Irish Stand Up to Huskiesposted by John Vannie
Washington closed out a see-saw first half with a 40-yard field goal by Eric Folk for a 17-16 lead. Clausen had surrendered seven points when his backward screen pass to Armando Allen hit the ground and was scooped up by Desmond Trufant and returned 17 yards for a touchdown. Clausen later scrambled out of the pocket and hit Golden Tate, who broke several tackles on his way to a 67 yard score. Tate finished with nine receptions and 244 receiving yards on the day.
Notre Dame squandered a few chances to reach the end zone, but Tausch was perfect throughout. The Irish tried to regain the lead in the opening series of the third quarter, and it appeared they were on their way when another reception by Tate covered 77 yards to the Husky two yard line. Three unsuccessful plays later, an excellent scoring chance became Tausch’s fourth field goal.
Trailing 19-17, Locker quickly drove Washington to paydirt for a 24-19 lead and was back in striking distance as the third period came to a close. Notre Dame jammed Locker on a third down sneak from the one, and Ethan Johnson beat the Husky left guard and stuffed Locker one play later to give the ball back to the Irish.
Hughes helped his team get out from the shadow of its own goal and later rumbled 37 yards to the Husky seven, but once again Notre Dame could not find the end zone. Tausch connected again and cut Washington’s lead to 24-22 with 12:23 remaining in regulation.
The Husky ground game started to click as Chris Polk ripped off runs of 19 and 16 yards to bring his team back to the red zone. Polk appeared to score a few plays later from three yards out, but he was ruled down at the one yard line. Washington could not punch it in as Toryan Smith made a key stop on third down. Coach Steve Sarkisian ordered a field goal, but Notre Dame’s Ian Williams was called for roughing the snapper on the attempt and the personal foul gave the Huskies another set of downs from the two.
The penalty call appeared to be marginal if not completely fictitious, but Sarkisian took the field goal off the board and the Irish dug in once again. As time ticked away and the Irish apparently headed for a nine point deficit, it appeared they had run out of late game miracles. Once again, the defense rose to the occasion. The Huskies were stymied by a false start and a touchdown saving tackle by Kyle McCarthy before yet another sneak by Locker went nowhere.
Washington took the field goal this time for a 27-22 lead, but Notre Dame was still breathing with three minutes left. Clausen wasted no time in moving into scoring position. The Heisman candidate zipped passes to three wide receivers before finding tight end Kyle Rudolph in the end zone from 12 yards out. The comeback was completed and the Irish led 30-27 when Hughes would not be denied on the two point conversion. He had help on the play from guard Chris Stewart, who used his considerable bulk to move the pile across the goal line.
Clausen’s only error was that he left 1:20 on the clock for the Huskies after his clutch scoring drive, and Locker took full advantage. The key play as Washington raced against the clock was a 37-yard strike to James Johnson that brought the ball into field goal range. Folk hit the tying points with just six seconds left and the teams headed to overtime.
Notre Dame took the ball first and Clausen immediately hit Tate for 22 yards to the three yard line. Hughes burst through moments later and the Irish drew first blood. Locker could not answer this time as the Irish were all over him and his receivers. Kerry Neal recorded a sack between a pair of incompletions. A desperate fourth down pass was broken up when McCarthy and Harrison Smith clobbered D’Andre Goodwin, and the jubilant Irish players poured onto the field.
Now at 4-1, the team will take a well-deserved week off before USC comes to town on October 17. Notre Dame fans also need a rest from a month of heart-stopping finishes, since a penchant for close games appears to be anything but coincidence this season. There were nearly 1,000 yards gained and plenty of great plays on both sides, but the multiple defensive stands by the Irish will be remembered for years to come. Each team had missed opportunities in the red zone and other costly mistakes, but the overall play was not sloppy despite intermittent rainfall.
Let’s review the answers to questions that helped determine the outcome:
Will the Irish defense contain Locker sufficiently to get off the field on third down? Generally speaking, the Irish did a good job. Locker kept a drive alive on the first possession leading to a score, but the rush kept him contained thereafter.
Can Notre Dame’s offensive line keep Clausen from getting substantial pressure? The Huskies managed to make Clausen scramble quite frequently, but his mobility was much better this week.
Will Washington find its running game against the Irish front seven? Yes. Polk ran 22 times for 136 yards and the Huskies outgained the Irish on the ground.
Will the Irish special teams be able to contribute in the scoring column? Tausch scored 17 of Notre Dame’s 37 points.
Can Crist put points on the board if he plays substantial minutes? Dayne sat this one out as Clausen was needed on every Irish snap.
Will a backup wide receiver help Irish fans forget about the loss of Michael Floyd? Robbie Parris and Shaquelle Evans pitched in with six catches for 80 yards.
Can Notre Dame put away the Huskies before the fourth quarter? No – Washington was still breathing after the fourth quarter.
The Irish defense needed this effort to build a measure of confidence before the Trojans come to town. There were still far too many instances of poor tackling, but a few players made strides. Manti Te'o recorded ten tackles in a starting role and Brian Smith made plays from the middle linebacker position. Ethan Johnson had perhaps his best game as did Kerry Neal, and Gary Gray stood out at cornerback.