Game Wrap: Broken record
Mike Gotimer | Monday, November 23, 2009
When former Yankees catcher Yogi Berra famously quipped “It’s déjà vu all over again,” who would have ever thought he could be talking about Notre Dame football?
Notre Dame lost on Senior Day to a Big East team with a losing record that had struggled through a season of adversity and was desperately looking for a signature win.
Unfortunately for the Irish, it was the second year in a row that this nightmare scenario played out — this time with a 33-30 double-overtime loss to Connecticut capped by Andre Dixon’s game-ending 4-yard touchdown run.
In 2008, Syracuse came into Notre Dame Stadium to spoil the last home game for Notre Dame’s seniors a week after the Orange had announced head coach Greg Robinson would be fired at the season’s end.
After Saturday’s game, Huskies coach Randy Edsall called the win the biggest one in program history.
“We’re just very, very proud to win and know that we have to stay humble and stay hungry because we still have other things that we still would like to accomplish,” Edsall said. “But there is no doubt that this is the biggest win that we’ve had so far in the short time that we’ve been an FBS school.”
It was also a much-needed win for a Connecticut team that had not won a game since the tragic death of junior cornerback Jasper Howard. The Huskies win allows them to finally gain some closure now that they have honored their fallen teammate with a victory.
“It’s just another game, but you’ve got to understand the human part of this, and you’ve got to understand what this team has gone through,” Edsall said. “A couple of close games, and then you lose a teammate, you lose a brother, you lose a son, and you’re trying so hard to honor him by winning on the field. We hadn’t done that, so that first win that we were going to get was going to be special and what better place than here?”
For the Irish, head coach Charlie Weis once again found himself fielding questions from the hot seat after another Senior Day loss.
“I really feel miserable for those 33 guys,” Weis said Saturday after the game. “And as I’ve said the other day and I’ve never been a hypocrite before, I come in here and start talking about me, I’m really barking up the wrong tree, because those guys are the guys I should feel for today.”
It was a bitter feeling for Weis, who called last year’s Senior Day loss to Syracuse a regret, having to face that reality for a second straight season.
“I feel miserable,” he said. “No one cares more about these kids short term and long term than me. I don’t worry about them just now, just today, or just next week. I worry about them and their lives, which is part of this job right here.”
In the early going, it appeared that Notre Dame would pull away from the Huskies. After holding Connecticut to a three-and-out on their first possession, the Irish marched 69 yards down the field and scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen to junior wide receiver Golden Tate in just 3:11 to give Notre Dame a 7-0 lead. In the first quarter alone, the Irish outgained the Huskies 169-51.
Notre Dame capped off an 80-yard scoring drive just 28 seconds into the second quarter when Clausen got into the end zone on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to give the Irish a 14-0 lead.
But as they had done so many times this season, the Huskies bounced back on their next drive, as running back Jordan Todman took a 43-yard run to the house to finish off a scoring drive in which the Huskies went 75 yards in 2:41 to pull within a touchdown. A field goal by Huskies sophomore kicker Dave Teggart with 3:14 seconds left in the half put the score at 14-10.
After junior kicker David Ruffer kicked a 20-yard field goal to put the Irish back up by a touchdown early in the third quarter, Todman struck again with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that evened the score 17-17.
The two defenses held until the Notre Dame offense was stifled in the red zone early in the fourth quarter, leading to a 23-yard field goal from Ruffer.
Connecticut marched deep into Irish territory on its ensuing possession, but junior linebacker Brian Smith intercepted a pass from Huskies junior and former Notre Dame quarterback Zach Frazer in the end zone.
The Huskies would get another chance after a stalled Notre Dame drive, and they tied the score 20-20 with 1:10 left in the game with a 29-yard field goal from Teggart. The field goal try came only after a pair of holding penalties negated Connecticut touchdown runs.
On the ensuing Irish possession, junior running back Armando Allen fumbled on the Notre Dame 41-yard line with 58 seconds left, giving the Huskies a shot to win the game in regulation. But Teggart missed a 37-yard field goal try as time expired to force overtime.
The two teams traded touchdown passes in the first overtime, and on its second overtime possession, Notre Dame settled for a 36-yard field goal by Ruffer before Dixon ran home the game winner.
With the loss, Notre Dame has now lost its last four games against Big East foes, with its last Big East win coming against Syracuse on Senior Day in 2005.