Nov. 10, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) – Air Force did Navy one better against Notre Dame.
A week after the Midshipmen eked out a triple overtime victory against the Fighting Irish for the first time since 1963, Air Force beat Notre Dame 41-24.
“It’s special for this program, this football team, to the seniors,” Air Force quarterback Shaun Carney said. “To come into a hostile environment and get a victory against a good football team is something we needed and something that we’ll always remember.”
Carney threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and Chad Hall ran for 142 yards and had 272 all-purpose yards for Air Force. The Falcons (8-3) scored three straight touchdowns after Notre Dame (1-9) tied the score at 10, and the Irish didn’t get any closer than two touchdowns the rest of the way.
“Winning here, against Notre Dame, it’s big,” Hall said.
The loss was a school-record ninth for the Irish. Notre Dame linebacker Maurice Crum said it’s hard to believe how poorly this season has gone.
“I really just don’t know what happened,” he said. “It’s happening, but I just think it’s a dream and I’m going to wake up some day.”
Hall did most of the work for Air Force, setting up the touchdowns, but never scored himself. Carney threw a a 7-yard pass to wide-open Sean Quintana in the end zone and an 8-yard TD pass to tight end Keith Madsen. He then scored on a 1-yard run on third-and-goal. Spencer Armstrong scored on an 8-yard run. Linebacker John Rabold returned a fumble 19 yards for a touchdown and Ryan Harrison kicked field goals of 19 and 37 yards.
“I thought it was a complete team effort,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “That’s really the way we’ve played here over these last six or seven games. That’s the way at the Air Force Academy you have to play.”
Just like against Navy a week earlier, runners repeatedly ran through Notre Dame tackles and the Irish were gashed for big plays on pitches to the outside. The Falcons rushed for 285 yards.
Air Force, which strengthened a bid for its first bowl berth since 2002, improved to 8-0 this season when it has a 100-yard rusher. Hall, who rushed for an Air Force record 275 yards a week ago, added two catches for 31 yards and 99 yards on kickoff returns.
“He’s our one weapon. That’s something that goes with no surprise,” Calhoun said. “I think the later you get in the year, his senior year, there aren’t a whole lot left, I think naturally because of that he’s wearing a little heavier harness. We’re going to ride him.”
Carney was 10-of-16 passing for 120 yards.
Notre Dame’s offensive line continued a season-long struggle, giving up six sacks. Air Force repeatedly pressured Jimmy Clausen, once with just two rushers. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said the sacks weren’t all the fault of the line, saying backs missed some blitzes.
He said the Falcons didn’t do anything surprising, but the Irish simply didn’t adjust correctly. It’s the type of problem that’s plagued the Irish all season, Weis said.
“I’m still feeling we’re way too inconsistent in how we play. Therefore you have to evaluate the teaching and then you have to evaluate the students,” Weis said. “You have to evaluate the teacher and the teaching to see why you can’t progress.”
Making his first start after sitting for two games, Clausen was 22-of-40 for a career-high 246 yards. He threw three touchdown passes after throwing just one in seven previous games, six of them starts.
Clausen was one of the few bright spots for the Irish, especially in the second half when he was 17-of-29 for 192 yards with two touchdowns.
“I’d say if there’s one thing you walked out of that game saying, ‘We’ve got ourselves a quarterback,”‘ Weis said. “He was slinging it pretty good.”
The Irish, who were held to 58 yards rushing, had lost eight games in a season twice before, going 2-8 in 1956 and 1960.
It was also the school-record sixth straight home loss. Notre Dame could finish the season winless at home if it doesn’t beat Duke next week. The only other times that has happened were in 1887 (0-1), 1918 (0-0-1) and 1933 (0-3-1).
“As a team, we’re at that low point, basically the lowest of lows,” safety David Bruton said. “But we’ve got to keep plugging.”