2:30 PM ET, November 15, 2003
Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, IN
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- This was as close as Notre Dame has come to a laugher in a long time.
Julius Jones ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Irish to a 33-14 victory Saturday over Brigham Young. Notre Dame has won two straight for the first time this season.
"It's always nicer to have things settled in the end and not have to win on a last-second field goal," said Irish coach Tyrone Willingham, whose team needed game-winning field goals in its other two home wins this season.
Notre Dame (4-6), which finished 3-3 at home to avoid its first losing season at Notre Dame Stadium since 1984, needs to win its final two games at Stanford and at Syracuse to finish the regular season at .500 and have a shot at a bowl game.
"We still believe there is something out there if we keep winning," Willingham said.
Notre Dame isn't sure whether it would be bowl eligible if it wins its final two games. The NCAA has said that a team that plays 12 games and wins six is eligible if it is a member of a conference that has agreements with bowls. Notre Dame is an independent, but has a bowl agreement with the Big East.
So the NCAA football certification subcommittee must rule whether Notre Dame can still be eligible. Big East spokesman John Paquette has said he believed Notre Dame would be eligible with two more wins.
BYU (4-7), which faces Utah next week, will finish with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1970-71 -- just before LaVell Edwards became coach.
"We're going to continue to move forward," BYU coach Gary Crowton said. "We will just continue to evaluate where we are and try to get better and come out and play better next time."
The Irish continued to struggle inside the 20, with D.J. Fitzpatrick adding four field goals.
"We emphasized in the locker room that we left some things on the table," Willingham said. "There were opportunities in the first half where we would like to have had touchdowns instead of field goals."
The Irish intercepted three of Matt Berry's passes, recovered a fumble by Tafui Vakapuna and held BYU without a first down after the Cougars' first possession of the second quarter until early in the fourth.
"They got better as the game went on," Willingham said. "They settled in and kept us in a position to win the game."
Jones, who carried the ball a career-high 35 times, scored on runs of 1, 23 and 13 yards and is 4 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season. Jones carried the ball 20 times for 112 yards in the second half as the Irish went to their ground game after opening a lead.
"Julius has been running very well and making things happen in the running game," Willingham said.
Crowton said Jones was even better than he expected.
"Watching him up close you see his second effort and how he's patient," Crowton said. "I just think he's an outstanding player."
The margin of victory was the largest for the Irish since beating Rutgers 42-0 on Nov. 23, 2002.
The four turnovers forced by the Irish defense was its best performance since it forced four turnovers against Florida State in a 34-24 win last season that improved their record to 8-0. BYU entered with the second-most turnovers in the nation this season, with 17 interceptions and 15 fumbles lost.
"We had to eliminate turnovers and we did not get it done," said Reynaldo Brathwaite, who led the Cougars with 77 yards on 14 carries.
Berry was 17-of-29 passing for 231 yards with three interceptions.
Notre Dame went ahead 16-7 -- its biggest lead of the season -- when Jones scored on a 1-yard run with 25 seconds left in the first half. Jones made it 23-7 in the third quarter with a 23-yard run up the middle, breaking three tackles en route to the end zone.
The Cougars tried to get back into the game with a fake punt on third-and-7 from their own 29. Berry connected with Kyle Wilson for a 35-yard gain, but the play was called back because of an ineligible man downfield.
The Irish ran 24 more plays than BYU and had the ball almost 14 more minutes.
"The number of plays Notre Dame had wore our defense down," Crowton said. "We ran very few plays in that third quarter."