Robert Marve was sacked by Louis Nix III and KeiVarae Russell for a 7-yard loss.
Marve, who completed 11 of 18 passes for 119 yards with a touchdown, had to be taken out of the game, and Caleb TerBush, who started Saturday’s game after being suspended for last week’s opener, came in to lead the offense.
TerBush hit receiver Antavian Edison for a 12-yard gain then a 15-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17 with 2:45 to play. Edison also caught a 2-yard TD pass from Marve near the end of the first half to make it 7-7.
TerBush completed 8 of 19 passes for 79 yards with a touchdown and two turnovers and ran for 27 yards Saturday.
We have two really good senior veteran quarterbacks, and they both play well when called upon, said Hope, who had no update on Marve’s condition after the game.
Notre Dame had to rely on its first-year quarterback for most of the game as Purdue shut down the Irish’s running game. Notre Dame, which had 293 rushing yards in its season opener, gained only 52 yards on 36 carries against Purdue.
Golson responded by throwing for 289 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones five minutes into the third quarter that gave the Irish a 14-7 lead.
Golson also scored his first touchdown when he dived for the pylon at the end of a 3-yard run to open the scoring with 3:45 to play in the second quarter.
He’s got work to do, Kelly said of Golson. He did some good things.