With the game on the line, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis put the game in the hands of his hobbled star.
Gimpy Jimmy Clausen completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph with 24.8 seconds to play, and Notre Dame rallied for a 24-21 win over Purdue on Saturday night.
Clausen, slowed by a turf toe injury on his right foot, split time with Dayne Crist. Though Crist directed two touchdown drives with the Wildcat offense in the first half, Clausen returned to the game when it got tight in the fourth quarter. Weis didn't want Clausen to play in the second half, but he said there was no doubt who was going to finish if it got close.
"We started talking about it early in the fourth quarter, and he (Clausen) had started politicking before that," Weis said. "He said that he felt fine and if the game got to the situation where we needed to put him in there, he said put him in there. I listened to him."
Clausen said playing hurt was no big deal.
"That's what the team expects me to do, that's what I expect myself to do," he said. "I think anyone on the team would have done the same exact thing."
The Fighting Irish (3-1) took over trailing 21-17 with 3:41 to go. Clausen completed a 22-yard pass to Rudolph to move the ball to the Purdue 32, but a sack forced Notre Dame into a third-and-14. Clausen completed a 15-yard pass to Robby Parris for a first down. A 17-yarder to Golden Tate set up a first-and-goal at the 4. After three plays netted two yards, Clausen found Rudolph in the end zone on fourth down for the winner.
Clausen said Rudolph talked to him before the play.
"Kyle looked at me and said 'Jimmy give me the ball,'" Clausen said. "I said, 'You better get open and catch the ball,' and he made a big play. After that, I gave him a big hug and said all that work in the summertime out in California paid off."
Clausen, the nation's No. 2 passer, wasn't himself. He completed 15 of 26 for 171 yards, and he threw his first interception of the season.
He found his rhythm in the final minutes.
"I think I just needed to stay loose," he said.
It was the third straight Notre Dame game decided in the final minute. Kyle McCarthy had an interception at the 4-yard line with 57 seconds left to seal Notre Dame's 33-30 win over Michigan State last week. A week earlier, Michigan's Tate Forcier threw a 5-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining to beat the Irish 38-34.
"Last week, the defense made a play at the end of the game," Weis said. "This week, the offense made a play at the end of the game. Would you like the game to be easier than that? Absolutely. But give me a close win any time of the week, I'll take it."
Notre Dame played without its leading rusher and receiver. Running back Armando Allen sat out with an injured right ankle and receiver Michael Floyd was knocked out for the season last week with a broken collarbone.
Joey Elliott passed for 289 yards and three touchdowns in his best game of the season for Purdue (1-3). Keith Smith caught 11 passes and tied a career high with 136 yards.
Purdue's three losses are by a combined 12 points.
The Boilermakers (1-3) drove deep into Notre Dame territory late in the third quarter and began the fourth quarter trailing by 10 with the ball at the Notre Dame 15. Elliott completed a slant pass to Smith for a 3-yard touchdown, and the Boilermakers cut Notre Dame's lead to 17-14.
Purdue got another chance with just under six minutes to play. Jaycen Taylor took a play-action fake out of the backfield, caught a pass in the flat from Elliott and raced untouched for a 38-yard touchdown that gave Purdue a 21-17 lead with just under four minutes to play.
Purdue didn't deny the importance of the game, saying all week that the rivalry had special meaning. The Boilermakers wore all-black uniforms for the first time since Oct. 21, 2006 against Wisconsin and the "Purdue" in the end zones were painted black with a gold outline instead of gold with a black outline.
But Clausen sent the Purdue home fans disappointed.
"That was a very gutsy call," Rudolph said. "I know he just wanted to be out there. He's a competitor, and he wants to be out there at all times."
(This version CORRECTS to 12 points in 17th graf.)