SOUTH BEND – The boos started when Tommy Rees came off Notre Dame's bench with just more than 2 minutes to play and the score knotted at 17 against Purdue.
The crowds displeasure at the junior replacing starter Everett Golson, who threw for 289 yards and a touchdown and ran for another Saturday, was even more evident when Rees missed on his first pass attempt.
But after it was all done, Rees led the No. 22 Irish 55 yards to set up the a game-winning field goal from Kyle Brindza in a 20-17 win over Purdue in Notre Dame Stadium.
"I think Tommy knew it didn't really matter (that the crowd booed), because he knew what was most important is that the guys out there on the field and the guys on the sideline trusted him and had confidence in his ability to make plays," said linebacker Manti Te'o, who along with left tackle Zack Martin was allowed to talk to reporters after the game because of a decision made by coach Brian Kelly.
"I think he got a lot of respect today in the way that he was the general out there. He stayed focused at the task at hand. He did a really good job."
Rees started 12 games last year, leading the Irish to seven wins. He was not allowed to play in last week's season-opening win over Navy in Dublin, Ireland, because of his arrest in May.
But when needed, Rees answered the call.
The junior completed 3 of 8 passes on the game-winning drive, including finding receiver John Goodman – a Bishop Dwenger grad – for a 10-yard gain on third-and-6 and hooking up with receiver Robby Toma for a 21-yard gain on third-and-10 to keep the drive alive.
Then just like Rees stepped up when needed, Brindza – the Irish's kicker because of a groin injury suffered by Nick Tausch this week – nailed a 27-yard field goal to help erase the 40-yarder his missed in the first quarter.
Tausch injury was only the start to a laundry list of hurt players the Irish would suffer before pulling out Saturday's win.
"A few years before this, the game wouldn't have gone down like this, we wouldn't have won," Martin said. "The resilience of those guys when their number was called, it was a full‑team effort."
While Rees saved the game by running the 2-minute drill like the veteran he is, Kelly made it clear Golson was not losing the starting job.
In fact, Kelly said Golson was having trouble holding onto the ball at the end of the game, and that was one factor that led to Rees leading the final drive.
"There is no quarterback controversy," Kelly said. "Everett Golson is our starter. He will start against Michigan State. We know we have assets at that position with Andrew Hendrix and Tommy Rees."
Notre Dame's injured list kept growing after it entered Saturday's game without Tausch.
Tight end Tyler Eifert, a Bishop Dwenger grad who had four catches for 98 yards against the Boilermakers, suffered a slight concussion and missed most of the fourth quarter.
Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore had a calf strain, and safety Jamoris Slaughter injured his shoulder on a big hit on Purdue tight end Gabe Holmes in the second quarter.
Linebacker Ishaq Williams injured his elbow, defensive end Sheldon Day had to be taken out because of dehydration, and DaVaris Daniels sprained his ankle.
"We don't have anything that will require surgery," coach Brian Kelly said. "There are probably going to be things that we have to manage, but the expectation would be that most of these guys are going to clear (to play) in a short period of time."