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Rocky Mountain low

Justin Schuver | Monday, September 6, 2004

PROVO, Utah – A pair of kickers spelled doom for Notre Dame Saturday night in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.Brigham Young kicker Matt Payne pinned the Irish (0-1) deep in their own territory with six punts inside the 20-yard line, and former kicker Todd Watkins collected 115 receiving yards including a 3rd-and-long completion late in the fourth quarter that allowed BYU to run out the clock en route to a 20-17 win.Watkins transferred to BYU (1-0) this summer after his time as a receiving and kicking standout at Grossmont (Calif.) Junior College. His other key reception set up BYU’s first touchdown in the first quarter.”When you look at this game,” Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham said, “it really came down to about three big passes that they had. It really made a difference, but it was compounded by our inability to do anything on special teams or to mount any serious kind of offense.”Notre Dame’s offense struggled, especially the rushing attack, with the Irish accumulating only 11 net yards of rushing on 21 carries. Irish quarterback Brady Quinn was forced to go to the air early and often, finishing 26-of-47 for 265 yards and one touchdown.”They did a good job of stopping our running game, which we felt we would be able to use,” Irish offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said. “It really kind of forced us into a pass-pass-pass-pass kind of mode, and with as many different schemes and blitzes that they bring I thought they put quite a bit of pressure on us.”The Cougars employed a unique 3-3-5 defense that Notre Dame appeared to have difficulty reading throughout the game, especially in the first half. Quinn was sacked three times by the BYU defense, but he also spent a large portion of the game avoiding pressure or being forced to make short throws in 3rd-and-long situations.”[BYU] brings a lot of guys on the blitz from all different places,” Quinn said. “At times they were really able to get in on us, especially in the first half.”Payne’s ability to punt the ball deep and pin the Irish on their own side of the field only helped to escalate the problems Notre Dame had on offense. Notre Dame’s average starting field position for the game was their own 22-yard line, and three of Notre Dame’s 16 offensive drives began behind the Irish 10-yard line.”I think any time you look at the percentages, anytime you have to go 90-plus yards as opposed to a shorter field your chances of scoring are quite a bit less,” Diedrick said.BYU got on the board a little more than five minutes into the first quarter, as Naufahu Tahi scored on a five-yard touchdown run after Watkins made a 50-yard reception after he beat Irish defensive back Carlos Campbell. Payne made the Cougars’ lead 10-0 with a 44-yard field goal with 1:31 to play in the quarter. Payne drilled a field goal in the second quarter to make the score 13-0, but Notre Dame was able to mount a drive late in the half that resulted in a D.J. Fitzpatrick 21-yard field goal and a 13-3 halftime score.Backup BYU quarterback Matt Berry, who came into the game in the second quarter after starter John Beck was injured on a hit by Irish linebacker Brandon Hoyte, found Austin Collie open for a 42-yard touchdown reception about midway through the third quarter.Collie got separation from Irish safety Quinton Burrell and made a fingertip-catch on the pass from Berry.The Irish answered with 4:24 left in the third quarter, when Rhema McKnight caught a short screen pass from Quinn and took the ball for a 54-yard touchdown.Momentum appeared to shift for Notre Dame with 8:19 in the fourth quarter, when Irish cornerback Preston Jackson intercepted a short pass from Berry and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to cut the BYU lead to just three points.But any hope of an Irish comeback went by the wayside after Berry completed a 37-yard pass to Watkins with a little more than a minute in the game. Notre Dame had only one timeout left after exhausting its first two earlier in the half, and BYU knelt the ball to set off the celebration at Lavell Edwards Stadium.It doesn’t get any easier for the Irish as they return home to face Michigan this Saturday, a team that defeated Notre Dame 38-0 in last year’s meeting in Ann Arbor.”You’ve got to be able to come back [from both your highs and lows] and unfortunately this is a low,” Diedrick said. “This one hurts, but it doesn’t stop here.”