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Notebook: Notre Dame still searching for identity

WEST LAFAYETTE – Notre Dame hasn't figured out exactly what kind of team it is this season, but the No. 21 Irish's 31-24 comeback win over Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday gave a glimpse of what they can be.

"It's something we are still trying to build as a team," cornerback Bennett Jackson said. "I don't think we've figured out who we are yet. I just know that we all know that we are going to play for four quarters. We understand that about ourselves. There is not going to be a guy on the field that is going to give up. We are still going to learn about ourselves as a team."

Notre Dame (2-1) trailed 10-3 at halftime after only gaining 123 yards and three first downs in the first two quarters.

The Irish tied the game at 10 with a 1-yard touchdown run from Cam McDaniel 4 ½ minutes into the second half, only to give Purdue (1-2) the lead back after the Boilermakers scored on an 18-yard scoring pass from Rob Henry to B.J. Knauf.

Notre Dame moved to Purdue's 9 at the end of the third quarter, and then the Irish kicked their comeback into gear.

Tommy Rees hit DaVaris Daniels for a 9-yard touchdown on third-and-goal to tie the game at 17 with 14:47 to play.

The Irish defense then forced the Boilermakers to punt to Notre Dame's 18 with 12:50 to play, and 10 seconds later, Rees hit Daniels against for a touchdown, only this one was 82 yards. It was the longest play for both Rees and Daniels in their careers and gave the Irish a 24-17 lead with 12:40 to play.

Jackson all but sealed the victory when he intercepted Henry at Purdue's 34 and ran in for a TD for a 31-17 lead with 11:18 to play.

Notre Dame then survived Henry finding Justin Sinz for a 9-yard TD catch with 8:16 to play, and Irish running back Amir Carlisle fumbling at Notre Dame's 41 with 8:10 to play.

Notre Dame forced Purdue to go three-and-out after Carlisle's fumble, and Notre Dame killed the final 7:22 of the game with a 13-play, 61-yard drive that ended with the Irish taking a knee twice after McDaniel converted on third-and-2 for the final first down the team needed for the win.

"It's really big to win on the road," coach Brian Kelly said. "The kids were obviously disappointed (last week in a 41-30 loss at Michigan), and then you have to go back on the road against a Big Ten team that's waiting for you. You have to play really hard.

"They're really excited about the win, and now they get to come home and get ready for Michigan State. It doesn't get any easier. But they're excited, and they should be. They worked hard for this win."

McDaniel steps up

McDaniel's 56 yards on 16 carries is a modest total, but the junior was invaluable in the win over Purdue.

He scored the game's only rushing touchdown – a 1-yarder that tied it at 10 with 10:37 left in the third quarter – but more importantly, he chewed up the clock on Notre Dame's final drive.

The Irish survived a lost fumble with 8:16 to play and got the ball back on their 25 with 7:22 to play. McDaniel was called upon to carry the ball 10 times on the final drive, and he gained 42 yards to allow Notre Dame to run out the clock.

"You got to expect this at any point in time," McDaniel said. "Going into my junior year, I do expect to be in the game. I expect to make plays, and I believe that I can make plays and contribute to the team. Just getting the opportunity to come out here and do that tonight was just awesome."

Quick hits

  • Notre Dame's comeback from a 17-10 deficit after three quarters marked the first time the Irish rallied for a road win in the fourth quarter since beating Pittsburgh on the road on Sept. 24, 2011. Notre Dame trailed Pitt 17-7 entering the fourth and ended up winning 15-12.
  • Notre Dame has forced two turnovers (both interceptions) this season and both have been returned for touchdowns (Stephon Tuitt vs. Michigan and Jackson vs. Purdue)
  • Rees threw two touchdown passes against Purdue, moving him into a tie with Rick Mirer for fourth all-time on Notre Dame's touchdown passes list with 41
  • Daniels had career highs in receptions (8) and yards (167)
  • Receiver TJ Jones, who had four catches for 57 yards against Purdue, moved into a tie for ninth on Notre Dame's career receptions list with Maurice Stovall. Both have 130.
  • Linebacker Jarrett Grace had a career-high 10 tackles
  • Linebacker Jaylon Smith, a Bishop Luers graduate, had one tackle for a 3-yard loss