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Keyes, who almost went to Hampton Institute in his home state of Virginia, where he works summers in the shipyards, is nicknamed "Nursey." He says he doesn't know why. "I guess I was just lazy. Why walk when someone would carry me around?" Perhaps he was just saving his energy. He does not appear to be lazy to Mollenkopf. "He can run like a deer," says Mollenkopf. "He can do everything. He can kick off, kick field goals, do everything. I've never had anybody like him."
Notre Dame Coach Ara Parseghian has his own problems, no matter what the experts say. The defense is young. Only All-America End Kevin Hardy has returned from last year's front four. The running game is questionable. All-America Halfback Nick Eddy is gone, and so is Fullback Larry Conjar, a fine blocker. There are holes in the offensive line, including a considerable gap left by the graduation of Center George Goeddeke. Junior Quarterback Terry Hanratty has returned, as has End Jim Seymour, perhaps the best in Notre Dame history. But the Irish will need to get their running game going if they are to be consistent, and Parseghian is uneasy as they trot onto the field at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday afternoon before the largest crowd ever to see a Purdue home game, 62,316.
On the second play of the game Purdue Fullback Perry Williams tries right end and is smothered for no gain. Small wonder. Kevin Hardy, who weighs 280 pounds and is the best defensive lineman in the country, is there. Forget the right side. But wait—a Notre Dame man is limping off the field. It is No. 74. Kevin Hardy will not return in this game—or perhaps play in any other for a while. Later Hardy will be told his left ankle is badly sprained, not broken, and he will say he was clipped. Mollenkopf will say Hardy was hit on a crackback block by Keyes, Purdue's best blocker. Chuck Kuzneski, who would have had to face Hardy all afternoon, will say: "They missed him. No doubt about it. But I wasn't sorry to see him leave."
Now Phipps is back to pass. He throws 40 yards downfield and Jim Bierne makes a leaping catch between two Irish defenders. Four plays later Williams slants over left guard, and Purdue leads 6-0 with three minutes gone in the game. The extra-point try is wide.
But the Irish, behind Hanratty, come right back, overwhelmingly, almost arrogantly. In 12 plays Notre Dame drives to the Purdue 24, where it is third and nine. Hanratty is back to pass. He wants to throw to Rocky Bleier, who is covered by two men. Hanratty hesitates—then throws anyway. Purdue's Don Webster steps in front of Bleier to intercept.
The relief is temporary. Three minutes later Hanratty has Notre Dame back again. A perfect 24-yard pass to Seymour is the big play in a 49-yard drive to the Purdue 26. Hanratty rolls to his right and imperiously waves End Paul Snow deep into the end zone. Snow goes deep, taking Dennis Cirbes with him, and Hanratty runs 25 yards down the sideline to the Purdue one. He sneaks over on the next play and the extra point makes it 7-6, Notre Dame.
The Irish have seized control of the game and they keep it throughout the first half. They throw deep repeatedly on first down, run 54 plays to Purdue's 33 and Hanratty completes 16 of 34 passes for 172 yards. The Purdue pass defense is shaken, all but frantic, but the Irish have not scored. Midway through the second period, with no chance that the bombing attack will stop for truce talks, Keyes is readied to lend a hand on defense. The Irish—who have had to punt only once—start attacking again. They drive from their own 25 to the Purdue four. In comes Keyes. It is fourth down and Joe Azzaro cannot miss a field goal from there. But instead of Azzaro, Parseghian sends in a play. Seymour, now covered by Keyes, and Snow, covered by Webster, go wide to the right, which isolates Purdue's two best defenders on the right side of the field. Hanratty, drifting back, wants to hit Tight End George Kunz in the left corner of the end zone. He waits, and dodges, and waits, but Kunz is covered. Finally, when his protection at last breaks down, Hanratty throws across the middle to Seymour, who is surrounded by three men. The pass falls incomplete.
The half ends with the score 7-6, and the suspicion begins to arise that Notre Dame may have let Purdue live too long. The only running the Irish have shown was back and forth from the sidelines, and the presence of Keyes has settled Purdue's pass defense.
At half time Mollenkopf tells his players that Notre Dame can be beaten. Keyes can cover Seymour, which means Purdue won't have to double-team him. Notre Dame is covering Purdue's receivers man-for-man and Bob DeMoss says all Phipps needs is time to throw, because Purdue is going to get men clear. The second half begins, and Phipps gets the time he needs.
Notre Dame receives, Hanratty misses with two passes and a run loses ground. Purdue starts at its 49. Six plays later it is third and 15 on the Irish 46. Phipps hits Keyes in the flat for nine yards, but that only makes it fourth and six on the Notre Dame 37. No punt. No field goal. Phipps is back to pass again. He is rushed hard this time. He eludes Charles Lauck, Hardy's replacement, and almost falls down. One hand brushes the ground. The Irish pass defenders relax ever so slightly and Bob Hurst gets behind Notre Dame Linebacker Mike McGill. Phipps does not throw the ball hard, he lofts it, wobbly but accurately, over McGill's head and into the hands of Hurst on the 20-yard line. Hurst is not stopped until he reaches the Irish three and on the next play Williams scores. Purdue elects to try for two points and makes it, Phipps hitting Beirne across the middle.