Notre Dame 20, Purdue 17: Heartbreak In South Bend

Robert Marve needs to start. Period. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Once again, Purdue is undone by the luck of the Irish. In 1998 Drew Brees threw an interception with a late lead, then threw another one attempting a comeback. In 2000 Purdue lost on a last second field as Gary Godsey, a friggin' tight end, out-dueled Brees. In 2002 Purdue held the Fighting Irish to three points offensively, but three turnovers were returned for touchdowns

After three straight multiple-possession losses it appears that the "Luck of the Irish" Purdue loss in South Bend is back. This time it was Tommy Rees getting off a snap after the play clock expired and lobbing a lazy pass before getting leveled that was caught by John Goodman. It was Goodman's only catch of the day, and the kind of throw that Purdue always has picked off when it throws it. In fact, three previous points were given to the Irish on a similar throw by Caleb TerBush much earlier.

So, for the fourth straight time since the 2004 win Purdue comes home from South Bend with a loss. While there are a lot of positives from this game, there are so many moments that will have Purdue fans second guessing for quite some time:

  • Everrett Golson's reach for the pylon on ND's first touchdown. It sure looked to me like the ball was loose long before it hit the pylon. In fact, the replay shows it tumbling before it gets there. In 2005 against Northwestern and last year against Iowa Purdue was burned where a similar play was ruled a touchdown only to be overturned as a fumble out of the end zone. That, of course, results in a touchback and the defense's ball at the 25. For a third time the call went against Purdue.
  • As I said all week, the decision to rotate between Robert Marve and TerBush ended up costing us dearly. TerBush was decent early, but Marve clearly was the better quarterback. He led the late scoring drive to tie it at halftime and it certainly looked like he should start the second half. Instead, we go back to a cold TerBush. We go three and out, give up a TD drive, throw an awful interception that gives them three points, then go three and out again. Hope bet a lot on the rotation working out. Yes, it was a closer game than I thought it would be with the rotation and TerBush made a hell of a throw to tie it late, but it backfired in the middle of the game.
  • With a third and goal at the one Purdue had a delay of game, then a sack. Sure, we got three points, but we could have had seven easily, and that makes a huge difference at the end.
  • Rees attempted to call timeout before the play clock expired, something which I thought was a penalty if you didn't have any. That he had time to attempt a timeout, back out, and get the snap was a missed call by the official. Those are the breaks though.
  • Purdue had an advantage with Kapron Lewis-Moore, a nightmare on their defensive line as much as Kawann Short for us, was injured. Tyler Eifert, who was completely unstoppable, also missed most of the rest of the game. I feel like we didn't fully take advantage.

There are still a ton of positives to take from this game. If Purdue learns from this it can still be a special season. As much as this one stings, it was not a conference game. It has no bearing whatsoever on our ability to get to Indianapolis and maybe, in our wildest dreams, Pasadena. The results of the day show that the Division is there for the taking. Michigan struggled mightily with Air Force. Wisconsin's offense is an unexpected disaster so far. Penn State, though they are ineligible, might be better off with a one-legged kicker at this point. The opportunity is there, mostly because of these positives:

  • Kawann Short is a rampaging beast that cannot be stopped and sees his draft stock rise with every game.
  • Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross are emerging as pretty damn good receivers. Edison already has as many TDs this year as he did last year.
  • The running game wasn't awful today. That was 90 hard earned yards against a very good front seven. In fact, it might be the best front seven we face all year outside of Ohio State. The ability to run the ball will pay huge dividends. It might have paid off more today had Akeem Shavers not been dinged up in the second half.
  • The entire defensive line was, in a word, awesome. It wasn't just Short, who had two sacks, that played well. Greg Latta, Ryan Russell, and Nnamdi Ezenwa were all in the backfield and had sacks. Bruce Gaston and Brandon Taylor played well. Robert Maci was active. Honestly, this may have been the best I have ever seen our run defense play. Notre Dame had nearly 300 yards rushing last week. Today they had 52. If we can continue to stop the run that well against Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin I definitely like our chances.
  • Josh Johnson had an unenviable task of playing one-on-one against bigger receivers but acquitted himself well. Most of the big receptions came about from ND having bigger, stronger guys. Notre Dame presented size mismatches that we won't often see the rest of the year.
  • The defense overall was really good considering that three points came about from being put in a bad position. If we can hold other really good teams to 20 points I love our chances going forward.

Yes, this loss sucks, but it is one of the most complete games Purdue has played on the road against a good opponent in a very long time.

The biggest concern, as always, is the quarterback situation. Marve left the game hurt and I really, really hope it was not his knee again. I think today made it plain that if he is healthy he has to be THE guy. No more switching. No more rotating. He has to be the unequivocal No. 1 to give the offense the cohesion it needs. I don't care about practice. We have seen eight quarters of football so far and he, by far, has had the biggest command of the offense. My only complaint against him is maybe holding on to the ball TOO long and getting sacked a few times today.

With Eastern Michigan losing by 17 today to an FCS team it likely won't matter who plays next week because we're probably going to win in a rout and both TerBush and Marve with Henry will play. Once we get to the conference season, however, there needs to be a decision. It has to be Marve. Purdue played well enough today to make it plain and there Hope gets a reprieve because the conference season has not started yet. If he continues to be wishy-washy and it costs us a league game, however, people are going to be even more pissed off.

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