Today we'll be kicking off a new series that looks back at the top Notre Dame moments from 2012. Yes, there were some good ones. Many very, very good ones for the Irish. It may seem like eons ago given this offseason, but the Irish did play for the national title and, despite the loss of Everett Golson this fall, have every reason to believe they can compete for a BCS bowl berth again in 2013.
We'll start things off today with No. 10.
Sept. 8, 2012. Rees replaces Golson on final drive, leads Irish to win over Purdue
Few mention this as a key game when discussing Notre Dame's 2012 resurgence. But all one has to do is look at the Irish's home opener to understand the fragility of a college football season, and how much one or two key plays or decisions can change everything.
Tommy Rees had been suspended for the season opener a week earlier against Navy in Dublin. Golson engineered a 50-10 win over the Midshipmen, then completed 21 of 31 passes for 289 yards and a score while being sacked five times against Purdue. But he lost a fumble at his own 15 with less than four minutes to go and the Irish up seven. Purdue tied the game, and coach Brian Kelly inserted Rees to start the next drive from his own 35 with no timeouts and 2:12 left in the game -- not to mention the home crowd booing the quarterback. Rees completed 3 of 6 passes for 35 yards, including a 10-yard pass to John Goodman on a key third-and-6 play from the Notre Dame 49, when it looked like Rees did not get the snap off before the play clock expired.
Nine plays later, Kyle Brindza kicked the game-winning 27-yard field goal with seven seconds left, sealing the win and setting up a see-saw signal caller display for much of the first half of the season between Rees and Golson.
The boldness of the call gets lost in hindsight, but the thought of Rees not coming through -- or worse, turning it over -- and Purdue, a team that ended up firing its coach in 2012, winning at Notre Dame Stadium in Week 2 shows just what a huge gamble Kelly took.
It was one that paid off, big time, leading to 10 ensuing wins and a Notre Dame season that ended on the final night of the college football year.