INDIANAPOLIS — Purdue coach Darrell Hazell found out how well his team can play Saturday night.
His next job: Making sure they play with the same intensity and passion for the next nine games.
Everett Golson ran for the go-ahead score with 13 seconds left in the first half, and No. 11 Notre Dame scored the final 20 points Saturday to pull away from the Boilermakers 30-14.
"I think the biggest thing you learn about your football team after that performance is that they can set the standard for how hard they play," Hazell said. "I felt they came out and played. There is no going back and not playing at (Saturday's) intensity level. We'll watch the film and see that that's accurate. But there's no question that the energy level was terrific."
The Boilermakers (1-2) have traditionally played their best games of the season against in-state rivals Notre Dame and Indiana.
Saturday's performance was a dramatic turnaround from the dismal showing a week earlier in a loss to Central Michigan.
Danny Etling wasn't perfect, but he was effective. He went 27 of 40 for 234 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions after holding onto the starting job this week. The defense that struggled to make tackles last week came up with four sacks against Golson, forced Notre Dame's first turnover of the season and spent most of the first three quarters keeping the Irish offense under control.
It wasn't quite enough to win, but it was a game played much closer to the Boilermakers' own expectations.
"We haven't been playing good in the previous weeks. We knew if we didn't come to play in this game that it could get out of hand," Purdue defensive end Jalani Phillips said. "I felt like we were just more prepared and we made sure we knew our assignments."
Golson still got the best of the Boilers, though.
The senior quarterback scrambled for a 15-yard touchdown just before halftime to erase Notre Dame's first deficit of the season, kept a second-half TD drive going with a 17-yard completion on the run and helped the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish score the final 20 points to pull away from rival Purdue 30-14.
The Irish are 3-0 for the second time in three years, the first time Notre Dame has done that since four straight years from 1987-90.
But there was little celebrating.
Receiver Amir Carlisle left in the first quarter with a sprained medical collateral ligament in his right knee and did not return. Safety Max Redfield was ejected in the second quarter after being called for targeting, safety Nicky Baratti re-injured his shoulder on the next play and starting cornerback Cole Luke left later with a neck injury.
So Golson put the burden squarely on his shoulders — and legs — and the guy who led the Fighting Irish to the national championship game two seasons ago took control as one of the few offensive players in sync. He was 25 of 40 for 259 yards with two touchdown passes and ran 18 times for a season-high 56 yards and the one score.
The combination was good enough to send the Shillelagh Trophy back to South Bend, Indiana, for a seventh consecutive year, where it will stay until these teams resume the rivalry in 2020 following a five-year hiatus. The Shamrock Series has been played every year since 1946.
With No. 6 Georgia losing to No. 24 South Carolina earlier Saturday, Notre Dame could crack the Top 10 for the first time this season — though Kelly isn't convinced his team is playing that well yet.
"We're still not a finished product by any means, we're still such a young team," Kelly said. "At 3-0, we're extremely pleased with where we are, but we know we're nowhere close to where we need to be."
That may partially explain why this game again failed to follow the expected script.
Brandon Cottom scored on a 7-yard TD pass in the first quarter to tie the score at 7, and Etling somehow managed to fit in a 19-yard TD pass to DeAngelo Yancey, who tip-toed the end line despite drawing a pass interference call, to give the Boilermakers a 14-10 lead with 3 minutes left in the first half.
Purdue hung around until late in the third quarter when Golson avoided the pass rush by sprinting right and found Greg Byrant for a 17-yard completion. Two plays later, Golson hooked up with Corey Robinson for a 15-yard TD pass to make it 24-14. Golson then directed two time-consuming drives in the fourth quarter, both of which ended with field goals, to end any lingering comeback hopes for the Boilermakers.
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