Notre Dame Football: Winners and Losers from Week 2 Game vs. Purdue
Notre Dame's shockingly close 20-17 victory over the visiting Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday afternoon brought about a number of symbolic winners and losers.
Both teams garnered a more thorough understanding of their respective potentials, which are likely to surprise the majority.
For a closer look at those winners and losers, take a look through the following slideshow.
Winner: Notre Dame Rushing Defense
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has been on a mission to build a championship-caliber defense in South Bend since he accepted the job in December of 2009.
Thankfully, Kelly understands that the bread and butter of any elite defense is stopping the run.
The Irish were excellent in that department on Saturday, yielding 90 rushing yards to Purdue. It was the second consecutive week in which the Irish front seven were stout against the opposing ground game, as Manti Te'o and Co. have allowed roughly 3.4 yards per carry through two games.
Boilermaker starting running back Akeem Shavers was limited to 37 rushing yards on 12 carries, good for an average of 3.1 yards per carry. However, shutting down Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell next week will be a monstrous task for the Irish front seven.
Loser: Notre Dame Rushing Offense
With a first-year starting quarterback directing the Irish offense, Purdue's defense made the smart decision to stack the box, effectively preventing Notre Dame from running the football.
The Irish finished the ugly win with an even uglier 52 net rushing yards on 36 carries.
And this all occurred after Notre Dame racked up 293 rushing yards on Navy in Week 1. Some may say the Irish ground game struggled due to the absence of starting running back Cierre Wood, but Wood wouldn't have had much of an effect against a highly underrated Purdue defensive line.
Winner: QB Tommy Rees
Despite being met with a cascade of boos from the home crowd when he trotted out onto the field at Notre Dame Stadium late in the fourth quarter on Saturday afternoon, Tommy Rees exemplified the poise and composure he has had in 16 games as a starting quarterback.
With the game tied at 17 and just under two minutes remaining in regulation, Rees led the Irish down the field for the eventual game-winning 27-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza.
The final drive was Rees' redemption after being arrested at an off-campus house party in May, then subsequently losing his starting job to Everett Golson. Brian Kelly insisted that there is not a quarterback controversy, but his decision to insert Rees for the final drive has fans thinking otherwise.
Loser: Purdue QB Caleb TerBush
Leading up to Saturday's contest, Purdue head coach Danny Hope made it clear to the media that Caleb TerBush would be the Boilers' starting quarterback, despite being outplayed by fellow quarterback Robert Marve against Eastern Kentucky in Week 1.
TerBush indeed was under center when the game began at Notre Dame Stadium, but that was no guarantee that he'd remain in the game. In fact, Marve eventually entered the game in the second quarter and went on to complete 11-of-18 pass attempts for 119 yards and one touchdown.
Marve again outperformed his counterpart, as TerBush completed only 8-of-19 passing attempts and threw two interceptions.
Winner: Notre Dame Secondary
Notre Dame's raw defensive secondary was supposed to be carved up by a lethal, experienced Purdue passing attack, right?
Wrong. That same secondary performed well against the Boilermakers, especially considering the expectations. Purdue completed only 51 percent of its passes and was limited to 198 passing yards. That's a significantly positive sign for the unit, which is still expected to be a weak link in an otherwise strong defense.
Cornerback Bennett Jackson is certainly a worthy candidate of being Notre Dame's recipient of the game ball, having picked off Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush twice.