Rhema McKnight passes BYU cornerback Brandon Heaney as he takes a pass in for a 54-yard touchdown. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

Irish Fall To BYU, 20-17

Sept. 4, 2004

Box Score | Notes

AP Sports Writer

PROVO, Utah (AP) – Matt Berry threw a 42-yard touchdown pass and a clutch 37-yard completion in the final minutes to Todd Watkins in Brigham Young’s 20-17 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.

The Fighting Irish were about to get a final chance with BYU facing a third-and-8 play from its own 25. But Berry, who replaced injured starter John Beck in the second quarter, threw a long pass toward the Notre Dame sideline that Watkins leaped to pull in and give BYU a first down with 1:34 remaining.

BYU ran out the clock from there to improve to 4-0 in season openers under coach Gary Crowton, who got a huge win as he tries to end a two-year streak of losing seasons.

Notre Dame got BYU to reschedule the game so the Irish wouldn’t have to open against Michigan next week when the Wolverines had already played a game. Notre Dame will have the game of experience it wanted, but also an 0-1 record.

Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn completed 26 of 47 passes for 265 yards, including a screen pass that Rhema McKnight took 54 yards for a touchdown. Preston Jackson returned an interception 38 yards in the fourth quarter to get the Irish within a field goal, but they had to punt on their last possession and the Cougars didn’t give up the ball again.

Berry, BYU’s starter until breaking a bone in his hand early last season, completed 14 of 23 passes for 167 yards and an interception. He was shaky early in relief of Beck, who left in the second quarter after being leveled on an option. X-rays on Beck were negative for any breaks, but he did not return.

The Cougars prevailed on a night when the most effective ways to move the ball were do anything but run with it. Only 22 of BYU’s 285 yards came on the ground. The Cougars’ futility was topped by the Fighting Irish, who had 21 carries for 11 yards.

Matt Payne had field goals of 44 and 53 yards for BYU and his punting was clutch, pinning the Irish inside their own 15 all night and handcuffing the already struggling offense. Payne averaged 46.8 yards per kick even with a few short ones he tried to place in the corner.

BYU also improved to 3-2 in the “Holy War” and avenged last season’s 33-14 loss to the Irish in South Bend.