WEST LAFAYETTE — Rob Henry had his eyes locked on a teammate from the get-go.
Bennett Jackson had a pretty good look, too.
Upon further review, Henry would like a do-over.
Jackson, one of Notre Dame’s tri-captains, stepped in front of an ill-advised Henry pass and his 34-yard touchdown return capped an electric 21-point spree in less than four minutes.
It was a throw which shaped the course of a 31-24 Irish win on Saturday, Sept. 14, and it was a play which may have finally kick-started an ND defense which had been void of game-changing moments.
Jarrett Grace, one of Notre Dame’s inside linebackers, had a name for such an occasion.
“I think we needed a play. I call it a swagger play ... like, ‘Alright, we got this boys,’” Grace said.
And perhaps no Irish player demonstrates a toughened, controlled swagger more than Jackson.
The Irish tri-captain saw a team leader kind of moment and jumped on it.
“I saw him do the shallow route, so I tried to squeeze to my man,” Jackson said of the back-breaker of a play for the Boilermakers. “I looked to the quarterback and he just happened to be looking at him all the way ... gave me a nice chance to undercut him.”
Henry simply didn’t follow his checks, and it cost Purdue dearly.
“It was man coverage and I dropped back ... to be honest with you, I thought we were getting hell and I threw the ball,” the Boiler senior said. “Number 2 is a good player and he made a good play. Looking back on it, there many things I wish I would have done.
“I wish I would have gotten to my second read, third read, but that’s the difference in the game.”
“Obviously, a couple of plays we would like to get back,’’ Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell said. “I know that we’re getting better ... that’s the whole key to this program right now is to improve, but I’m not into moral victories.”
The pick-six play gave the Irish a 31-17 lead, though with more than 11 minutes left, the outcome was far from decided.
But the game’s energy was decidedly in Notre Dame’s favor after the turnover.
“That play is phenomenal,” Grace said. “That’s why he has a ‘C’ on his chest. He’s out there to make plays, to provide a huge spark, huge momentum change and I think it did that.”
Head coach Brian Kelly, whose team wobbled early against the spirited Boilers and will face a third straight Big Ten Conference opponent next Saturday at home, agreed.
“To win, you have to do some things well late in the game,” Kelly said. “In the second half, we outscored our opponent 28-14. I think a lesser teams wilts under the team that starts out that well.
“We didn’t start really well, but we hung in there. We kept playing, we kept fighting.”
No. 21 NOTRE DAME 31, PURDUE 24
Notre Dame 0 3 7 21—31
Purdue 7 3 7 7—24
Pur—A.Hunt 15 pass from Henry (Griggs kick), 9:08.
Pur—FG Griggs 47, 10:44.
ND—FG Brindza 20, :44.
ND—McDaniel 1 run (Brindza kick), 10:37.
Pur—Knauf 18 pass from Henry (Griggs kick), 6:28.
ND—Daniels 9 pass from Rees (Brindza kick), 14:47.
ND—Daniels 82 pass from Rees (Brindza kick), 12:40.
ND—Jackson 34 interception return (Brindza kick), 11:18.
Pur—Sinz 9 pass from Henry (Griggs kick), 8:16.
First downs 20 16
Rushes-yards 37-91 21-38
Passing 309 256
Comp-Att-Int 20-33-0 25-41-1
Return Yards 34 18
Punts-Avg. 4-36.8 5-41.8
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 3-23 6-55
Time of Possession 31:12 28:48
RUSHING—Notre Dame, McDaniel 16-56, G.Atkinson 5-27, Carlisle 11-16, Bryant 1-2, Team 2-(minus 4), Rees 2-(minus 6). Purdue, A.Hunt 12-22, Dawkins 3-8, Knauf 2-6, Henry 4-2.
PASSING—Notre Dame, Rees 20-33-0-309. Purdue, Henry 25-40-1-256, Marshall 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Notre Dame, Daniels 8-167, T.Jones 4-57, Carlisle 3-16, C.Brown 1-40, Prosise 1-12, G.Atkinson 1-11, Niklas 1-9, McDaniel 1-(minus 3). Purdue, A.Hunt 9-72, Sinz 6-45, Knauf 4-51, Mikesky 2-56, Carter 1-14, Posey 1-7, Macarthy 1-6, Bade 1-5.
TACKLES—Notre Dame, Grace 10, Russell 4, Calabrese 4, Shembo 4, B. Jackson 4, Day 4, Farley 4, Fox 4. Purdue, Richards 9, Brown 7, Gilliam 6, Williams 6, Latta 6, Lucas 6, Robinson 6.