Golden Tate led the game in receptions and receiving yards with seven catches for 146 yards, scoring both Irish touchdowns on the day. As Notre Dame looked for a desperation score in the game's final drive, Tate was there once again to put his team in position to win the contest. With Notre Dame's chances looking bleak, facing a 4th-and-10 from its own 26 yard line, Jimmy Clausen looked to his playmaking wide out to bring renewed life into Irish hopes. Going up against A.J. Brown, Tate won the jump ball and came down with the 40-yard reception. Brandon Walker's field goal as time expired, however, came up short, as did the Irish.
"Well, you know, you get the ball back with 40 seconds, 42 seconds, whatever it was, when they were kicking off," Irish coach Charlie Weis said. "We took a couple shots down the middle of the field because we knew the middle of the field would end up being open. We came up short. We were fortunate enough now, I kind of drew one up in the dirt there at the end where we were going to punt to the left, throw one to the right to Golden, which we did. We were fortunate enough to get down to the 35-yard line. I toyed back and forth with the ball being at the 35 yard line with five seconds to go, whether I should try to run a quick pass, you know, to try to get a little bit closer or just try the field goal. But I expected they would probably be in cover-two and roll up and defend the boundary right there. I figured that you had two choices: you either try a long field goal, just hope you get it there, 'cause it was right on the cusp of his distance, or try a quick pass to the outside. With five seconds left, I just felt we had run out of time."
With Notre Dame trailing 10-3 heading into halftime, it's no surprise that Tate was the key cog in securing a scoring drive before intermission. After Clausen completed a pass to Duval Kamara to start the series off, Tate took over the rest of the way. Lined up to the right and working on Dorian Graham, Clausen connected with Tate on a comeback route for eight yards. The next play, Clausen once again found the Hendersonville, Tenn. native on the right sideline, this time for 19 yards and a first down. Then, on the scoring play, Tate was going against Kevyn Scott in man-to-man coverage attracting Clausen to make the fade throw to his wide out, who had Scott beat by some steps but adjusted nicely to haul in the 35-yard touchdown putting Notre Dame up 13-10 at the half. Any time a defense gives Clausen a situation in which Tate is single-covered, the sophomore quarterback makes sure to call on his classmate.
"Yeah, there was a few times they went man-to-man coverage," Clausen said. "When they're going to do that, they're going to pay."
Later in the contest, the Orange made the same mistake, and once again, the Irish capitalized on the error. With just over three minutes left to play in the third quarter, Notre Dame was looking to expand its lead and once again, Clausen saw Scott working Tate in man-to-man. This time, the play was to the left sideline, but the same result ensued: on a go route, Tate sped by the red-shirt freshman corner and easily hauled in the 36-yard touchdown pass to put Notre Dame up 20-10.
Tate could have had a third score to his name Saturday, were it not for a couple of inches. In the third quarter, with the Irish facing a 2nd-and-goal situation, Clausen looked to Tate for another fade route to the corner of the end zone. Catching the ball wasn't the problem for the sophomore receiver, but getting his foot in bounds. After having a quick conversation with Weis, Tate urged his coach to challenge the call and see if it could be overturned.
"We challenged the one play," Weis said. "We don't have replays here. But I was fairly confident that he had his toe inbounds. I don't know 'cause I haven't seen it. But I'm sitting there watching it. He came, and I asked him, ‘did you have your foot inbounds?' and he thought he did. We lost one on that one."
The main disappointment with the loss for Tate is the inability to send the seniors out on a positive note on Senior Day. All week long, giving the graduating members something uplifting to remember was an idea the coaches preached.
"Right now, we're kind of down," he said. "But we've got to get over it and just come in Monday and be ready to work. Obviously we wanted it for the seniors more than anything, that's one of the things coach stressed this whole year: if you don't win it for yourself or for the team, win it for the seniors. It hurts that their last game in the Stadium was a loss."
One major criticism this Irish team commonly faces is an overall lack of killer instinct, fire and emotion. After Saturday, even Tate could feel a palpable presence of impassive play.
"I didn't feel any emotion on the sideline," he said. "Even myself, I was just kind of there, and I think that was one of the problems, for me at least. I probably could have said some things, and acted differently to help the team."
After the tough defeat, Tate and his teammates were dismayed at the loss to the Orange, but the Hendersonville High School product knows that his squad must try to make amends and prevent further damage next week against a top-caliber Southern California team.
"It's just, we have to have a short-term memory and come in ready S.C.," Tate said. "We can't mope around and go into depression, we've got to come out Monday ready to work, and work harder this week."