Clausen-to-Tate the difference in BC win

One big play on offense and one late stop on defense add up to a big win and the end of a lingering losing streak against Notre Dame rival Boston College.

Notre Dame fans have gotten used to last-gasp football games that go down to the wire. Compared to the past few weeks, this one was in the bag the whole time.

The Fighting Irish even had time to kneel down and run out the clock after a game-deciding interception by linebacker Brian Smith to end Saturday's 20-16 win over visiting Boston College.

Notre Dame (5-2) took the lead after a familiar connection hit paydirt: Jimmy Clausen to Golden Tate through the air.

Trailing 16-13 late in the third quarter, Clausen hit Tate with a short pass in the left flat. Tate eluded one tackler, sprinted free and made Eagles safety Wes Davis look silly with a move inside and into the end zone.

Clausen threw short all game long, finishing 26-of-39 for 246 yards and two touchdowns, both to Tate.

"The whole game plan was going to be dink and dunk," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said of preparing for Boston College (5-3). "That's the way they play."

Tate caught 11 passes for 128 yards.

The Irish beat Boston College for the first time since 2000, ending the Eagles' six-game winning streak.

"Sooner or later, you want to be playing a game and not worrying about losing streaks," Weis said. "You want to be talking about winning streaks."

Since blowing out Nevada to start the year, every Notre Dame game has been within a touchdown — the first such streak in one season to reach six games, according to the university. Saturday's victory might serve to take some of the sting out of last week's 34-27 home loss to USC.

The Irish forced five turnovers, with safety Kyle McCarthy picking off two passes, and stuffed the previously effective Boston College running game, but gave up 279 yards through the air.

Armando Allen ran for 98 yards on 21 carries for Notre Dame.

Sergio Brown saw extensive time at safety, with Harrison Smith switching to a nickel role, in a defensive set the Irish deployed frequently. Each player forced a fumble, with Brian Smith and Ethan Johnson recovering.

Freshman linebacker Manti Te'o continued to make plays all over the field, finishing with two solo tackles and seven assist, 2.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.

"He plays with such enthusiasm," Weis said. "He's making more plays every week. I'm glad he's on our side."

A pair of first-half Nick Tausch field goals bookended a safety called against Notre Dame when a pressured Clausen threw short of the line of scrimmage from out of the end zone. Rich Gunnel's 7-yard touchdown reception from Dave Shinskie put Boston College ahead 9-6 in the second quarter, but the Irish answered on an 11-yard Tate scoring reception.

That was a nice play. The second-half score was even better.

"He's very good at making somebody miss," Weis said. "In the open field, one on one, it's tough sledding."

BC took a 16-13 lead on a 2-yard Montel Harris touchdown with an impressive second-half-opening drive.

Notre Dame's stretch run begins next week with a trip to San Antonio to take on Washington State, with Navy and a road trip to Pittsburgh looming. Shoring up the pass defense will continue to be a priority, Weis and his players insist.

"We're just a few mistakes away from being an outstanding team," Brown said.


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