Noie: Notre Dame goes Back to the Future for another home victory

Tom Noie
ND Insider

You can thank Marty McFly and Doc Brown and Biff Tannen and that darn DeLorean for this column. 

It’s their fault. Or, at least the idea to go in this post-Notre Dame football win direction. 

What, did you really need another of us SBT scribes to dissect that third down call in the second quarter? Or the two-quarterback situation? Or how the Irish run game finally looked to get in somewhat of a working gear? 

Or to bang the drum for that Drum? Sorry, shot taken. 

Surfing the channels late Friday, you come upon the 1980s classic “Back to the Future,” where Michael J. Fox (Marty) is transported back in time via the DeLorean and must get, well, back to the future. Watching that gives you the idea – a week after Notre Dame went into the future with its game against Toledo available only through a subscription streaming service – ugh! – how about going back to the future viewing Saturday’s home game against Purdue? 

Back to when there were 59,075 fans in the original House that Rockne Built. Back to when the late/great Jeff Jeffers and Jack Nolan called the game on the local NBC affiliate. Back to when you might need to adjust the rabbit ears on your TV for clearer reception and make sure you had enough hours on the VHS tape to record the game. 

Back when that big, old drum could actually fit through a stadium tunnel. 

So it was Back to the Future day, all the way back to Notre Dame’s greatest coach. A day that saw No. 12 Notre Dame beat Purdue, 27-13 and also saw Irish coach Brian Kelly tie Knute Rockne with career win No. 105 at Notre Dame. 

Rockne won his 105th game here 91 years ago. 

“It takes a lot of things to be in place for that to happen – consistency, leadership, alignment,” Kelly said. “All those things have to come together to get to this point. That’s helped a lot being consistent and winning football games.” 

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly talks to a referee during the Notre Dame vs. Purdue NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

► Scoring:Notre Dame 27, Purdue 13: Scoring summary from Saturday's game

► Stats Purdue-Notre Dame statistics

There were times early Saturday that rekindled memories of Irish coaches past, but not Rockne. It was more Bob Davie and Charlie Weis and Tyrone Willingham. It felt like there were times where Notre Dame was on the ropes, when one big play would deliver another big swing of momentum.  

The breaks didn’t beat the boys, Rock. 

It was another one that was too close for comfort, but another one where the Irish found another way to win. It was the “easiest” win three weeks in. Wasn’t really over until Kyle Hamilton’s end zone interception late in the fourth quarter. 

Time for a deep exhale. Again. 

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton (14) tackles Purdue's TJ Sheffield (8) during ND's 27-13 victory over Purdue, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, at Notre Dame Stadium.

“Our confidence is sky high right now,” Hamilton said. “The scary part is, there’s room for improvement.” 

What better time than Saturday to go Back to the Future? Watch the game how the game used to be watched Unplug from everything. Stay off social media, which has a tendency to promote group think and follow the angry leader. 

Put in Tyler Buchner! 

Fire O-line coach Jeff Quinn! 

When will the Irish look like the Irish? 

So, no Twitter. Also, no following along on statbroadcast.com, which ran three and sometimes four plays ahead the previous week against Toledo. Peacock Premium would come back from a commercial break, only to have statbroadcast.com tell you that it already was fourth and nine. Or 12. Or whatever. 

No, nothing about today’s technology came into play while watching this one from home. It was just you and your television (thanks again to some wacky Notre Dame protocols, some fully-vaccinated writers were not allowed in the stadium press box) and the game. A notepad and a pen and your thoughts. Throw in Mike Tirico and Purdue grad Drew Brees and that was it. No Twitter. No cell phone. No laptop. No noise. 

This was absolutely Old School, without Frank the Tank and his boy Blue. Another movie reference for you. 

Gotta say, that was a pretty nice way to watch the game. Quiet. Uncluttered. Not concerned about the group think of social media. Not paying attention to what the stats said. Trust your eyes. And your ears. 

Like when NBC caught Kelly offering the Irish his pre-game speech in the locker room. How he said the first two weeks of the season – when Notre Dame won games against Florida State and Toledo by a combined six points – were tune-up games. How Saturday would be the first time Notre Dame would truly show what type of team it is. 

Still waiting on that one, even after consecutive home win No. 26. Notre Dame plays at home, Notre Dame wins at home. Makes for some happy post-game sunset tailgates out in Joyce South. 

“I just like the fact that we’re growing, we’re getting better,” Kelly said. 

Growing in a way where it’s not the same cast of characters, especially on offense. Kelly mentioned earlier in the week about finding more “security blankets” than just Kevin Austin Jr., and Michael Mayer for quarterback Jack Coan. The head coach wanted/needed more blankets. 

So did the quarterback. 

“We have a lot of weapons that we can utilize,” Coan said. 

Then Avery Davis arrives and snares five passes for 120 yards and a score. His 62-yarder in the third quarter was the big play this game and these Irish needed. 

“I knew it was coming to me based on the look,” Davis said. “To finally connect on one of them was amazing. It was kind of like my day today, I guess. I just wanted to capitalize on that.” 

Next week, it’s back to the salt mine of actually covering a game in person – in the press box at Soldier Field. As if the first three weeks weren’t intriguing enough, now it really gets interesting for 3-0 Notre Dame. Here comes the run of Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, USC and North Carolina up next. 

Notre Dame’s Avery Davis (3) runs for a touchdown during the Notre Dame vs. Purdue NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

And you thought the first three weeks were something. This season’s about to take on a whole new importance. 

Nothing like the present, regardless of how much Marty enjoyed 1955. Sorry, Biff, but it’ll be back to just that next week. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI