Notre Dame Football: Boilermakers-Irish 090812

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- On Thursday, Notre Dame launched its Take a StaND campaign, an initiative geared toward getting the crowd more involved in the game. Coach Brian Kelly had his team practice inside Notre Dame Stadium that day in order to take away some of the awe factor that comes with entering a building just seven times a year.

Music was piped in throughout Saturday's home opener against Purdue, with Irish defensive players regularly imploring the crowd to add to the noise on key third-down plays. Then, at the 2:12 mark in the fourth quarter of a tied game, the stadium's public address announcer offered a familiar phrase:

"Tommy Rees now at quarterback for Notre Dame."

Either out of disgust with another possible quarterback controversy or frustration from seeing a man who turned the ball over 19 times last year enter the game on its most crucial drive, a number of fans from the student section started booing the former starting signal-caller.

Whether Rees can ever regain his No. 1 throne remains to be seen, but he made as strong a case as he possibly could in his return from suspension, directing Notre Dame on a 12-play, 55-yard drive in just over two minutes, setting up Kyle Brindza for a 27-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining to beat Purdue 20-17.

"The story finishes with Tommy Rees coming in for [Everett] Golson and leading us on a two-minute drive to win the game," Kelly said. "I'm good to go. A good day for Notre Dame football."

But, Kelly said, the Irish do not have a quarterback controversy.

[+] EnlargeTommy Rees
Matt Cashore/US PresswireThe Irish turned to Tommy Rees to lead the game-winning drive, but coach Brian Kelly insists there's no QB controversy in South Bend.
"Everett Golson is our starter," the third-year Irish coach said. "He will start against Michigan State. But we know that we've got assets at that position with Andrew Hendrix and Tommy Rees."

Maybe even better ones than they thought. Rees entered 2012 as the only one of the team's four scholarship quarterbacks with any starting experience, going 12-4 the past two years. He severely handicapped his chances at remaining the starter when he was arrested this spring at an off-campus party, forcing him to watch last week's tilt in Dublin from home.

But when Notre Dame needed someone to engineer a scoring drive after Purdue converted a fourth-down scoring chance to even things up, the Irish turned to their veteran.

Golson, who was given much more freedom in career start No. 2, was having a strong game before his final drive, completing 21 of 31 passes for 289 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. He was sacked five times and hit countless others, bouncing back each time. But on what would be his last play of the game, the redshirt freshman had the ball pried loose by Purdue's Josh Johnson, setting the Boilermakers up at the Irish 15 with less than four minutes to go.

Kelly said Golson had trouble gripping the ball and probably could have played, but the coach felt more comfortable with the experienced Rees in the two-minute drill, a move few saw coming.

With zero timeouts at his disposal, Rees tossed three completions for 35 yards, including a huge 10-yard strike to John Goodman on third-and-6. He took the Irish to the 8, spiking it twice and taking a knee before setting up Brindza's game-winning kick.

Coaches and players raved about Rees' demeanor throughout camp, the aspiring coach doing everything he can to help his competitors while knowing his opportunity was dwindling. Rees backed up those claims Saturday, absorbing the boos from his fellow students after entering and some more after his first misfire.

Rees, along with everyone other than Zack Martin and Manti Te'o, was not made available to speak after the game.

"I don't agree with that at all," Martin said of the booing. "A guy like Tommy, it just fuels his fire. He's been through a lot. I'm so proud of him and so happy for him that he was able to answer the bell today and lead us down the field."

"Everett didn't get, like, booted from the game," Martin later added. "He played a great game. I think it was just situation, two-minute drill. Tommy's more of a pocket passer. So I think it's kind of one of those things. Everyone has a 100 percent confidence in Everett and what he does on the field. We're ready to go with him next week."

So here come the Irish, riding a 2-0 start for the first time in four years, marching into East Lansing with a chance to pull off their first upset. Michigan State has a defensive line every bit as lethal as Purdue's, and all the Boilermakers did was hold the Irish to 52 rushing yards one week after Notre Dame racked up 293 against Navy.

And here comes Golson, whose last play under center was his worst, going into his third game still holding the title of starting quarterback.

The competition gets tougher from Week 3 on, but the drama may already be ahead of schedule for the Irish.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Here's a quick recap of a strange one at Notre Dame Stadium, where Tommy Rees led the Irish on their game-winning drive for a 20-17 victory over Purdue on Saturday. We'll have much more on the blog soon.

It was over when: Kyle Brindza kicked a 27-yard field goal with seven seconds left, putting the finishing touches on a Purdue team Notre Dame just couldn't seem to break away from throughout the day.

Game ball goes to: It was only one drive, but Rees deserves plenty of credit for coming back from his suspension, losing his job, and stepping right in and leading the Irish on a game-winning drive. He finished 3-of-8 (two were spikes) for 35 yards, working the two-minute drill with no timeouts.

Stat of the game: Notre Dame rushed for 293 yards last week against Navy. The Irish notched 52 against Purdue and have a very tough test to come next week against Michigan State.

It's game day at Notre Dame Stadium

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
3:09
PM ET
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Greetings from Notre Dame Stadium, where the hockey-style "C" can be found on the four captains' jerseys and where the stars have come out for the Irish's home opener.

Actors Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were "making it rain" on the field before posing for pictures with a number of players. No word yet on if either one is in contention for the No. 2 quarterback job, which has been a source of mystery throughout the week with Tommy Rees' return from suspension.

For what it's worth, I think Rees would be the guy in case of emergency, though Andrew Hendrix would probably see garbage-time reps if the game is no longer in doubt late, like last week.

Beautiful weather here today for an opener, as it's about 70 degrees and there is just enough sun. Notre Dame says that rain has moved east, and there is no expectation of any lighting. That's a good thing, as we all remember that last year's home opener took nearly six hours to complete because of out-of-control weather.

The Irish are certainly hoping that this year's home opener goes a lot better than last year's, both on the field and off. They enter this contest with a clear No. 1 quarterback in Everett Golson, who will look to build off his solid debut last week in Dublin.

Be sure to keep it here throughout the day for any updates, and we'll have plenty of postgame coverage as well.

Video: Purdue-Notre Dame preview

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
2:11
PM ET

Matt Fortuna looks at the Irish's first game at Notre Dame Stadium, where the team practiced on Thursday.

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