Oct. 6, 2007
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Jimmy Clausen scored on a quarterback sneak and Maurice Crum returned a fumble 34 yards for another touchdown during a 50-second span of the third quarter as Notre Dame fought its way out of one of the worst slumps in school history with a 20-6 victory over UCLA on Saturday.
It was only the second time Notre Dame had played in Pasadena. Knute Rockne’s “Four Horsemen” defeated coach Pop Warner’s Stanford team 27-10 in the 1925 Rose Bowl to give the Irish their first undisputed national championship.
This win was significant in quite a different way. It was Notre Dame’s first victory of the season and assured the Fighting Irish they won’t equal the longest losing streak in school history.
Coach Charlie Weis obviously was relieved.
“When you’re 0-5, everyone in the country is laughing at you,” Weis said. “The only thing you can do is do something about it on the field. I’m really happy for the kids.
“We never had a better week of practice since I’ve been here. I said good things will happen, and it happened.”
After a school record 0-5 start, the Irish avoided tying their longest losing streak. The victory was their first in eight games dating back to last season. The only other time the Irish lost eight straight was in 1960, when they won their opener and didn’t win again until the final game of the season.
This time, Notre Dame (1-5) knocked UCLA quarterback Ben Olson out with a knee injury late in the first quarter, then hounded freshman redshirt McLeod Bethel-Thompson into a string of mistakes.
A walk-on pressed into the backup role for UCLA (4-2, 3-0 Pac-10) because of an injury to Patrick Cowan, Bethel-Thompson had not thrown a pass in a college game.
The Irish picked off four of his throws, with Crum getting two of them. He also recovered the quarterback’s fumble and ran it in for a touchdown.
“It’s unfortunate that Ben went down early in the game,” UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. “It’s the kind of game where Notre Dame played everything close to the vest and didn’t make any mistakes. They put some pressure on our offense, and our offenses made some mistakes.
“Mac (Bethel-Thompson) did a nice job, given the circumstances with the type of game and his experience. I give credit to Notre Dame. When they don’t have any turnovers and you have six, that’s unfortunate.”
Clausen put the Irish ahead 13-6 when he bulled over from 1 yard out, with 1:53 left in the third quarter. David Bruton set up the score when he intercepted a pass at the UCLA 21 and returned it to the 4.
The Irish players began to celebrate a bit on the sidelines when Clausen scored, and Weis said he told them to tone it down.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been up in the second half,” he said. “So I told my guys to act like they’ve been there before. Don’t make me look an idiot.”
Crum gave the Irish a 14-point pad when he scooped up the fumble and scored with 1:03 remaining in the third.
Notre Dame’s Brandon Walker kicked a 26-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 48-yarder that bounced off the cross bar and went over to tie it 6-6 midway through the third quarter. UCLA’s Kai Forbath kicked a 29-yarder in the first quarter, then gave the Bruins a 6-3 lead with a 49-yarder late in the first half.
Bethel-Thompson completed 12-of-28 for 139 yards. Brandon Breazell and Joe Cowan each had five receptions for 69 yards for the punchless Bruins.
Clausen, a freshman who was a high school standout in the Los Angeles suburb of Westlake Village, completed 17-of-27 for 84 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
John Carlson had six catches for 38 yards for Notre Dame.
The oft-injured Olson left the game when Tom Zbikowski sacked him, twisting the quarterback’s left knee, late in the first quarter. Olson fumbled on the play and Kerry Neal picked up the ball to give Notre Dame the ball at the Bruins’ 1-yard line and set up Walker’s first field goal.
Last year, Olson went out with a knee injury in the fifth game and Cowan was the quarterback the rest of the season. Olson missed this year’s game against Washington because of concussion-like symptoms.