October 24, 1998
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame kicker Jim Sanson atoned for two missed opportunities with a career-best 48-yard field goal in the final two minutes as the No. 18 Irish beat Army 20-17 on Saturday.
Sanson, who earlier missed a 48-yard attempt into the wind, had just enough leg to get the low, wobbly kick through the uprights with 1:06 left.
Army, who had attempted just one pass before Sanson’s winning kick, then had to abandon its running game on their next possession, and Notre Dame’s Johnny Sanders intercepted a pass from Johnny Goff at the Irish 37 with eight seconds left to preserve the win.
Before the winning kick, Sanson had been just 1-of-3 for his career on attempts from outside of 45 yards, and his 39-yard field goal in the first half was his longest of the season.
Notre Dame needed Sanson’s heroics after Army’s 74-yard, 12-play drive in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 17-17 after Craig Stucker scored from 19 yards out with 10:00 left for his first career rushing touchdown.
Army and Notre Dame then traded punts, and the Irish got the ball back at their own 24-yard line with 4:56 left. Jackson then marched the Irish downfield to just outside the Army 30-yard-line. But on third-and-3 from just outside the Army 30-yard-line, fullback Jamie Spencer dropped Jarious Jackson’s pass in the right flat, forcing Irish coach Bob Davie to call on Sanson.
Save for Sanson’s game-winning field goal, the Irish kicking game was a comedy of errors that helped Army stay close despite a career-best, 270-yard passing performance by Jackson.
On their opening drive of the second half, the Irish drove down to the Cadet 5-yard line. But on third-and-2, Jackson was hit from behind as he released the ball. Then the Irish muffed the snap on a 22-yard field goal attempt, and holder Hunter Smith had to dump the ball off to Sanson for a five-yard loss.
The Cadets also partially blocked a punt by Smith in the first quarter, giving them the ball at the Irish 25. Army could only pick up 1 yard on three plays, but Eric Olsen kicked a 40-yard field goal to put the Cadets up 3-0 and give them their only lead of the game.
The Irish, who had been averaging 230 yards rushing per game, were held to 36 yards on the ground in the first half and 123 for the game. That forced the Irish to rely on Jackson, who’s previous best passing performance was 199 yards earlier this season.
Jackson finished the day 17-of-31 with one interception. He also hit Bobby Brown for a 38-yard pass in the third quarter that resulted in a touchdown after Brown fumbled the ball at the 2-yard line and receiver Malcolm Johnson recovered it in the end zone for the score and a 17-10 lead.
By JR ROSS
AP Sports Writer