After finally breaking into the Top 25 at No. 21 (AP) and No. 23 (coaches), BYU (9-1) faces 8th ranked Notre Dame (6-3). A win today in South Bend would turn many heads, but not enough to break the BCS party because they are not high enough in the ranking (top 5). The Fighting Irish have scored victories against #22 Purdue 33-27, #13 USC 31-14 and #5 Florida State 40-14. The games they lost were close battles to very respectable teams, losing 21-24 to #25 Washington State, 24-31 versus #17 Michigan and 19-27 to #6 Pittsburgh.
"Situated on the St. Joseph River, we are Live in South Bend, Indiana, looking forward to an incredible game. We're just moments away from kick off in this game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Cougars of BYU…The Cougars, are going to need to play a near flawless game here today, what do you think, Kirk?" asks broadcaster Brad Nessler.
"BYU does not match up too well against this talented backfield, I don't think they will stop them on the ground and I think Notre Dame wins this by two touchdowns."
"I was just about to say that, but forget about it. BYU has a good defense, but as good as their defense is I don't think they will match this teams offensive speed too well against this sneaky passing attack, Kirk, they are going to get picked apart like a turkey on Thanksgiving!"
With butterflies in the stomachs of the BYU fans and special teams unit, the Cougars line up for the kick off as the partisan home crowd chants, "We are ND!"
Matt Payne's kick off is returned to the 15-yard line by Vontez Duff before the ball is stripped, but recovered by the Irish. Notre Dame starts the drive on Irish 18.
On the first play of the game, the Irish run an option play, which is stopped in the backfield immediately for a one yard loss by Colby Bockwoldt. The Cougars hold on 2nd down with a run up the middle which goes for only two yards. On 3rd down and 9, BYU fans can smell a three and out. Notre Dame quarterback Carlyle Holiday lobs a pass into the air as Chad Barney leaps in front of the poor pass to intercept the football.
However, rabid Irish crowd watches as the ball goes right through the hands of Barney and into the hands of Irish wide receiver Rhema McKnight as he breaks away for a 79-yard touchdown.
As if the first defensive output wasn't painful enough, it doesn't get any better on offense. The high pressure defense of Notre Dame forces Matt Berry and company to go three and out. After a punt return to the ND 38 by Duff, Holiday finds tight end Jarred Clark over the middle for another Irish first down. A few plays later, the Irish are faced with a 3rd and 4 situation. Quarterback Holiday hands off to Ryan Grant only to find a huge mass of BYU defenders in his face dropping the running back a yard. Before BYU players can celebrate a successful defensive series, they are hit with a penalty flag. First down Irish.
Coming out in a three-wide set, Holiday fakes out the BYU defense with a play action pass down the middle to Mcknight which goes all the way down to the BYU 13. Running a no huddle offense, Notre Dame takes the snap quickly and tosses it into the end zone to a wide open Clark, but Aaron Francisco is there to save the day and swats down the pass before it reaches his outstretched hands.
On 2nd and 10, BYU brings the pressure and forces Holiday to dump the ball off quickly to Omar Jenkins, which goes for about a yard or two. On 3rd down and 4, BYU brings the house and forces Holiday to pass under pressure into the end zone and directly into the hands of Colby Bockwoldt. This time, Bockwoldt catches it and returns the ball to BYU 23.
After a direct snap to running back Fahu Tahi goes for a 1st down, BYU again shoots itself in the foot as Berry is intercepted by Dwight Ellick on a deep pass and returns it to the 48 of Notre Dame. Holiday finds Maurice Stowall down the sidelines to the 38 of BYU. The BYU defense hold on the next few plays and force the Fighting Irish to go for it on 4th and 7. Holiday drops back and finds Clark open on the sideline and is pushed out inches away from the 1st down marker by Levi Madarieta. BYU ball.
Taking the field with momentum shifting to the Cougars, Berry connects on his first pass to Jason Kukahiko to the BYU 47. Whalen then takes the ball up the middle for five yards as the 1st quarter clock expires.
End of 1st Quarter - BYU 0 Notre Dame 7
BYU starts the quarter off on the right foot, hitting receiver Rod Wilkerson on a play action post route which goes to the 35 of Notre Dame. Wilkerson make another amazing grab at the 14 of Notre Dame. BYU, using another play action fake, gets the Irish to bite leaving wideout Bristol Olomua wide open in the end zone. He drops it. Berry's 3rd down pass is incomplete, intended for Chris Hale. Payne quickly adds three much-needed points for BYU.
On the next series, the BYU defense holds the Irish at their own 43. To the surprising boos of the crowd, Notre Dame decides to punt. After another unsuccessful offensive series, Matt Payne punts out of the end zone and is returned to their own 48 by Duff. Notre Dame quickly drives down the field and scores on a lob pass to Stowall in the end zone. He is sandwiched by Barney and linebacker Mike Tanner, but still manages to make the catch.
The very next play, Berry throws a screen pass to Whalen but is intercepted by Preston Jackson, who returns it to the BYU 21. The Irish add another quick field goal.
Berry connects on the first play of the drive with Whalen over the middle who his scoots up to the 42 of ND. A few plays later, the Irish intercept Berry again as Duff returns the ball to the 23 of ND.
On the next play, Holiday connects with Matt Shelton to the 50-yard line, but they punt the ball back to the Cougars at the 20 yard line. BYU moves the ball downfield and finds Hale, who is brought down at the Notre Dame 32. The next 1st down pass to tight end Justin Jory is good for about three yards with 30 seconds remaining in the game. As BYU quickly lines up and hikes the ball, Berry is brought down hard by Greg Pauly as time expires.
Halftime - BYU 3 Notre Dame 17
On the first play of the 2nd half, Berry throws under pressure directly into the hands of Duff. The Irish take possession and add another field goal.
The ensuing kick is returned to the 20-yard line by Thomas Stancil as he fumbles. Fortunately for the Cougars, BYU tight end Dan Coats recovers. On the next play, Berry is sacked on the Cougar 14-yard line. Undaunted, he strikes a pass down the sidelines to Coats, who is stopped at the BYU 28. On 3rd and 3, Berry's pass over the middle is complete to Coats again for a another first down. On the next play, Berry is stopped behind the line for a 4-yard loss on a badly executed option play. Just as BYU looked as if they were going to fall into another offensive slump, Whalen breaks one up the middle and takes it all the way down to the 24 of Notre Dame.
After an incomplete pass and a pair of 2-yard runs, BYU lines up to attempt the field goal at the 20. The hike is up and the kick is… IT'S A FAKE! Mortensen lobs into the end zone and the ball is caught by Jory. Touchdown BYU!
BYU's next defensive series is nothing short of perfection, ending the three and out series with a Madarieta sack on Holiday for a 5-yard loss. After an excellent Stancil punt return to the ND 49, BYU goes three and out and reluctantly lines up to punt the ball away. At least that's what Notre Dame thought as Tahi takes the direct snap to the ND 29! On the next play Berry's pass is complete to Wilkerson to the ND 1-yard line. BYU lines up and runs straight up the gut with Whalen, but is stopped behind the line for a 2-yard loss. After two consecutive no-gainers up the middle by Tahi, BYU lines up for the field goal, but does not have enough time to get the play off as the quarter ends before Payne can get the snap off.
End of 3rd Quarter - BYU 10 Notre Dame 20 After a brief pause to think through all the options, BYU decides to line it up and go for it. The ball is snapped and Berry quickly rolls out to the right and is tackled immediately, but not before he pitches the ball back to Whalen who runs it in the end zone. Touchdown BYU!
Due to heavy pressure on the next outing, Holiday is intercepted by Francisco at the Notre Dame 22. Unfortunately, Francisco injures his Achilles tendon on the play – and doctors later determine he will be out two weeks.
After a few unsuccessful runs, BYU adds another field goal by Payne. Tie game.
Aided by a few dropped balls by the Fighting Irish, BYU forces another three and out. On the next series, Notre Dame again dampens the spirits of BYU as Duff picks off Berry's pass and returns it for a touchdown with just 6:27 remaining in the game.
BYU's next offensive possession is held to another three and out. They give the Irish the ball right back with great field position, which result in a 43-yard field goal.
The next series on 3rd down, Berry's deep pass to Wilkerson is caught at the BYU 49. After a few more incomplete passes, Berry is forced into a high-pressure 4th down situation and throws it as he is hit out of bounds. BYU gets the ball right back with an automatic 1st down penalty on the Irish for roughing the passer. BYU, in two pass plays, drives down the field and scores quickly on a deep pass to Olomua.
BYU's onside kick attempt is no good and their defense takes the field anxiously, down only 3 points with only 1:49 remaining. After a 3 and a 5 yard run by Ryan Grant, the Irish's 3rd and 2 run is unsuccessful. 4th and 2, and Notre Dame decides to go for it, Holiday drops back and throws an incomplete pass to Clark. BYU ball with just 59 seconds remaining!
It's BYU ball on their 35 yard line. Berry throws a screen pass to Whalen, who breaks it open and gets down to the ND 36. Now in field goal range, Berry's pass is almost intercepted, but falls incomplete instead. With just 11 seconds remaining, BYU lines up to kick the long field goal.
As Payne lines it up and kicks the ball into the air, he watches the ball hang up in the air for a few seconds and then fall short. No good. As Notre Dame players run onto the field wildly to take a knee, BYU walks off of the field with their heads up. They proved to themselves they could go the distance with one of the best teams in the country – when nobody gave them a chance. "Boy, this was a good hard fought ball game. I would like to see these two teams play again. Had this been a few minutes longer, we might be looking at a different outcome," says broadcaster Lee Corso.
Final Score - BYU 27 Notre Dame 30
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