Question marks surrounded Notre Dame heading into their third game of the season. A scare against a non-Power Five opponent in Toledo the previous week, combined with quarterback controversy and poor offensive line play, led many to question the ceiling of this Irish team. While some of these questions remained unanswered, the Irish took care of business against the Boilermakers and clinched their 57th Shillelagh Trophy with a 27-13 win over their in-state rivals.
The game began rather tepidly, as both teams struggled to gain momentum on offense. Notre Dame’s first three drives netted a total of six yards and resulted in three punts. Purdue drove down for a field goal on their first drive but were then stifled on the next six drives before halftime.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest play of the first quarter came from star safety Kyle Hamilton. Purdue chose to go for it on fourth-and-1 in Irish territory. The Boilermakers ran a jet sweep to Milton Wright, who shot to the outside in an attempt to pick up the yard. Hamilton darted from his position eight yards behind the line of scrimmage and caught Wright by the legs before he could get to the outside. Neither the blockers nor Wright anticipated his closing speed, and the Irish picked up a pivotal fourth-down stop to keep the score 3-0.
On the ensuing drive, the Irish offense finally found some rhythm and drove 68 yards to claim a 7-3 lead. The Irish faced a fourth-and-3 from the Purdue 39 in which the Irish lined up in an empty set. Jack Coan threaded the needle perfectly on a pass between Purdue’s cornerback and linebacker to running back Kyren Williams four yards downfield. Williams then realized there was no safety help over the middle of the field and raced to the end zone, giving the Irish a 7-3 edge.
The Irish defense stalled in the remaining four possessions of the half, yielding only 37 total yards and no points. On offense, Jack Coan struggled to move the ball down the field, missing some crucial deep throws that would have allowed the Irish to add to their lead. As a result, the game remained tight at the half, as the Irish only mustered three points of their own in their final three possessions, taking a 10-3 lead into the locker room.
Both offenses finally showed signs of life to begin the third quarter. Purdue started the second half with a field goal to make it 10-6. On the following possession, the Irish faced a second-and-7 from their own 38. Wide receiver Avery Davis got single coverage and dusted his defender down the middle of the field. This time, Jack Coan was able to put the deep throw on target, and Davis raced for a 62-yard touchdown to stretch the Irish lead to 17-6.
Unfortunately for the Irish, Purdue refused to back down. They responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive to once again cut the lead to four. The rest of the third quarter featured no scoring.
The Irish started the fourth quarter with a field goal and a stop. After another stop, with the score at 20-13, the Irish missed a golden opportunity to make it a two-possession game when Jack Coan took a first-down shot to the end zone from the Purdue 40. Braden Lenzy had a step on his man but dropped one of Coan’s best throws of the day. The Irish were forced to punt, but the defense continued its dominance and got the ball right back to the offense. Finally, Notre Dame was able to give itself some breathing room after an impressive 51-yard rushing touchdown by Kyren Williams. Purdue’s dreams of a comeback ended with Kyle Hamilton’s intercepting in the endzone.
This was far from Notre Dame’s cleanest performance. Jack Coan was sacked four times, and the offense struggled to find a flow, especially in the first half. However, Purdue ended up having an impressive season, coming up only one game shy of reaching the Big Ten Championship Game and grabbing wins against Iowa and Michigan State, adding legitimacy to Notre Dame clinching the Shillelagh Trophy with a two-touchdown win at home.