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UCLA vs. Notre Dame
Cheering for Notre Dame isn't for the faint of heart.
Twice this season, the Fighting Irish have won when all seemed lost. First in scoring 19 points in the fourth quarter against Michigan State, then bouncing back Saturday when UCLA, leading 17-13, stopped Brady Quinn on fourth-and-1 on a quarterback sneak at the UCLA 35 with 2:25 left.
The Irish won because their defense held UCLA to three-and-out and Quinn, in need of a Heisman moment, threw a 45-yard TD pass to Jeff Samardzija with 27 seconds left for a 20-17 victory - just the third time Notre Dame has won with a touchdown in the final 30 seconds of a game.
``I wish it didn't always have to come down like that, but I guess it makes it more fun to watch for everyone else,'' Quinn said.
Everyone except, maybe, coach Charlie Weis.
``It's always exciting to win a game like that, but you prefer for your heart not to be doing it that way,'' Weis said at his weekly news conference Sunday. ``But it really is uplifting to be able to win a game in the last minute of the game.''
Weis said the key was the team having confidence in Quinn, who became the 32nd Division I-A player to pass for 10,000 yards.
``Our team believes if you give Quinn the chance, somehow he'll make the play to win the game,'' Weis said.
Quinn has come up big in both come-from-behind victories. Against Michigan State he was 2-of-8 passing for 6 yards while the Irish fell behind 17-0. He managed to rally the Irish with five TD passes, going 18-of-28 for 319 yards in the final three quarters.
Against UCLA, from midway through the third quarter, Quinn was 15-of-21 passing for 199 yards, including three straight completions totaling 80 yards on the winning touchdown drive.
``How many times are you going to go 80 yards on three plays with no timeouts with a minute to go in the game?'' Weis said. ``It just doesn't happen too often.''
The Irish said they never thought they were out of it because they believed in Quinn.
``The kid doesn't get flustered,'' offensive guard Bob Morton said. ``He just goes and does his thing.''
Quinn's performance made up for a bad game for the offensive line and the Irish defense again getting burned by big plays.
Weis said the groundwork for those two victories were laid last November when Stanford went ahead 31-30 with 1:46 left and the Irish regained the lead 51 seconds later on a 6-yard run by Darius Walker. A loss there would have cost them a likely Bowl Championship Series berth - just like a loss to Michigan State or UCLA might have this season.
``Until a team learns how to win the close games, it's almost like they wait for something bad to happen,'' Weis said. ``I think it started a little bit last year and it had a trickle down effect. Now instead of them waiting for something bad to happen, they're expecting something good to happen.''
Although the Irish were expected to beat UCLA with a little more ease, Weis said he still thinks the way his team won is a positive.
``If you go and win a game by three touchdowns then no one makes a big deal out of it. You didn't win by enough,'' he said. ``But if you win a game in the last minute of the game, what a great win. ... I think the fact we won and how we won sends a positive message.''
Poll voters didn't agree. Notre Dame (6-1), which dropped from ninth to 10th in their bye week, fell to No. 11 with the victory.
The Irish, who should be heavy favorites in their next four games - against Navy (5-2), North Carolina (1-6), Air Force (3-3) and Army (3-5) - are hoping to win with a little more ease.
``Just for the sake of the coaches' hearts, we'd like to make it a bit bigger,'' cornerback Terrail Lambert said.
UCLA vs. Notre Dame Tickets
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