Notre Dame and Purdue will renew their in-state rivalry on Saturday night in West Lafayette.
The Fighting Irish have a comfortable lead in the series history, but there have been plenty of memorable games between the two programs, many of which happened recently since Joe Tiller brought the Boilermakers back to national prominence.
Through the years, five games stand out as ones that will stick in the head of both Irish and Boilermaker fans more so than any others.
Ty Willingham’s first game at Notre Dame Stadium as Irish head coach was one to remember, as the theme of the 2002 season—takeaways—played a major role. Purdue put the ball on the ground twice in the second quarter, and both were returned by the Irish for touchdowns, the first by Gerome Sapp and the second by Lionel Bolen.
A Nick Setta field goal extended the lead to 17-0, but Anthony Chambers returned a punt for a touchdown to cut the lead to 17-7 at halftime. The Irish offense was dormant all day, accumulating only 203 yards. With Notre Dame unable to move the football, Purdue rallied to tie the game on a Berin Lacevic 35-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
The teams traded possessions without scores until just over five minutes to play, when Kyle Orton’s pass was intercepted by Vontez Duff, who returned it 33 yards for the game-winning touchdown. For the second straight game, the Irish were victorious without scoring an offensive touchdown.
Notre Dame would ride their opportunistic defense to an 8-0 start, but would finish 10-3 after faltering down the stretch.
Both teams were off to disappointing starts to the 2009 season, as Notre Dame came in at 2-1 and Purdue at 1-2, a week past a home loss to Northern Illinois. QB Jimmy Clausen was battling turf toe and was not 100 percent for the game.
Notre Dame scored 17 straight points after Purdue’s Aaron Valentin gave the Boilermakers a 7-0 lead, as Robert Hughes punched it in from two yards out and Clausen found Golden Tate from 14 yards out. The score held through the third quarter, but Joey Elliott connected with Keith Smith early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to three. Elliott then took the Boilers 69 yards in just five plays to put Purdue ahead 21-17 with under four minutes to play.
Notre Dame would get inside the Purdue 10-yard line, but much like 10 years earlier on the same field, were struggling to cross the goal line. Down to their last shot on 4th-and-goal, Clausen threw a strike to Kyle Rudolph in the end zone to give the Irish a 24-21 victory. The Irish would experience many more nail-biting finishes the rest of the season, finishing 6-6 in Charlie Weis’ final season.
Notre Dame traveled to West Lafayette at 1-1, after losing a back-and-forth classic at Michigan a week prior. The Irish rode two early turnovers to a 10-0 lead, but Drew Brees answered with a nine-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 10-7. The teams traded touchdowns before halftime (ND missed PAT), and the Irish led 16-14 at halftime.
Purdue would jump ahead 22-16 in the third quarter after a J.P. Crabtree touchdown run and subsequent two-point conversion, but the Irish answered with a Jarious Jackson to Bobby Brown touchdown pass to lead 23-22 after three quarters. Two Travis Dorsch field goals left Notre Dame with one final drive to try and win the game.
Jackson drove the Irish to the Purdue one-yard line, but after Tony Driver was stopped and the Irish called their final timeout, a communication breakdown caused a sack on second down. With no timeouts remaining, Notre Dame could not get another play off.
The loss stings particularly due to the confusion among the players on the final play call, even after a timeout. Notre Dame would continue their trend of close losses all season long, finishing 5-7.
The storied rivalry’s only No. 1 vs. No. 2 meeting featured a great quarterback duel between Purdue’s Mike Phipps and Notre Dame’s Joe Theismann. The game itself was not a classic, but no game since has come even close to the hype this game generated.
Do-everything RB Leroy Keyes ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third, as Purdue jumped out to a 23-7 first half lead in South Bend and held on for a 37-22 win, propelling the Boilermakers to their first (and only) appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Keyes would go on to finish second in Heisman Trophy voting to Southern Cal’s O.J. Simpson, and Purdue finished 8-2. The Irish would finish 7-2-1 in their final season before their self-initiated postseason boycott was lifted.
Coming off a heartbreaking loss in overtime to No. 1 Nebraska, the Irish had to turn to converted tight end Gary Godsey to play quarterback against Drew Brees and unbeaten Purdue with Arnaz Battle injured.
Notre Dame grabbed a quick 14-0 lead behind a Godsey run and an interception return by Shane Walton. Purdue found the end zone twice in the second quarter, sandwiched around a Nick Setta field goal, and the Irish took a 17-14 lead into halftime.
Setta stretched the lead to 20-14 in the third quarter, and the score held until late in the fourth quarter. Brees took over deep in his own territory with under nine minutes to play and marched the Boilermakers down the field in 12 plays, finding Vinny Sutherland with under four minutes to play to give Purdue its first lead, 21-20.
In his first career start, Godsey was steady under pressure, guiding the Irish to the Purdue 21-yard line with time for a final field goal attempt. Setta’s 38-yard kick just snuck inside the left upright to give the Irish a 23-21 win, their 12th straight over Purdue in South Bend.
Both teams would go on to qualify for BCS bowls.