At the end of the half it looked like this game was going to be a huge step backwards. And yet, at the final whistle, it ended up being a modest step forward. No, not a win. But a modest step forward.
We've got a lot of notes on this game, from the dicey quarterback situation to the aggressiveness of Brian Smith to the defensive clampdown in the second half to some postgame Painter perspective. But for now (like I said to Dylan) how... about... Golden... Tate. He only caught three balls, but if I'll remember anything about this game years hence, it'll be him.
First he converts a 3rd & 12 with a 36-yard catch late in the first half; sort of a preview of what was to come. Then, he snatches a 43-yard 'go' ball on 4th & 5 with his fingernails, just over the hands of the corner. Finally, he catches a 25-yard fade in the end zone to bring the Irish to within a score late in the game. Sharpley managed to let it fly just before being crushed by a blitz, and Tate stretched out over the cornerback Pender to haul it in, crashing to the ground but holding onto it for the touchdown.
In the postgame, Charlie commented on Tate's involvement in the offense against Purdue. While fellow freshman Duval Kamara (6-68, 1 TD) was a rehearsed part of the game plan, using Tate was more of an improvisation:
I'll be perfectly honest with you, a couple of those were 'draw 'em up in the dirt plays'. Golden had no idea, and I said, "Get him over here." I told him, run a Go, we're throwing it to you. Real good coaching on my part [laughs]. And you want to know something? It gave us some momentum. Maybe I should just scrap the playbook and just draw 'em all up in the dirt.