The Magic Touch or Rub

SOUTH BEND - As UCLA was punting the football back to Notre Dame for the final time, Jeff Samardzija was getting a calf massage from one of the least likeliest of people, defensive tackle Trevor Laws. Maybe now, following Samardzija's 45-yard game winning touchdown, the receiver will see if Laws is available before every Irish possession.

While the rest of the offense was patiently waiting to run the two-minute drill or one minute in this case, and try to steal victory from defeat, Samardzija was getting a rub from a 283-pound man.

"Me and Trevor are pretty loose guys out there and you won't see us yelling or anything too much," Samardzija said. "They came off a good little defensive stop and I figured I would use a little luck and see if he can rub on my calves before I went out there."

Bizarre but amazing idea.

The Irish defense held strong to get the ball back with 62 seconds remaining. It only took three Brady Quinn completions, the last one to Samardzija to cover 80 yards in 35 seconds for an amazing 20-17 come-from-behind victory.

Frustrated most of the day, the Irish found a way to make a few plays down the stretch.

"We were grinding away all game, we just felt maybe it was a little thing here a little thing there maybe a penalty or whatever it may be that stopped us from grooving all day," Samardzija explained. "We just wanted to get that one more chance at the end and we got it and we capitalized."

The 8th-ranked Irish (6-1) finished with a respectable 345 yards of total offense, but obviously a huge chunk came on that final possession. The UCLA (4-3) defense that was as good as the label (entered the game ranked ninth nationally in total defense) harassed Quinn and his mates all afternoon.

"There is a lot of teams out there that wouldn't so much throw in the towel but more self explode and we didn't do that," Samardzija said, who had eight receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns. "We had calm heads. Obviously guys were fired up on the sidelines wanting things to happen but overall the next time we took the field we had calm heads and knew what we needed to do."

Quinn had to have a calm head. The Heisman Trophy candidate was sacked five times and hurried and hit on several other plays. It was his calm demeanor that led him to finding Samardzija on the game-winning score.

Maybe because he was used to being flushed from the pocket, or because of necessity, Quinn rolled to his right after pump faking and throwing a dart to Samardzija who ran it the rest of the way for the score.

"I thought I saw a window and I was about ready to throw then I saw a defender kind of coming that way, so then I gave a pump and I tried to move around obviously, since there is that many guys in coverage you have to move around and try to create something, obviously moved out the pocket, found a window with Jeff and he did the rest," Quinn explained.

Samardzija caught the ball at the 30, a Rhema McKnight block sprung him, and it was another stunning Irish win.

"This team has a lot of confidence, especially on the offensive side of the ball," said Quinn, who finished 27-of-45 for 304 yards and two scores. "We've done it before, we know what to do when we get in that situation."

*It's sometimes remarkable that Quinn has confidence in his offensive line. At least those guys are there to lend a hand in helping the quarterback up off his back after getting him crushed.

The UCLA defensive line was in the Irish backfield more than fullback Ashley McConnell, sacking Quinn five times and coming up with nine tackles for loss.

"I would say it was a tough day at the office," head coach Charlie Weis said about his offensive line."

"That was one of the hardest working teams we've gone against," guard Bob Morton said. "Everything they did was full throttle. They presented things we had to come back with and it was a matter of not trying to keep up but take our games over the top and it took us until that last drive to do that."

The defensive ends, Justin Hickman (eight tackles, three sacks) and Bruce Davis (five tackles, two sacks) caused most of the problems.

"They're athletic enough to cover so much ground," tackle Ryan Harris said. "They get wide splits, puts tackles in a bind and they game a lot. They get freed up by a lot of what their defensive tackles do and because they are athletic, they can go out wide and come back inside fairly quickly and they are fairly physical."

*The UCLA defense also did a great job stopping the run. The Irish gained a measly 41 yards on 35 attempts. Coming off two-straight 100-plus-yards performances, Darius Walker was limited to 53 yards on 21 carries.

"Their defense really was good and you really have to hand it to them that they came with a real good plan and executed very well," Walker said. "Their defense was tough and they were hitting hard. They were smaller guys which made them kind of harder for us to block because they were kind of shifty and real speedy type guys. Kudos to them."

* UCLA won the coin toss and deferred.

* Samardzija's winning touchdown with 27 seconds left was the latest in a game that Notre Dame has scored the winning points since D.J. Fitzpatrick's 40-yard field goal beat Navy as time expired at Notre Dame Stadium in 2003 (27-24).

It had been 14 years since a Notre Dame team scored a touchdown in the final 30 seconds to help secure victory. That play, a Jerome Bettis' 3-yard reception from Rick Mirer in the snow against Penn State in 1992. Reggie Brooks provided the winning margin by catching the two-point conversion.

*ND's 19-play, 77-yard drive to end the first half was the longest drive of the season. Carl Gioia's 20-yard field goal was the last play. Top Stories