As someone well versed in the vagaries of college football once said, a clich� is a clich� is a clich�. It was not Ara Raoul Parseghian, a coach who can dish out the hackneyed lines as fearlessly as the next man. But last week his Fighting Irish provided a jolting reminder that the reason one hears all those trite locker-room sayings each spring is because they have a persistent way of proving true every fall. In fact, as the leader of the defending national champions, Ara has all along been predictably saying, if not wholly believing, "It is far more difficult staying on top than it is getting there."
That is what Notre Dame seemed bent on proving when it went out last Saturday and got itself upset by Purdue 31-20. More startling still, the Boilermakers managed their miracle by apparently trying to disprove another cherished clich�: A game is never over until the final gun. Thirty-point underdogs at best, Purdue exploded for 24 points faster than it takes a Notre Dame lineman to whip out the statistics showing that the Irish were the second-best defensive team in the nation last season.
The Boilermakers' 24 points were in fact the most any team has ever scored on an Irish team in the first quarter. And, as Ara himself might have said, that was all she wrote.
For the benefit of the stunned fans in Notre Dame stadium who couldn't believe their eyes, this is what happened in that rapid-fire quarter:
On the second play Notre Dame's Al Samuel bobbled a pitchout that was recovered by Purdue End Rich Oliver on the Irish 32. Then the Boilermakers' Mike Terrizzi, playing with a severely strained shoulder, passed to Olympic sprinter Larry Burton for 23 yards. On fourth and one, Terrizzi scored around end. Purdue 7, Notre Dame 0. Time elapsed: 3 minutes, 16 seconds.
Stopped on their 21, the Irish punted and three plays later Purdue's Pete Gross, the leading rusher for the day, slanted off left tackle and raced 52 yards all but unmolested. Purdue 14, Notre Dame 0. Time elapsed: 6:57.
After Tackle Ken Novak, a 6'7", 274-pound behemoth who tossed Irish runners around like rag dolls all afternoon, dropped Samuel for a four-yard loss, Quarterback Tom Clements tried to get Notre Dame moving with a dangerous pass into the flat. Linebacker Bob Mannella picked it off on the run and went 21 yards for another Boilermaker touchdown. Purdue 21, Notre Dame 0. Time elapsed: 7:38.
The Irish slowed the frantic proceedings long enough to register a first down on a pass-interference call before once again being forced to punt. But then, led by Running Back Scott Dierking, the Boilermakers shifted to a power drive that culminated in a 47-yard field goal by Pete Schmidt. Score: Purdue 24, Notre Dame 0. Time elapsed: 12:47.
Historic first quarters are hard to recover from, but Notre Dame tried as Clements, zeroing in on his favorite receiver, Pete Demmerle, led the Irish on an 80-yard scoring march early in the second quarter. The touchdown made the score 24-7, and so it remained until half-time as a portentous rain soaked both the large home crowd and the new 1973 national championship flag that had been hoisted to much raucous acclaim in the sunny pregame ceremonies.
The gloom lifted a bit in the third quarter when, following a 15-yard crash up the middle, Notre Dame's Wayne Bullock scored on a plunge to pull the Irish to within 10 points. Terrizzi, forced to leave the game in the second quarter because of his injured shoulder, stood ready to return if an emergency arose. But none ever did as replacement Mark Vitali, a sophomore appearing in his first college game, rose to the moment by connecting on a pair of key passes early in the fourth quarter that set up another Purdue touchdown.