The script was all too familiar: Notre Dame, fresh from a thrilling victory, has visions of a national championship, only to be beaten by a brilliant Purdue quarterback.
Lenny Dawson beat the Irish two of three games in the mid-50s, Bob Griese once in '65 and Mike Phipps three straight times in the last '60s. And today, perhaps the best of them all, Mark Herrmann, rallied Purdue from a two-touchdown deficit to a 28-22 victory.
The 51st collision in this rich rivalry offered enough to satisfy even the hungriest fan, from the team ranked lower in the polls (Purdue) being slightly favored, to a touchdown pass off a fake field goal, to a safety, and to the gifted Herrmann passing the Irish dizzy when that became necessary.
In truth, the best defense against Purdue was the Purdue offense. A fumble led to a 46-yard Notre Dame drive and 7-0 lead before Purdue ran three plays from scrimmage. A Herrmann interception spoiled a second quarter drive with the Irish ahead by six points.
And the clever Irish, using three quarterbacks at various times with their starter out with an injury, had a 20-7 lead midway through the third quarter. That happened in part, because one quarterback, Greg Knafelc, threw a 17-yard touchdown pass off a fake field goal; another, Tim Koegel, threw a four-yard touchdown pass and an end completed a 34-yard pass.
Still, a large sign behind the Notre Dame bench insisted "Purdue Can Handle Any Dame."
Almost immediately after that final Irish touchdown, Herrmann began to unlimber that special right arm. He has been a regular since midway through the first game his freshman season two years ago and has completed more than 55 percent of 639 passes for more than 4,800 yards.
He has been interviewed by nearly every take-out writer in the country this week and has come across as typically middle-class and middle American with a highly honed competitive sense and the passing touch of men years older.
Herrmann was content for most of today's game to take what Notre Dame gave him -- lots of ground for his runners left and right and short passes to his backs. With eight minutes left in the third quarter, it was time for serious pitch and catch.
He has been playing that for much of his life with wide receiver Bart Burrell. Even in the offseason. Herrmann usually throws 200 passes each day to his Carmel, Ind., buddy.
On second and 10 from his 20 yard line, Herrmann sent a lovely spiral over Burrell's shoulder 28 yards upfield. Later, on third and seven, Herrmann backpedaled into the shotgun formation and hit Burrell for 11 yards and a first down.
On third and three still later in the drive, Herrmann waited until three burly Irish had him all but buried before throwing a strike to Raymond Smith for an 11-yard gain.
"My Man And Me" is neatly lettered on the yellow towel Smith hangs from his belt -- and he and Herrmann connected on a 12-yard pass before Wally Jones scored from the two. A few moments later Purdue took the lead for good.
On third and 20 from the Irish 17 on Notre Dame's next possession, Koegel threw a pass that Purdue linebacker Marcus McKinnie intercepted and returned 27 yards, to the Notre Dame eight. Herrmann let Jones take it in on his third carry, from the two.
Purdue got the ball in four plays again, and Herrmann-to-Burrell got them a six-yard touchdown and a 28-20 lead after Herrmann completed three other passes. Then Purdue allowed the Irish one final chance at victory.
With five minutes left, the Purdue snapper hiked the ball badly and the punter was tackled in the end zone for a two-point safety. After the kickoff, Notre Dame was 60 yards from the end zone.
Odly, the Irish had their running quarterback, Mike Courey, in at the time. He had completed a 43-yard pass earlier, but that was as much due a Purdue defender's laxness as Courey's skill. So Courey bounced the ball off Vagas Perguson on a screen.
On third and 13 from the Notre Dame 37, the passing quarterback, Koegel, came in and got a first down with a pass to Pete Holohan, whose 34-yard pass on a reverse had set up an earlier field goal.
But Courey could gain just two yards from the Purdue 46, Koegel was unsuccessful with two passes, Notre Dame punted with 3:22 left and the Boilermakers ran out the clock.