Remember that game-winning field goal Brandon Walker hit in 2007 to extend Notre Dame’s winning streak over Navy to 44 games?
Don’t worry, you’re not losing your mind. It never happened.
Walker, then a true freshman, never had the opportunity to attempt that kick after missing a 40-yard field goal in the third quarter, which convinced Charlie Weis to go for a first down on 4th-and-8 from the Navy 24 late in the fourth quarter of a 28-28 tie. Quarterback Evan Sharpley was sacked on the play and the Midshipmen went on to defeat the Irish, 46-44, in three overtimes.
It’s a moment Walker hasn’t forgotten.
“The feeling after the game of just epic quietness and knowing that I had a chance to possibly step up but in the end I didn’t give my team enough confidence in myself, along with the coaching staff, that’s the part I remember most,” said Walker, now an asset manager at Fifth/Third Bank in Chicago. “It was just being down on myself, that the team didn’t have confidence in me when it counted the most.”
Navy entered that game at 4-4 while Notre Dame was off to its worst start in program history at 1-7. The Irish finished the year at 3-9.
“I think entering the game we kind of downplayed the history of (the streak) and then afterwards a lot of people brought it up to us,” Walker said. “We tried to play it like any other game but that definitely was more brought up after the fact about how the streak was over.”
Navy scored a touchdown late in the third quarter to pull to within 21-20. Notre Dame responded with a 12-play, 47-yard drive that stalled at the Navy 23. Weis sent Walker out to attempt a 40-yard kick that would have extended the Irish lead to four points.
Instead, Walker pushed the kick right, setting the stage for Weis’ hesitation to attempt a game winning kick at the end of regulation.
Both teams scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, with Navy adding at two-point conversion that tied it 28-28 with barely two minutes left.
Eventually Notre Dame took over at the Navy 38 after Tommy Zbikowski returned a punt 30 yards to put the Irish in position to win the game.
Five plays later, the Irish faced a 4th-and-8 from the Navy 24 with just 45 seconds left on the clock.
“John Carlson actually came up to me and said, ‘Are you ready to win the game?’” Walker said. “But, that third quarter miss was fresh in coach Weis’ mind. We ended up not kicking.”
Sharpley was sacked for a loss of seven yards and the game went into overtime.
Both teams scored touchdowns on their first overtime possession and Walker booted a 26-yard field goal in the second to give the Irish a short-lived 38-35 lead. Navy tied it, then scored a touchdown and two-point conversion in the third overtime.
Travis Thomas’ five-yard touchdown run pulled the Irish within 46-44, but Navy stuffed the two-point conversion to end to the streak.
“A few things stick out about that game,” Walker said. “I remember a few plays. Obviously not kicking at the end of regulation, which back then I said that I agreed with coach Weis’ decision since I already missed a kick that game, especially from about the same distance. I’ll never question my head coach and I still agree with that.
“I remember Travis Thomas getting stopped. That was my freshman year, and we didn’t have a good year, but some of those misses and letting the seniors go out with some of those losses. It still bothers me that I let my other teammates down more so than what my career means to me. Guys like John Carlson, Tommy Zbikowski, those fifth-year seniors, John Sullivan, I felt bad from a team standpoint that I couldn’t do more or perform better to send them off on a higher note.”
Walker returns to Notre Dame at least once a year and often sees his former teammates.
“I go back and hang out with a bunch of the alumni,” he said. “We went back for the Texas game this year and it was good to see Golden (Tate), James Aldridge, Toryan Smith, Brian Smith, Jamoris Slaughter. The list just goes on and on. We also get together at weddings and get-togethers. We’ll tell stories about college and it seems just like yesterday.”
More than five years have passed since Walker finished his Notre Dame career. He hit 20 field goals and converted 61-of-62 extra points. But he can’t seem to forget the misses.
“A lot of my friends in Chicago don’t know the athletic side of me,” Walker said. “Whenever they do see videos it’s always interesting. Two years removed from college, Notre Dame went into overtime against Pittsburgh at Notre Dame and they showed the replay of me missing a kick when I was there. My roommate just paused and said, ‘Hey, was that you?’ and rewound it. He had no idea. That provided material for a bunch of jokes moving forward.”