After spotting the Cougars a nineteen point lead following a Carlyle Holiday fumble that was returned for a touchdown the Irish started showing some life. Vontez Duff led the way with the first of many big plays. He took the ensuing kickoff 43 yards to set up a Nick Setta field goal to give the Irish momentum going into the half.
To open up the second half, Holiday starts to redeem himself by taking a broken play into and scampering for a 27 yard run. This coupled with a Washington State penalty set up another field goal to make the game 19-6.
After trading possessions, the Irish defense forced another punt. With the Irish pinned deep in their own territory, Ryan Grant runs through a hole on the right side and cuts back to the outside for a 32-yard run that was followed by a personal foul to make it a 50-yard play.
Soon after Omar Jenkins took a short pass and using a couple of side steps, converted it into a 28 yard gain that is a staple of a typical West Coast offense. This helped set up a third field goal leaving a deficit of 10 points with a little over twelve minutes to go.
Now it was the defense's turn to come up with a big play and leave it to Vontez Duff to be the guy to make it. He popped Washington State tight end Troy Bienemann to cause a fumble that was recovered by safety Glenn Earl at the WSU 25 yard line.
Then the gamebreaker that we have all been looking for emerged. Julius Jones took a hand off from Holiday through a small sliver of space on the right side, hurdled his teammate and took off for a 20 yard run.
On the next play, Carlyle Holiday showed the determination that has become his trademark by snatching a fumble from the grasp of the defensive player. Instead of allowing this mistake to rattle him, he connected with sophomore wideout Rhema KcKnight over the middle for a crucial touchdown that put the Irish within a field goal.
After forcing a punt by Washington State, the offense started out on their own 20 with Holiday on the bench. Following a ten-yard penalty by Washington State, Grant ripped off a 39 yard run to the left side reminiscent of his earlier run that put the Irish into Cougar territory. This helped set up the go ahead touchdown a few plays later when Jones took another hand off, split a couple of defenders with a combination of speed and power and dove into the end zone for a 23-19 lead.
The next Cougar drive resulted in another big play by the defense. Washington State quarterback Matt Kegel threw an interception to Derek Curry giving Notre Dame the ball on the WSU 35 yard line. Following another holding call by the Irish, Holiday rolled out to the left to set up Nick Setta's fourth field goal that later proved crucial.
After a grueling comeback and 26 unanswered points, the outcome was still in doubt. Matt Kegel engineered a scoring drive capped off by an acrobatic catch by Sammy Moore. This tied the game at 26 and sent it into overtime.
Luckily, the Irish were not out of big plays. Washington State started overtime with the ball and had a 3rd and 2 at the Irish 17 yard line. Kegel dropped back to pass and threw the ball over the middle that was knocked down by quickly closing Glenn Earl. This forced a field game attempt that place kicker Drew Dunning hooked left. Notre Dame took possession knowing they only needed a field goal to win the game.
After two short running plays, Setta took the field trying to kick the game winner. He did what he had been doing all game with his place kicking and punting, he made the play, easily split the uprights sending the Irish into the Big House with a win under their belt and momentum on their side.
While there were numerous mistakes and obvious blemishes, the Irish showed a knack for making a play when it was needed and having them come from many different sources. And the return of Julius Jones might just give them the gamebreaker the Irish have sorely needed.
With an improved short passing game, a one-two punch of Grant and Jones and a steady defense, Notre Dame has the ingredients of a successful season. Only time will tell. But one thing is certain. This Irish team will have us in suspense waiting for the next big play.