Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly got to experience plenty of firsts Saturday in a 23-12 victory over Purdue in his Irish debut.
Kelly was surrounded by a sea of Kelly Green shirts, and he had the support of more than 80,000 fans.
In his previous stops at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati, Kelly said he never had the support of crowds to loud.
"You know what, I think, maybe this is just my background; any time that I've gone into the stadium with 81,000 I've always played up to that point," Kelly said. "Now it was 81,000 and it was our people. It was nice to have that crowd, that 81,000 rooting for your team. I've always taken teams to Penn State or at Michigan, and we have always had to play up to being on the road in front of 80,000, 90,000.
"I think the one thing that stood out to me today was the crowd obviously was into it and it was a great advantage. That's probably the one thing that will stick in my mind."
As for what he will stick in his office to remember his first game as the Irish's head coach, Kelly received the game ball from athletic director Jack Swarbrick – the main who hired Kelly in December.
"And hopefully there's many more of those to come," Kelly said.
Good, not great
Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist completed 19 of 26 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown against Purdue.
Crist did hit freshman TJ Jones for a five-yard touchdown that gave the Irish a 20-3 lead in the third quarter, but three series ended with field goals and another three ended with punts.
Crist said there is room for improvement, but the win was the most important thing Saturday.
"I'm happy we got the win," Crist said. "Always striving to play better, but I was just happy we were able to protect the ball and get a touchdown, that's nice. But really just the win is the most important thing to me by far."
Notre Dame's defensive performance was a pleasant surprise Saturday.
The Irish limited the Boilermakers to one touchdown, forced them to settle for a 25-yard field goal on another drive and delivered four sacks and two interceptions.
But the most impressive thing was after ending a 6:40 drive with an interception then giving up a touchdown after a safety, Notre Dame's defense made Purdue go three-and-out on its next series and forced a turnover on downs on the Boilermakers' final possession.
"We were prepared, we were pretty much ready for anything they threw at us," linebacker Carlo Calabrese said. "We just did what coach told us to do, and we executed great."
Notre Dame's celebration of a strong defensive effort in the opener was tempered by memories of last season.
The Irish opened 2009 with a shutout of Nevada, but went on to give up the most yards per game in school history the rest of the year.
"You don't want to get ahead of yourself or anything," defensive tackle Ian Williams said.