WEST LAFAYETTE (AP) — DaVaris Daniels made touchdown catches on two successive Notre Dame plays in the fourth quarter, and Bennett Jackson followed that flurry with a 34-yard interception return to lead No. 21 Notre Dame past Purdue 31-24 on Saturday night.
The Fighting Irish (2-1) were led by quarterback Tommy Rees, who was 20 of 33 for 309 yards and those two TD passes. Notre Dame has won six straight in a series that has been played every year since 1946.
Without Daniels and Jackson, it might not have happened.
Daniels outleaped one Purdue defender for a 9-yard TD pass to tie the score at 17 with 14:47 left. And when Notre Dame got the ball back, Tommy Rees hooked up with Daniels again, this time on an 82-yard catch-and-run to make it 24-17.
Three plays after that Jackson undercut a receiver, picked off Purdue’s Rob Henry and sprinted to the end zone.
The Boilermakers (1-2) led until Daniels’ second TD catch.
Things were not supposed to be this difficult for the Irish, who were installed as three-touchdown favorites and were trying to avoid back-to-back regular season losses for the first time in more than two years.
But the Boilermakers flipped the script on the Fighting Irish.
Henry, who had struggled the first two weeks, finished 25 of 40 for 256 yards and three touchdown passes — his first three of the year. Akeem Hunt played like the feature back the Boilermakers need, rushing 12 times for just 22 yards but catching nine passes for 72 yards and a score.
The defense, which had gotten worn down in the first two games, caught the Fighting Irish off-guard with a blitz-happy game plan.
It was enough to keep Purdue in the lead through three quarters — or until Daniels and Jackson took over.
The junior receiver outjumped Antoine Lewis for the short pass from Rees to tie things up early in the fourth quarter. Then, after Notre Dame forced a punt, Rees threw deep for Daniels again, who caught the ball on the run and simultaneously stiff-armed a Purdue defender as he stayed in bounds for a long score to put the Irish ahead with 11:16 to go. Daniels finished with eight catches for 167 yards. Three plays after that, Jackson took advantage of Henry’s mistake, cashing it in for a TD.
Henry answered with a 9-yard TD pass to tight end Justin Sinz to make it 31-24 and the Boilermakers had a chance to tie the score after recovering Amir Carlisle’s fumble at the Notre Dame 41. But the Irish defense forced a punt and the Boilermakers never got the ball again