Charlie Weis drew up the penultimate play of Notre Dame's 29-24 loss at North Carolina in the dirt.
Notre Dame was trailing by five at the North Carolina 33-yard line with 11 seconds to play and facing a 4th-and-13 when Weis called a timeout to give the team the play he wanted.
"I drew that one up in the dirt," Weis said.
Well maybe not the dirt, but at least on a dry-erase board. With the Tar Heel secondary playing deep to prevent anything in the end zone, Weis designed a play that called for three receivers on the left to run deep with Michael Floyd going underneath on a post to pick up the first down.
Clausen looked left before drilling a strike into the chest of the freshman at the 7-yard line. Floyd was tackled with what appeared to be four or five seconds left on the scoreboard. Floyd lost the ball and North Carolina's Trimane Goddard picked it up, but the officials ruled that he was down with one second left. It appeared that Floyd might have been lost sense of time and tried to lateral the ball to a teammate, which is what Duval Kamara said that Floyd said after the game. But he was initially ruled down.
"Originally the call on the field was that it was down. So we had the ball inside the 10-yard line with what we thought was three seconds to go," Weis said. "So our intent was to go up and clock it and give us a play that we had designed for that situation."
Clausen hurried his team up to the line to try to spike the ball, but the second ran out and the North Carolina fans and team poured onto the field in apparent victory. Butch Davis even approached Weis for a postgame handshake, but the Notre Dame coach was not ready to concede defeat.
The Irish argued that there should have been more time on the clock and the officials cleared the field and went to the replay.
While awaiting the official's decision, the Notre Dame offense lined up ready to go if they were given a second chance. But instead of ruling that the Irish had more time on the clock, the referees ruled that Floyd had fumbled and Goddard had recovered, giving Carolina the ball back and the win.
Weis was asked about the call and whether the whistle was blown before the fumble.
"When they went to review, they said that they thought the ball came out before he touched the ground," Weis said. "The guys upstairs don't know when the whistle is blown.
"It's a bitter ending, but it is what it is. They called it that way and that's it," Weis said. "I thought that he had called him down with what I thought was four seconds to go. I thought that he had called him down, but it really doesn't make a difference what I thought."
IRISH PUT HEELS ON HEELS TO START: Notre Dame opened up the game offensively with Clausen in the shotgun and five receivers, including tight end Kyle Rudolph, spread out. It was effective as the Irish marched right down the field and Clausen hit Golden Tate with a 19-yard scoring pass on a fade.
The Irish moved the ball on their second possession too with Clausen connecting with Floyd on a deep 32-yard pass. But ultimately, that drive stalled after Clausen was sacked for a 15-yard loss after picking up a second first down.
The Tar Heels adjusted on Notre Dame's third drive by putting a sixth defensive back in the game, something Weis said they had not shown all year.
"They like to keep their three linebackers on the field. They don't like taking them off the field because they're all good players," Weis said of the Carolina defense. "We opened up with an empty formation to kind of put them on their heels. Then they go to nickel, but they don't go anywhere past nickel.
"When they went dime, we went to our next mode. We were going to stay one step ahead of them. Whenever they made their adjustment, we were ready to go to the next mode."
So the Irish inserted a running back, Armando Allen, into the game for the first time. Allen rushed for 41 yards on five carries and caught an 11-yard pass for a first down to set up Brandon Walker's 42-yard field goal.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTHING SPECIAL: Special teams was an area of concern for Notre Dame heading into the game, but they did not prove to be a difference-maker. One reason for that was because Carolina's most dangerous return man, Brandon Tate, was knocked out of the game with a right knee sprain in the first quarter after returning just one punt for nine yards.
Meanwhile, the kicker situation that had many Irish fans worried did not end up being a problem as Walker drilled his only field goal attempt, the 42-yarder in the second quarter.
Weis said that the decision to go for it on 4th-and-7 at the North Carolina 27-yard line on the first drive of the fourth quarter had nothing to do with a lack of confidence in Walker.
"I thought we needed a touchdown. It had nothing to do with the field goal kicker," he said. "I put the kid in before, so it's not about him. But I thought we needed a touchdown because I was concerned that they were getting in that two-tight end formation and pounding us and I was concerned with them being able to run out the clock."
TATE VS. TATE: With both teams relying on a Tate for big plays, the Irish got the better of that deal with Brandon Tate leaving in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, Golden Tate made his big plays as expected. The sophomore finished with five catches for 121 yards and the first-quarter score.
In addition to the 19-yard score, Tate made a sensational grab on a 47-yard gainer to set up Floyd's second quarter touchdown. Clausen threw the ball deep down the left sideline, but it was well over Tate's head. Tate took off and while just preventing the defender from intercepting it took a great play, Tate managed to come down with the catch.
Tate also made some nice moves after catching a slant to start Notre Dame's final drive. The 30-yard reception changed field position, moving the ball from Notre Dame's 18 to its 48. Tate caught another ball for 12 yards and a first down to put the ball at North Carolina's 30 and give Notre Dame a chance in the end.
CAROLINA KIDS: North Carolina natives Raeshon McNeil, Kerry Neal and Robert Blanton were all making a trip back home for the game and saw a lot of playing time. Unfortunately for them, they were unable to leave with a win.
"They were delighted to get here, they're very unhappy right now," Weis said. "When you get to come into your home turf and have all of your family and friends show up for the game, the last thing you want to do is go there and lose."
OTHER TIDBITS: Notre Dame won the coin toss and has he has done all year, Weis elected to defer to the second half…The interception by Quan Sturdivant on the first play of the second half was Clausen's first pick in 132 passes. It was the second longest streak by a Notre Dame player behind Brady Quinn's 226 consecutive passes without an interception…The fumble by Jonas Gray just before the half was the Irish's first turnover in more than 10 quarters... The win was only the second for North Carolina in 17 contests against Notre Dame.