Notre Dame Falls to Northwestern, 43-40
Alex Carson | Sunday, November 16, 2014
Instead, they found a way to lose it, dropping a 43-40 overtime decision to Northwestern (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten).
The touchdown pass — which followed sophomore cornerback Cole Luke’s interception deep in Wildcat territory — put the Irish (7-3) up, 40-29. Irish head coach Brian Kelly decided to go for the 2-point conversion to stretch the lead to 13, but Golson’s pass fell short in the end zone.
“In retrospect — there’s no advantage in retrospect,” Kelly said. “We felt that … we would have a good opportunity in the two-point play that we picked, and we felt very confident that we would be successful.”
The Wildcats capitalized two possessions later with a six-yard rushing touchdown by senior quarterback Trevor Siemian to pull within five.
“[Me being healthy and mobile] just helps our offense,” Siemian said. “It makes the defense think about another thing to defend.”
Wildcats sophomore running back Warren Long pounded the two-point conversion into the end zone right after, the Irish lead was cut to 40-37.
With less than two minutes left, it seemed all Notre Dame had to do to earn the win was avoid the turnover bug. However, senior running back Cam McDaniel fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Wildcats senior linebacker Jimmy Hall.“Cam has generally been in the game — he’s our senior,” Kelly said. “Always been in late for us. We counted on him to be the guy that gets us our tough yardage late in the game and sure-handed and tough and physical, and it just didn’t work out that way today.”
Siemian and the Wildcats quickly moved into field goal range, and after being iced, sophomore kicker Jack Mitchell made the 45-yard kick with 25 seconds to play to tie the game.
In the ensuing overtime period, Notre Dame started on offense but failed to gain a single yard. Golson threw three incompletions and left senior kicker Kyle Brindza with a 42-yard field-goal attempt that missed wide left.
Needing just a field goal to win the game, Northwestern brought out Mitchell on fourth down, and he sent the 41-yard kick straight through the uprights.
Four quarters, four turnovers, a blocked extra point (returned for a defensive PAT) and a field goal later, the Irish fell for the first time at home since September 2013.
“We’re not making small errors — we’re making critical errors,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better, and we’re going to regroup and look to do that on Monday.”
The game started out brightly for the Irish, and for the second time in three games, Notre Dame scored a touchdown in the first minute of the game.
Golson kept the ball on a read-option play and scampered 61 yards for the touchdown — the longest rush of his career — to put Notre Dame up a touchdown just 44 seconds in.On their first drive, however, the Wildcats answered. After a 44-yard rush from midfield by freshman running back Justin Jackson, redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Alviti ran it in from two yards out to tie the game.
Notre Dame went back ahead midway through the first quarter when graduate student safety Austin Collinsworth recovered a fumble and ran it back 32 yards for the touchdown, the first of his collegiate career and in his second play back from injury.
The euphoria was short lived, however, as Brindza’s extra point attempt was blocked and returned for a defensive PAT by Northwestern, cutting the Irish advantage to 13-9.
After a pair of long passes from Golson to Fuller, sophomore running back Tarean Folston — who finished the day with 106 yards on the ground — rushed in a touchdown to put Notre Dame ahead, 20-9, at the end of the first quarter.
In the next three quarters, the game got progressively sloppier for the Irish. Wildcat freshman linebacker Anthony Walker intercepted Golson after his pass hit graduate student offensive lineman Christian Lombard’s helmet in the second quarter. Walker took it back to the Irish four-yard line, and Jackson ran it in to give Northwestern its first lead of the game.
Notre Dame went back ahead 27-23 on its next possession, which ended in Golson and Fuller’s first of three touchdown connections of the day.
Senior cornerback Matthias Farley kept the Wildcats out of the end zone when he intercepted a pass on the goal line, but the Irish were unable to convert when Brindza missed his first of two field goals on the day right before halftime.
A Mitchell 31-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half cut Notre Dame’s lead to a single point, 27-26, and another Golson fumbled on the next drive, this time at the Northwestern five-yard line. The turnover was Golson’s 19th in the last six games.
The Irish would, however, stretch their lead to 34-26 when Fuller turned a screen pass into a 23-yard touchdown — his second of three on the day — and with 3:36 to play in the third, Notre Dame held an eight-point advantage.
In the fourth quarter, Mitchell knocked in another of his five field goals to make it a five-point game, but it looked like the Irish were still safe.
Notre Dame drove down the field looking to extend its lead right after, but junior receiver Chris Brown fumbled into the end zone, and the ball was recovered by Northwestern for a touchback.
Two plays later, Siemian was intercepted by Luke, setting up the crazy end to the game that saw the Wildcats pull off the 43-40 upset.
“We can’t give up 40 points,” Collinsworth said. “I don’t care what the offense does. We can’t give up 40 points.”