A season with so much promise was slipping away for Notre Dame.
The 13th-ranked Irish were clinging to a five-point lead Saturday, and Boston College's Scott Mutryn had just connected on a 26-yard pass to Rob Tardio to the Irish 4 with 67 seconds left.
First down, Cloud for 2 yards. Second down, Cloud for 1. Tick ... tick ... tick. Third down, Cloud is stopped at the goal line by linebacker Jimmy Friday. Tick ... tick ... tick. Eleven seconds left. Mutryn takes the snap, hands off to Cloud, and the nation's fourth-leading rusher moves to his left. Before he can cut to the goal line, though, safety Deke Cooper knifes through and brings him down inches short of a huge upset.
Six seconds left. The Irish jump for joy, the Eagles stare into space, in disbelief.
Notre Dame 31, Boston College 26.
The Irish run for the Rose Bowl continues.
"That lady on the dome is smiling at us right now," Irish coach Bob Davie said.
The Eagles (3-6) gave the Irish (7-1) all they could handle, but Cloud, a 5-foot-11, 201-pounder who carried 28 times for 141 yards, was unable to come up with one final yard.
"It was a tough ending to a great effort," BC coach Tom O'Brien said. "I told the team I can't descrie the effort that they gave. I can't tell them in words the pain that I feel for them, either."
After Cooper's stop, which silenced the sold-out Alumni Stadium crowd of 44,500, Irish quarterback Jarious Jackson ran a play from the 1 as time expired and Notre Dame extended its winning streak to six games.
"We kind of felt relieved," said cornerback Brock Williams, who was beaten on three first-half pass plays that helped the Eagles take a 17-14 halftime lead. "Deke stepped up and made a great play."
| Jarious Jackson finds running room after being chased out of the pocket by Boston College's Chris Hovan. (AP) |
Said Cooper: "This has to be my most important tackle. I was thinking that if they were coming my way, I was going to make a play. I was just thinking coach knows what he's doing and he's calling the right defense."
Autry Denson, who carried 28 times for 128 yards and two TDs, watched the goal-line drama play out from the sidelines.
"It was nerve-wracking," said Denson, who needs 47 more yards to become Notre Dame's career rushing leader. "I wouldn't wish that on anybody."
Despite the close call, Notre Dame still remains a top attraction for the Rose Bowl if it can win its final three games against Navy, LSU and Southern California. Only the Trojans have a winning record.
The Irish last appeared in the Rose Bowl in 1925, when Knute Rockne was the coach.
Jackson threw two touchdown passes as he helped the Irish build a 31-20 lead with 9:23 left before the Eagles began their comeback.
Mutryn threw a 6-yard td pass to Anthony DiCosmo with 5:54 to go, but the 2-point conversion pass failed. The Irish then held on as Mutryn -- 22-of-35 for 318 yards and two TDs -- nearly led the Eagles to an unlikely victory. Instead, BC lost its sixth consecutive game, the Eagles' longest losing streak in 20 years.
Notre Dame moved to a 31-20 lead when Jackson, facing third-and-21 from his 6, scrambled into the end zone, took a step out and found Malcolm Johnson for 68 yards to the Eagles 27. Four plays later, Denson ran two yards for a TD. Jackson, who also had a 28-yard TD pass to Joey Getherall in the second quarter, was 10-of-21 for 210 yards.
Boston College led 17-14 at the half thanks to John Matich's 42-yard field goal with three seconds left following a pass interference call against Williams. Earlier, Williams was beaten on a 51-yard completion to Jermaine Walker in the first quarter to set up BC's first score, and he was the cover man on DiCosmo's 23-yard TD catch in the second quarter.
DiCosmo caught eight passes for 140 yards and two TDs as BC had 491 total yards to Notre Dame's 83. Each team had 173 yards rushing.
The Irish took a 7-0 lead on the game's first possession as Jackson hit four of five passes for 51 yards and then ran 12 yards to set up Denson's 1-yard TD run.
The Eagles came back late in the opening quarter when Mutryn barely avoided a sack and then hit Walker for 51 yards to the Notre Dame 11. On the next play, Cloud scooted around left end for the score.
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