1. Sept. 24, 1977: Notre Dame 31, Purdue 24
One of the truly memorable program changing moments in Notre Dame history.
Joe Montana came out of nowhere to rescue the Irish at Purdue in 1977, and save a national title bid.
Pre-season No. 1 Notre Dame was coming off a stunning 20-13 loss at Ole Miss and trailing at Purdue 24-14 entering the fourth quarter. Starting QB Rusty Lisch, a future pro, was benched after the Irish fell behind 10-0, and reserve Gary Forystek suffered a severe injury shortly thereafter.
Lisch was re-inserted and led two touchdown drives, but the Irish fell behind by 10 again entering the fourth. Head coach Dan Devine, already on the hot seat, rolls the dice and turns to senior Joe Montana — sidelined all of 1976 after shoulder surgery — to try to provide one last spark. A lost Irish fumble sets up Purdue deep in Irish territory, but the Boilermakers miss a short field goal. Shortly thereafter, Montana’s first toss is nearly intercepted, and could have potentially been returned for a score.
Thereafter, Montana heats up and finishes 9-of-14 for 154 yards, a 13-yard TD to tight end Ken MacAfee, and backup fullback Dave Mitchell tallies the game-winning TD from five yards out with 1:39 left.
The seismic event that afternoon is the springboard toward the 1977 national title and the re-birth of a legend.
2. Sept, 24, 1966: Notre Dame 26, Purdue 14
One year earlier, Purdue defeated the Irish 25-21, with Boilermakers QB Bob Griese completing 19 of 22 passes for 287 yards. Griese returns for the 1966 Rose Bowl-champion team that enters the game ranked No. 6.
The Irish fall behind 7-0 early on a 90-plus yards fumble return by Leroy Keyes (think South Florida last year), but Nick Eddy electrifies the Irish crowd with a kickoff return for a TD to knot the score. Then the fireworks really begin when the sophomore tandem of quarterback Terry Hanratty and receiver Jim Seymour combine for scores of 84, 39 and seven yards, the latter in the closing minutes to clinch the win.
Seymour’s 13 catches for 276 yards (still a school record in one game) are more than 1965 leading receiver Eddy had the entire year (13 catches, 233 yards and two scores).
The victory helps propel the Irish to the national title.
3. Sept. 16, 2000: Notre Dame 23, Purdue 21
One week after losing in overtime to No. 1 Nebraska, Notre Dame starts former tight end Gary Godsey at quarterback to replace an injured Arnaz Battle. Meanwhile, similar to 1966, the Rose Bowl-bound Boilermakers possess one of the nation’s elite QBs in senior Drew Brees.
The Irish take a quick 14-0 lead on a nine-yard Godsey run after a blocked punt by Glenn Earl, and then Shane Walton intercepts a Brees pass that he returns for a 60-yard score. Brees rallies Purdue to a 21-20 lead with 3:39 left. Godsey then leads a 59-yard drive that culminates with a 38-yard field goal by Nick Setta as time elapses.
The “In Godsey We Trust” shirts become a hit as the Irish win “In The Nick of Time” en route to a BCS bid one year after finishing 5-7.
4. Sept. 25, 1971: Notre Dame 8, Purdue 7
In a monsoon, No. 2-ranked Notre Dame is on the cusp of losing for the fourth straight time at West Lafayette, Ind., when a snap is fumbled by quarterback Pat Steenberge at the Purdue 5 with under five minutes remaining and the Irish trailing 7-0.
After the defense holds, a low long snap into the end zone allows cornerback Clarence Ellis to tear in from the left side and force the off-balance Purdue punter to fumble. End Fred Swendsen pounces on the loose ball past the goal line. On the two-point conversion, Steenberge then finds tight end Mike Creaney on The Genuflect Play — where Creaney falls to one knee at the line of scrimmage, gets up and then sneaks past the goal line — with 2:58 left.
The 8-7 victory doesn’t lead to a title, but it ends an Irish drought in a downpour at West Lafayette.
5. Oct. 18, 1952: Notre Dame 26, Purdue 14
In one of the more bizarre games Notre Dame has ever played, the Irish fumble a school-record 10 times — but No. 9 Purdue coughs up the ball 11 times. Notre Dame ends up recovering 15 of those 21 miscues, including a TD by Irish right tackle Joe Bush of a John Lattner fumble into the end zone.
The future Heisman winner Lattner fumbles five times but he also snares a 47-yard touchdown pass from Ralph Guglielmi on the last play of the first half to give the Irish a 20-7 lead.
After getting upset by Pitt at home the previous week, the unranked 1-1-1 Irish upset Top-10 Purdue (which would share the Big Ten title with Michigan State) en route to finishing the season No. 3 in the country.