Last-Minute Mistakes Doom Huskies as Irish Rally for 29-21 Victory Over Washington

Sports Editor
The Observer

SEATTLE — With just under four minutes to play Saturday, a loss for Notre Dame loomed like the thick Seattle cloud cover over Husky Stadium.

But the Irish players didn’t blink.

In fact, by the time those four minutes had elapsed, they were smiling, high-fiving each other, even laughing.

And why not? It was almost comical the way Notre Dame scored 15 points in the final 1:24 to secure a 29-21 comeback victory over Washington.

“This is a big win,” defensive coordinator Bob Davie said. “We talked about getting over the hump. This was a hump game today.”

Before Saturday’s game, the Huskies had won 32 of their last 34, including nine straight over ranked opponents. Notre Dame’s win went a long way towards building some confidence.

“The things we tried to talk about was you gotta believe,” Irish head coach Lou Holtz said. “If you believe, follow the plan and believe in the plan, good things will happen.”

The Little Engine that Could, a.k.a. Notre Dame, needed a few breaks to keep their beliefs alive and their fears from being realized.

But the comedy of errors the Irish played witness to in the waning minutes was far more than they bargained for.

“Until right at the end there were no turnovers,” Holtz quipped, “then the next thing you know, we have them all over.”

It all started when Irish receiver Derrick Mayes fumbled on the Husky 26-yard line. Washington’s Ink Aleaga recovered the loose ball with 3:63 remaining to end an Irish scoring threat and to temporarily protect a 21-14 Husky lead.

Notre Dame’s defense held on the ensuing series, forcing Washington to punt after three plays. But Husky punter John Wales dropped the snap and was decked by a host of Notre Dame players, led by Mark Monahan, at Washington’s 19.

Four plays later, freshman Autry Denson scored on a seven-yard run to narrow Washington’s lead to one. A coverage blunder by the Huskies left Mayes wide open on the two-point conversion play, and quarterback Ron Powlus hit in the corner of the end zone to give the Irish a 22-21 lead.

“Right away I noticed no one was on him and I actually thought for a second, ‘Should I send the motion, should I snap it right away or what?'” a smiling Powlus said. “I didn’t want to stare too long and give away what I was seeing.”

Mayes had two touchdown catches on the day, giving him 20 for his career. That sets a new record, topping Tom Gatewood’s mark of 19, set between 1968-71.

But his seven-catch, 132-yard performance was marred by the fumble and a couple of dropped passes.

“It’s not the way I really envisioned (breaking the record),” he said.

It’s not the way Washington envisioned losing either.

“We had a chance to move up (in the polls) and found a way not to do it,” Husky head coach Jim Lambright said. “These are things you build a program on. That’s why it hurts so much.”

Still, Washington had the ball and a chance to win with just over a minute remaining. Huskies quarterback Damon Huard scrambled for 26 yards to the Irish 33, putting them nearly within field goal range.

“The game reminded me a lot of Boston College,” offensive guard Ryan Leahy said, thinking back to Notre Dame’s 41-39 loss two years ago. “I was pretty worried.”

Luckily for Notre Dame, Huard was no Glenn Foley, and Allen Rossum had better hands than Pete Bercich. Rossum intercepted Huard’s next pass and ran it back 76 yards for the convincing score.

“They told me after the game that I should have dropped down, but that was the furthest thing from my mind,” Rossum joked. “I just wanted the touchdown, I guess.”

The Irish comeback offset a 32-carry, 171-yard performance by Rashaan Shehee, who bettered his career high by 120 yards in his first collegiate start. He was the Huskies’ main offensive threat, scoring on a 22-yard jaunt in the fourth to put Washington up 21-14.

Notre Dame had its troubles in the red zone, squandering two opportunities that could have made a last-minute comeback unnecessary. Powlus was intercepted by Reggie Davis in the end zone to halt an 11-play, 40-yard drive that lasted until the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Irish had a chance to go into the locker room with a 10-7 lead, but Kevin Kopka missed on a 30-yard attempt to keep the scored tied.

“I felt that the missed field goal was a critical point in the game,” Holtz said.

But not quite as critical as a bobbled punt snap and an interception.

“I’ll remember this game for the rest of my life,” Leahy said.

The Huskies will see it in their nightmares.

Game Statistics

At Husky StadiumOctober 7, 1995Attendance: 74,023Notre Dame (23)        7  0  0 22 - 29    Washington (15)        7  0  7  7 - 21      ND--Mayes 10 pass from Powlus (Kopka kick) WASH--Shehee 1 run (Wales kick) WASH--DeSaussure 13 pass from D. Huard (Wales kick)ND--Mayes 30 pass from Powlus (Kopka kick) WASH--Shehee 22 run (Wales kick) ND--A. Denson 7 run (Mayes pass from Powlus) ND--A. Rossum 77 interception return (Kopka kick)                          ND        WASHFirst downs              22          19Rushes-yards         50-212      41-195Passing yards           197         109Sacked-yards lost       1-6        2-19Return yards             89          11Comp.-Att.-Int.     12-28-1     10-13-1Punts                4-32.3      5-41.6Fumbles-lost            1-1         1-1Penalties-yards        8-56        5-50Time of possession    32:38       27:22       RUSHING:Notre Dame-Edwards 15-90, A. Denson 13-63, Kinder 13-46, Mosley 1-19, C. Stokes 1-2, Powlus 7-minus 8.Washington-Shehee 32-171, Thomas 4-28, D. Huard 4-10, Wales 1-minus 14. PASSING:Notre Dame-Powlus 12-28-1-197.Washington-D. Huard 10-13-1-109. RECEIVING:Notre Dame-Mayes 7-132, Chryplewicz 2-31, Mosley 2-29, Edwards 1-5.Washington-Shehee 3-20, Janoski 2-34, Thomas 2-8, E. Conwell 1-22, DeSaussure 1-13, Coleman 1-12.