Scores

Final

UCLA 17

(4-3, 2-2 Pac-12)

(10) Notre Dame 20

(6-1)

Coverage: NBC

2:30 PM ET, October 21, 2006

Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, IN

1 2 3 4 T
UCLA 0 14 0 317
#10ND 7 3 3 720

Top Performers

Passing: B. Quinn (ND) - 304 YDS, 2 TD

Rushing: D. Walker (ND) - 21 CAR, 53 YDS

Receiving: J. Samardzija (ND) - 8 REC, 118 YDS, 2 TD

Notre Dame stuns UCLA on last-minute 45-yard TD

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija added another chapter to Notre Dame's storied history.

Don't blame the defense
 UCLA Bruins
Notre Dame's stunning 20-17 comeback win over UCLA in South Bend likely left a trail of dropped jaws back home in Westwood. And while some may be quick to fault the Bruins' defense, which allowed Jeff Samardzija's go-ahead 45-yard touchdown with just 27 seconds remaining, it's the defense that's been largely responsible for UCLA's 4-2 (now 4-3) start. The improvement from last year is staggering.
2005 2006
Opp. PPG 34.2 16.0
Rush YPG 232.8 78.1
Total YPG* 468.1 265.3
* -- Ranked 113th last year in I-A; ranked 9th this season entering Saturday

This great finish did more than just contribute another memory to the lore of the Golden Domers, however. It also kept alive the Bowl Championship Series hopes of the 10th-ranked Fighting Irish.

Quinn, under pressure all day by a relentless UCLA defense, completed three straight passes in the final 62 seconds, capped by a 45-yard TD pass to Samardzija, to lead the Irish to a 20-17 come-from-behind victory over the Bruins on Saturday.

"Good teams win games like that," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. "Good teams at the end of the game somehow, good teams make a play at the end of the game to win."

The victory was just the third time the Irish (6-1) won with a touchdown in the final 30 seconds. In 1992, Rick Mirer threw a 4-yard TD pass to Jerome Bettis and a 2-point conversion with 20 seconds left for a 17-16 victory over Penn State in snowy conditions.

In the 1979 Cotton Bowl, Joe Montana played with a virus in the first half and sat out the third quarter because his body temperature dipped well below normal. The Cougars led 34-12 with 7½ minutes to play when Montana, after eating a cup of chicken soup, led Notre Dame to three touchdowns and a 35-34 win.

The weather wasn't bad Saturday, and Quinn wasn't ill, but the Irish still had to overcome a UCLA defense that had shut them down for most of the game. Notre Dame managed just 41 yards rushing and had just 224 yards passing until the final drive.

It seemed Notre Dame had squandered its last chance to win when Quinn was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 from the Notre Dame 35 with 2:25 left. But the Irish held UCLA (4-3) to three-and-out on three straight runs to give Quinn one last chance.

Because the Irish (6-1) were able to stop the clock twice with timeouts during the Bruins' short series, they got the ball back with 62 seconds left.

"We would have loved to have finish the game on offense, no question about that," UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. "We made them exhaust all their timeouts but we didn't finish with the first down. We needed one first down to finish the game and we didn't do that."

Quinn hit Samardzija with a 21-yard pass and David Grimes with a 14-yard pass to move to the UCLA 45. He then threw the TD pass to Samardzija, who cut inside safety Dennis Keyes at the 15-yard line. Keyes managed to knock Samardzija off balance, but the Notre Dame receiver kept his feet and made it to the end zone, keeping the Irish's hopes for a berth in the BCS alive. Notre Dame likely would have had no shot at a major bowl with two losses.

Quinn said he was just scrambling for time.

"I thought I saw a window, I was about to throw, then I saw a defender coming that way so I kind of gave a pump and I tried to move him around," he said. "When there's that many guys in coverage, you've got to try to create something, so I moved out of the pocket and found a window to Jeff and he did the rest."

Samardzija said he saw Quinn rolling so he stayed with his quarterback.

"He saw me, got it to me, and there really was no thinking involved -- you're just trained, it's like a little dog, you're just trying to get to the end zone," he said. "We'll say there was no doubt, but who knows."

Some of the Irish players had doubt.

"I looked up and Samardzija made that last move, I thought he was going to fall down at the 10 or something like that," guard Bob Morton said. "But he just does what Jeff does and he stayed on his feet and found the end zone."

Dorrell said the Bruins didn't try to pressure Quinn as much on the final series.

"We tried to play more coverage," Dorrell said. "Brady did a nice job of staying alive -- staying alive in the pocket and moving out of the pocket and rolling out and throwing on the run."

Quinn was 27-of-45 passing for 304 yards with two TD passes to Samardzija, who tied the school record of 22 career touchdown catches held by Derrick Mayes in 1995. Samardzija, who had a 2-yard TD pass in the first quarter, finished with eight catches for 118 yards.

Patrick Cowan, making just his second start in place of injured Ben Olson, was 16-of-32 passing for 217 yards and completed two of the three longest passes for UCLA this season, both for touchdowns. He completed passes of 54 yards to Marcus Everett and a 36-yarder to tight end William Snead.

Despite the fact the Irish didn't play well until the end, Weis was happy.

"I'm not going to feel miserable about this win, I promise you," Weis said. "You want to be miserable, fine. I'm going to be happy. Any time you win a game like that -- we're very fortunate to walk out of there with scoring a touchdown inside of 30 seconds to go with no timeouts left. Sign me up."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ESPNLosAngeles.com ESPNChicago.com