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Falcons Stun Irish in Overtime, 20-17

By Tim Sherman

SOUTH BEND, Ind.– Fumbles, a touchdown mistakingly called back, a missed field goal, and Beau Morgan added up to disaster for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as the Air Force Academy stunned the Irish with a 20-17 overtime victory on Saturday (Oct. 19).

The first overtime game in Notre Dame Stadium came to a quick end.

On the first play from scrimmage in the new overtime system, Irish quarterback Ron Powlus was hit by left tackle Joe Suhajada and lost the ball. Falcon Alex Pupich recovered to turn the ball over Air Force at the pre-set position of the ND 25.

“The play was designed to hit Marc over the middle and it had worked twice before,” Powlus said. “I just lost the ball.”

The game was over. Actually, a personal foul facemask penalty all but confirmed the result. After that, it just took a 27-yard field goal from Dallas Thompson to seal the win.

“When we had the opportunties, we made the plays, especially our defense,” an elated Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said. “And Beau Morgan did a great job.”

In fact, Morgan ended the day with 183 yards rushing on 23 carries and kept the Irish defense off balance all game long.

“He’s perfected the option,” Irish linebacker Kinnon Tatum said after the game. “He’s so elusive.”

Irish bowl hopes now might be even more elusive, and they can blame it on the running game, or lack thereof. The Falcons limited the mighty Notre Dame ground attack to just 67 net yards.

“They controlled the line of scrimmage,” Irish coach Lou Holtz admitted. “They stunted and twisted and did all kinds of things and it worked. We couldn’t get any movement.”

Air Force, though, racked up 304 yards on the ground, and did so without turning the ball over, something the Irish cannot say.

“We made too many mistakes with penalties and fumbles,” Holtz said.

The game began in fine fashion for the Irish, as speedster Allen Rossum returned a punt for a 57-yard touchdown early in the first quarter. But throughout the first half, the Academy looked like a completely different squad than the one the Irish blasted 44-14 last season.

Morgan, a senior, a dual handoff or run threat, chose the latter to keep the Falcons in the game and confidence level high.

The Falcon’s first possession of the second quarter saw Morgan keep the ball himself four times for 56 yards, 30 of which came on the last carry, to bring AF all the way to the Irish seven-yard line. A play later, Morgan dashed outside for the five-yard score.

“He’s physically so strong and quick,” said ND defensive coordinator Bob Davie.

That score put AFA up 10-7, but the Irish responded with a 27-yard Jim Sanson field goal to tie the game.

In fact, a quick defensive stance gave the Irish a golden chance to take the lead. Powlus and the Irish took it but the officials took it away. Notre Dame appeared ready to take the lead as Powlus connected on three passes to drive 45 yards to the Air Force 14. The next play, he hit a sliding Raki Nelson in the back of the end zone, but the catch was ruled a trap. A missed Jim Sanson field goal followed and the squads entered the lockerroom knotted at 10.

“I caught the ball,” said Nelson. “It bounced and hit my chest but I caught it. The ref was behind me and didn’t have a good angle.”

The Falcons opended the second half with a bit of trickery, as they successfully hit the Irish with an on-side kick. All was naught, however, as the Notre Dame defense stiffened to force a punt. In fact, neither squad would allow a point in the quarter.

“At times, our defense played well,” Holtz said.

Three of the senior members of the offense, Ron Powlus, Pete Chryplevicz, and Marc Edwards, took matters into their own hands on the first possession of the fourth quarter. Powlus, who set a season-high with 268 yards on 16-24 passes, connected with Chryplevicz on a key 31-yard strike over the middle.

Four plays and 25 yards after the catch, Edwards bulled ahead 9 yards to the goal line, only to set up his one yard catapult into the end zone.

But DeBerry’s squad didn’t flinch. A perfectly-orchestrated 10-play drive taking 4:54 was capped by a 26-yard option run by Tobin Ruff. On the play, Irish defensive backs Benny Guilbeaux and Ivory Covington missed clear shots to bring Ruff down.

Notre Dame took the ensuing kick-off to the ND 38 and on the first play, Powlus completed a 29-yard out to Cikai Champion. Two plays later, though, Powlus was hit by Pupich and fumbled with six minutes remaining.

Each team would have two more possessions but neither could muster any points.

“Our game is power running,” said Powlus. “But it didn’t work today. I don’t know why.”

The Irish inefficiency on offense in the end gave the Falcons an easy chance to win the game in overtime. It was a chance they gladly took.

“Give the Air Force Academy credit, they deserved to win this game,” Holtz said. “They’re very happy and deservedly so. I can’t really say too much more until I look at the film.”

It may seem like a horror film for Holtz.

Game Statistics

 Air Force            3  7  0  7  3  --  20 Notre Dame (8)       7  3  0  7  0  --  171st Quarter ND--TD, Allen Rossum 57-yd punt return (Jim Sanson kick); 7:01 AF--FG, Dallas Thompson 21-yd; 11:51 2nd Quarter AF--TD, Beau Morgan 5-yd run (Dallas Thompson kick); 6:37 ND--FG, Jim Sanson 27-yd; 11:25 3rd Quarter None 4th Quarter ND--TD, Marc Edwards 1-yd run (Jim Sanson kick); 2:51 AF--TD, Tobin Ruff 26-yd run (Dallas Thompson kick); 7:45 Overtime AF--FG, Dallas Thompson 27-yd                           AF       ND First downs                20       17 Rushes-yards               57-304  37-67 Passing                    51      268 Comp-Att-Int               5-11-0  16-24-0 Return Yards               18      101 Punts-Avg.                 8-41.0   5-47.4 Fumbles-Lost               1-0      4-2 Penalties-Yards            4-20     6-51 Time of Possession         33:15    26:45Individual StatisticsRUSHINGAir Force, Morgan 23-183, Ruff 3-46, Addison 17-37, Eilers5-16, Tanner 3-10, Johnson 4-5, Gilliam 1-4, Singleton 1-3. Notre Dame,Denson 14-46, Edward 7-29, Kinder 8-25, Powlus 8-(minus 33).PASSINGAir Force, Morgan 5-11-0-51Notre Dame, Powlus 16-24-0-268.RECEIVINGAir Force, Alexander 1-17, Ranger 1-10, Tyner 1-10, Johnson1-9, Addison 1-5. Notre Dame, Chryplewicz 3-70, Johnson 3-37, Mosley2-42, Champion 2-38, Stephens 2-32, Edwards 2-28, Denson 2-21.