SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame didn't wait until the last-minute to snap its six-game losing streak against Boston College.
Brian Smith picked off a pass by Dave Shinskie with 98 seconds left to seal Notre Dame's 20-16 victory over Boston College on Saturday, the first win for the Fighting Irish over the Eagles since 2000.
Notre Dame's last five games had been decided in the final had come down to the final minute. The Irish (5-2) went 3-2 in those games.
"The story of our season, the game coming down to the last five minutes," said Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate, who caught 11 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. "It's keeping people at home and making sure they continue to watch the game. I don't know, I can't tell you why, but it says a lot about us. We don't give up."
Jimmy Clausen was 26-of-39 passing for 246 yards.
The Irish defense struggled throughout, but forced five turnovers, including three second-half interceptions -- two by Kyle McCarthy.
"We're a high-wire act," Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said. "There's no margin of error for us. There's no safety net. When we fall off the wire, it's not good. So five turnovers is hard to overcome."
The Eagles (4-3) repeatedly burned the Notre Dame defense as Dave Shinskie threw for a season-high 279 yards and a touchdown. It appeared for a while the 25-year-old Shinskie would become the third freshman quarterback to beat the Irish this season, joining Michigan's Tate Forcier and USC's Matt Barkley.
While the BC running game struggled again on the road, finishing with 70 yards on 29 carries, Shinskie repeatedly found open receivers. BC looked much better than the team that came into the game with the nation's 106th ranked passing offense, averaging 171 yards a game.
Notre Dame coaches talked during the week about the need for the Irish to cut down on the number of big plays they had been giving up, especially against the pass. Shinskie threw 10 passes of 20 or more yards and had a 15-yard run.
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis seemed slightly bothered by repeated questions about the defense after the game.
"Well, let's see, we gave up 16 points, right?" he asked. "Well, usually give up 16 points on defense, you're usually going to win."
Weis said the defense continues to improve, especially against the run.
BC had a chance to take control after scoring on its first possession of the first half to take a 16-13 lead, but the Irish defense came up big at key times. First the Irish forced a fumble by Montel Harris at their 1 on BC's second possession of the second half. It was the second lost fumble by Harris, who came into the game with a streak of 356 touches without a fumble.
Then on BC's next possession, McCarthy intercepted a pass by Shinskie at the Notre Dame 23.
McCarthy came up with another interception at the Notre Dame 26 with 4:23 left, that could have sealed the win. But the Irish offense went three-and-out and BC got the ball back at its own 32. On fourth-and-16, Shinskie completed a 28-yard pass to Rich Gunnell, who had 10 catches for 179 yards. On the next play, McCarthy was called for pass interference on a pass to Justin Jarvis.
Two plays later, Smith made the final interception.
"I should have just thrown it out of bounds, instead I tried to force it in there and make a play to Richie [Gunnell] who was making them all night and I ended it just throwing it right into the [defender's] chest," Shinskie said.
Gunnell said it was the best he's ever played, making the loss even more disappointing.
"I feel like this one definitely slipped away," Gunnell said.
Clausen said the close wins are becoming a bit wearisome.
"Coach Weis says he's getting old and tired of it, but I'm getting old and tired of it too," he said. "We are going to keep trying as much as we can to do during the week to get better, get prepared better and go out and not have these close games any more."
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