WEST LAFAYETTE – With time quickly evaporating and Notre Dame perched on Purdue’s goal line with no timeouts, Irish coach Charlie Weis apparently was ready to have quarterback Jimmy Clausen spike the ball to stop the clock.
Danny Hope saved him the trouble.
Purdue’s coach called a timeout with 36.9 seconds remaining, essentially allowing Notre Dame an extra play. The Irish needed it.
After an incomplete pass on third down, Clausen threw a game-winning 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph to lift the Irish to a 24-21 victory Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.
It surprised me and helped us out a lot, Weis said. It gave us an opportunity to gather ourselves for third and fourth down.
Notre Dame got the ball with 3:41 remaining in the game, trailing 21-17, and had 72 yards to go to win.
Clausen slowly picked apart Purdue’s defense and moved down the field to Purdue’s 36-yard line, and the Irish used their final timeout to set up a play for third-and-14. Clausen completed a 15-yard pass near the sidelines to Robby Parris to keep the drive going. A 17-yard pass to Golden Tate moved Notre Dame to Purdue’s 4-yard line with 1:01 remaining.
Clausen threw an incomplete pass on the first play. On second down, Robert Hughes got the carry, was bottled up but kept churning, leaving about 37 seconds on the clock.
Clausen appeared to give the spike it motion but Purdue coach Hope called the timeout.
Hope said he was thinking about his offense and wanting to give it enough time to get a couple of plays at the end of the game.
If I looked at the situation again, maybe it wasn’t a great idea, Hope said. But at that point in the game, I just wanted to save a few seconds, hope we could get three or four plays.
After the timeout, Clausen threw an incomplete pass on third down, setting up the dramatic fourth-down play.
Notre Dame spread the field and had Rudolph in the slot on the left side, and Tate in the slot on the right. Purdue was in its 4-3 defense, and Rudolph was lined up opposite safety Dwight Mclean. Linebacker Joe Holland was defending Tate, and Holland said he expected the play to come to his side.
Instead, Rudolph ran what Purdue cornerback Brandon King called a pivot route, charging hard off the line right at Mclean and then turning to block Mclean from the ball. There was little Mclean could do but hit Rudolph when the ball came. It wasn’t enough.