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Irish win despite offense

Notre Dame scores on three turnovers to beat Purdue 24-17.

©Associated Press
September 8, 2002

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- With the West Coast offense looking no better than the option Notre Dame abandoned this season, the defense and special teams led the way again Saturday.

Gerome Sapp and Lionel Bolen scored on fumble returns 11 seconds apart and Vontez Duff added a 34-yard interception return for a score as Notre Dame beat Purdue 24-17.

The Irish haven't scored an offensive touchdown in two wins.

"A team with one element not performing as well as you'd like it to for a variety of reasons, another element has to step up," Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said. "I think our football team did that."

Purdue has lost 13 straight at Notre Dame Stadium since winning in 1974. "Whenever I've been around a closely contested football game in all the years I've been a coach, it comes down to one thing, and that one thing is turnovers," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said.

Duff, whose 76-yard punt return against Maryland last week put the game away, made the decisive play again by picking off Kyle Orton's pass and returning it 33 yards for a score.

Sapp picked up a Motrell Lowe fumble and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Deaunte Ferrell mishandled a squib kick and ran back to the 1-yard line to pick it up. He ran to his left, but Notre Dame's Justin Thomas drove Purdue's Drew Rucks back into Ferrell, and the ball popped free.

Bolen caught the ball in the air at the 4-yard line and ran in for the touchdown to give the Irish a 14-0 lead.

The Boilermakers overcame a 17-0 deficit to tie the score on a 76-yard punt return and a 3-yard run by Jerod Void.

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