West Lafayette, Ind. Notre Dame scored three touchdowns during the first four minutes of the 4th quarter to rally to beat Purdue 31-24 at Ross Ade Stadium Saturday night in West Lafayette.
The Irish were sluggish to start the game, trailing 10-3 at halftime before rallying to victory one week after suffering their first regular season loss since 2011 last Saturday against Michigan.
"Really proud of the way our guys battled tonight," Irish coach Brian Kelly said after the game. "We made some plays tonight that we didn't make last week."
Down 17-10 entering the 4th quarter, Tommy Rees found DaVaris Daniels for a touchdown strike to tie the game up. Two minutes later, the duo connected again for an 82 yard touchdown that saw Daniels dance the sideline to give Notre Dame its first lead of the game.
It was the longest completion of Rees' career and the longest reception of Daniels' career. It was also the 9th longest touchdown in ND history and the longest since Kyle Rudolph's 95 yard score in 2010.
Kelly says they had to light a fire under Daniels during the 1st half and Daniels responded from there.
"He stepped up his game big time in the 2nd half," Kelly said of Daniels. "Played more physical."
On Purdue's next possession, Bennett Jackson intercepted the Rob Henry pass and returned it for a touchdown as the Irish went up 31-17.
Purdue managed to pull back in the game with a score but Rees and Cam McDaniel engineered a long drive in the final minutes to run out the clock as the Irish survived for the win.
The Irish were heavy favorites coming into the game but didn't get their first lead until Daniels' 2nd touchdown in the 4th quarter.
"We aren't a finished product--we know that," Kelly explained. "But to go on the road against a Big Ten Opponent, it's a really good win. We are still trying to find who we are but we fought out butts off."
Purdue began the game with an opening drive touchdown from Rob Henry to Akeem Hunt. It was the first opening drive touchdown the Irish have given up to a Big Ten opponent since Brian Kelly became ND's head coach.
Notre Dame couldn't do anything offensively from there and also struggled on defense and special teams---but still trailed just 10-3 at halftime.
"I was never worried in the sense that there was a panic," Kelly said of Notre Dame's play in the 1st half. "I was confident we would win the football game."
Rees started the 2nd half with a touchdown drive, connecting with captain TJ Jones for an incredible completion at the Purdue one yard line. The catch was initially ruled incomplete but a review overturned it and gave Notre Dame a first and goal. Cam McDaniel, who was a bulldozer for Notre Dame in the backfield, then rushed in for the game tying touchdown. McDaniel was running so hard in the 1st half that his helmet popped off on a play requiring him to get four stitches to close up a wound.
But on the very next drive, Purdue responded right back. Henry found BJ Knauf who spun in for a TD to give the Boilers the lead through the end of the 3rd quarter.
That's when Rees and Daniels took over and the Irish prevailed for the win.
Notre Dame improves to 2-1. The Irish will host Michigan State next Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.