"It's tough to go undefeated if you don't win the first one," he said. "I'd rather birdie the first hole of a golf course than get a double bogey."
The second hole was Purdue last Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind., and Ara had taken more double bogeys against the Boilermakers than he cares to remember: four in the last nine years. There is something about a golden helmet that sets a Boilermaker boiling. Purdue had opened with a narrow victory over Wisconsin and then got a 24-19 jolt from Miami of Ohio. But Parseghian saw no good in Purdue's defeat.
"They are always sky-high for us," he said. "Now they've been hurt and they'll be just that much more angry."
They must have been, because it was a football game for much longer than a lot of people expected. Purdue was woefully inexperienced when it began the season, and it had been weakened even more by injuries at key positions. But Alex Agase had proved to be an outstanding coach while working with a minimum of talent at Northwestern, and he has lost none of that touch now that he is at Purdue.
Even with ponderous backs, the Notre Dame offense always had been a frustrating mixture of two parts shell game and one part football. "They give you so much misdirection," says Agase, "that by the time the game is over you can't even find your way out of the stadium." With Penick and Best the con game is just that much more devastating.
"It's really not very complicated," says Tom Pagna, the Notre Dame offensive backfield coach. And he grins. "It just takes a lot of study, a lot of work and a very good memory."
Except for a brief flare of brilliance—Best's 64-yard run on the first play of the game—Notre Dame did not get that offense untracked until Purdue had taken a 7-3 lead in the second quarter. The Boilermaker touchdown came on a 53-yard bomb from Bo Bobrowski to Olympic sprinter Larry Burton, the fourth-place finisher in the 200-meter final at Munich. It was a simple play: Bobrowski dropped back and, without looking, threw the ball as far as he could. Meanwhile Burton just blew past Irish defender Tim Rudnick, caught the ball in full stride at the seven and scored. "There are only three men in the world faster than Burton," said Notre Dame publicist Roger Valdiserri. "And one of them isn't Rudnick." Later, Parseghian said that right then he began to have nightmares of past Purdue defeats.
But Irish quarterback Tom Clements, who handled the offense well last year and now runs it with a master's touch, began playing football, football, who's got the football?
Penick, who had been dogged by a pair of black shirts all afternoon, made a few moves around left end for eight, and then picked up three more on the same play after Best had cracked over right guard for 1. Now, with Purdue watching everybody but the Irish cheerleaders, Clements hit on a 14-yard pass to Wayne Bullock, a 220-pound junior fullback who runs with more force than finesse. After Best was stopped for no gain, Penick cracked left tackle for eight yards while everyone else was moving to the right; Best got seven over left guard while everyone was watching Penick, and then Best left black shirts strewn across the field on a nine-yard burst to score. Notre Dame 10, Purdue 7.
The Irish did that sort of thing only once more, early in the third period, driving 86 yards in 14 plays with Bullock going in from the one. Later, Bob Thomas kicked his second field goal to wrap it up 20-7.