Purdue will need to emulate Notre Dame folk legend “Rudy” when it takes on the No. 12 Fighting Irish to continue an intrastate rivalry and win back the Shillelagh Trophy Saturday afternoon.
Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, as chronicled in the namesake 1993 film, fought to play football for Notre Dame despite his small size. His effort paid off with a game-sealing sack against Georgia Tech in his only snaps of his career, and his tenacity made him a sports legend in the years after. Purdue will need to show off a similar level of determination to prevail against its historically powerful rival.
The Boilermakers (2-0) and Irish (2-0) have a long and complicated history. Their matchup history dates back to 1896, but the Shillelagh Trophy has only been awarded since 1957.
Notre Dame has had three different rivalry trophies based on the shillelagh, a form of Irish club usually made from willow wood. The Irish play for the Jeweled Shillelagh every year against Southern California, and had a Shillelagh Trophy rivalry against Northwestern between the 1930s and 1970s.
The Irish lead the all-time series against Purdue 56-26-2. A 30-14 victory in the 2014 season sent the trophy back to South Bend for the seventh year in a row.
The teams have not been on each other’s schedules since then, but the teams plan to resume the yearly series during the 2024 season, according to a Purdue press release from the 2017 season.
“We’re definitely excited,” junior tight end Payne Durham said about reviving the rivalry. “They’re a good team, they do things well, they have a rich tradition, and we’re super excited about that.”
Durham said he will prepare for this game just like any other, adding he doesn’t feel more pressure against a top-10 team than Purdue’s other opponents.
The Boilermakers will be without fifth-year running back Zander Horvath, who entered his third season as a starter carrying a significant portion of Purdue’s running attempts and yards. Horvath broke his fibula in a game against UConn last weekend. The injury required surgery and benched him for four to eight weeks, head coach Jeff Brohm announced Monday.
Running backs coach Chris Barclay said he would like to see his players get better in the open field this week. Junior back King Doerue has 21 receptions for 168 yards in his two years at Purdue. He solidified himself as a reliable backfield receiver in place of Horvath in 2019, catching two touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per reception.
“Understanding leverage, where’s the defender in relation to where I am and how can I best attack his weakness,” Barclay said about Doerue’s strengths. “That’s something we’ll continue to work on.”
With Horvath out, players like Doerue and redshirt freshman running back Dylan Downing will be taking his place. Barclay said he has no concern about the younger back’s ability to perform against the Irish.
“We’re like thunder and lightning,” Downing said about his teamwork with Doerue.
Downing clarified he is very straight-lined and forceful, while Doerue is more agile and faster than him.
“It’s certainly a storied program,” Barclay said about Notre Dame’s fame as a team. “I remember the movie ‘Rudy’ and all these things, so I’ve never been up there. I’m looking forward to being a part of that experience up there and seeing the pageantry of it all.
“(It’s all) pretty neat, but we’re just excited to kick the ball off and play football.”
• Saturday's game will be televised by NBC.
PURDUE-NOTRE DAME SERIES HISTORY
• One of the most played matchups in Purdue Football history, Saturday's Shillelagh Trophy Game will be the 87th all-time meeting between the Boilermakers and Notre Dame. Purdue and the Fighting Irish will meet in a football game for the first time since 2014.
• Purdue has only played three opponents more times than the Fighting Irish: Indiana (122), Illinois (96), Iowa (91). The Boilermakers have also played Wisconsin 87 times, with the 88th meeting scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 23.
• Purdue claimed three out of five games from Notre Dame from 2003-07, taking ownership of the Shillelagh Trophy in 2003, 2004 and 2007.
• The Boilermakers will look to end a six-game losing streak to Notre Dame, last defeating the Fighting Irish in 2007 by a score of 33-19. Curtis Painter passed for 252 yards (22-37-2) and two touchdowns and Kory Sheets rushed for 141 yards and one score in the win (Sept. 29, 2007).
BREES TO BE ANALYST FOR GAME ON NBC
• Legendary Purdue quarterback Drew Brees will be on the call as an analyst for NBC when the Boilermakers take the field at Notre Dame Stadium to face the Fighting Irish on Saturday, Sept. 18.
• Brees, known for his stellar play as a senior during Purdue's Rose Bowl season in 2000, holds nearly every school passing record; game, single-season and career. The list notably includes career completions (1,026), yards (11,792) and touchdowns (90).
• The former New Orleans Saints signal caller retired from his prolific NFL career (2001-20) in March 2021 and announced his intentions to pursue sports broadcasting with NBC shortly thereafter.
• Brees quarterbacked the Boilermakers to a 28-23 win over 16th-ranked Notre Dame in 1999, passing for 317 yards (24-40-1) and one touchdown. He also rushed for 39 yards and one score.
– Purdue Athletics contributed to this report.