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Students positive after narrow win

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Students who returned early from fall break for the Notre Dame-UCLA game Saturday witnessed a nail-biting win that brought the Fighting Irish record to 6-1.

Even without their starting quarterback, the 4-2 UCLA Bruins still put a serious scare into the Irish and their fist-pumping fans. With just 27 seconds remaining, Notre Dame was down 17-13.

“[UCLA’s defense] was very impressive,” junior Brian Camus said. “It’s a little disconcerting after the last couple games that our offense hasn’t been able to kick it into full gear.”

Despite the solid UCLA defense, the Irish were able to drive the ball inside the 35-yard line with 2:25 remaining. But the team’s hopes seemed to be dashed when Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn failed to reach a first down on his fourth QB sneak of the drive. Many students, however, still had faith in their team.

“He knows what he’s doing,” freshman Matt Gore said about Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis’ five attempts on fourth down. “But it is a very interesting call against a tough UCLA run defense.”

After two quick passes, the Irish were past the 50-yard line – but time was running out.

As Quinn was flushed out of the pocket, wide receiver Jeff Samardzija followed him across the field, made the catch and weaved his way towards the end zone. On his 45-yard trip to the end zone, Samardzija broke through UCLA tackles and dashed Bruins fans’ spirits.

The student section erupted.

As students embraced each other in excitement, the Fighting Irish football team made its second great comeback of the 2006 season.

“Did they even kick the point after?” asked freshman Steve Rivera. “I was too busy celebrating and I even lost my shoes. It was crazy.”

But some fans thought student enthusiasm seemed muted.

“[UCLA fans] were louder than us at times,” sophomore Alexandra Badewig said. “It’s sad because our team needs our support but after [fall] break the student section seemed empty.”

Notre Dame will travel to Baltimore, Md. this weekend to take on Navy (5-2) – a team with one of the best running attacks in the nation. The Irish will attempt to extend their 42-game winning streak against the Midshipmen.