Andrew Soukup | Tuesday, October 28, 2003
As determined as Boston College seemed to be to give the game away Saturday, Notre Dame appeared just as reluctant to want to win it.
The Irish capitalized on mistake after mistake to rally from an 18-point deficit to take a one point lead, only to see that lead disappear when Sandro Sciortino kicked a game-winning field goal with 38 seconds remaining. The Eagles went on to win 27-25, the third straight year Boston College has beaten the Irish.
By winning, Boston College dealt a serious blow to Notre Dame’s already slim postseason bowl aspirations. The 2-5 Irish need to win four of their last five games just to become bowl eligible, and they’ll face No. 5 Florida State in Notre Dame Stadium Saturday.
“The problem at this point is just trying to find a way to win a ballgame,” linebacker Courtney Watson said. “We don’t want to look at anything too far down the line. We’re looking at the wrong things.”
A year ago, Notre Dame lost its first game of the season to a Boston College team that capitalized on seven Irish fumbles. Since that loss, the Irish have gone 4-7.
Despite falling behind early, Notre Dame had every opportunity to win the game thanks to a ferocious second-half comeback. Trailing 24-6 in the third quarter, Omar Jenkins caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Brady Quinn on the second to last play of the quarter. The 2-point conversion failed, however, and the Irish were down 12.
But a pair of miscues by the Boston College punt unit led to two more Notre Dame touchdowns. A botched snap on a punt gave the Irish the ball at the Boston College 23-yard line, and Quinn connected with Maurice Stovall on the next play for his second touchdown pass of the game. Then, with 3:34 left in the game, Nate Schiccatano blocked a punt that Carlos Campbell returned 25 yards for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion failed, but the Irish were still up 25-24.
“I thought that was our time,” Schiccatano said. “We had momentum on our side and everything favoring us.”
Or at least Notre Dame did until Will Blackman returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield. In nine plays, the Eagles drove down to the Notre Dame 12-yard line, setting the stage for Sciortino’s heroics.
“Too little, too late,” Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said about Notre Dame’s comeback. “We put ourselves behind the 8-ball, and we can’t do that and expect to win every time out.”
Notre Dame’s coverage gave the Eagles scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity. Only two of Boston College’s three touchdowns came on drives longer than 45 yards, and the one that did ended in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Quinton Porter to David Kashetta.
The Irish did hold Derrick Knight, the nation’s leading rusher, to 43 yards on 23 carries. But they had trouble containing Porter, who scrambled for 41 yards rushing – many times on key third-down conversions.
And for the second straight game, the Irish running game was virtually non-existent. Although Quinn completed 23-of-39 passes for 350 yards, the most yards thrown for by a Notre Dame quarterback since Joe Montana passed for 358 yards in 1978, the Irish only gained 47 yards on the ground.
“I can’t put my finger on it,” receiver Omar Jenkins said. “Most of us are tired of not playing the type of football we can.”
Now the Irish, who have failed to win three of their first seven games only four times since World War II, are searching for any way to stop a season dangerously close to spinning out of control. And how can they do that?
“I don’t know, I’m guessing it will be pretty tough,” Watson said. “We had a huge momentum swing toward the end of the game.
“And when you get a chance to step up and win the ballgame and you don’t, that hurts.”
So does another loss to Boston College.