(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - BYU rallied in the second quarter for two touchdowns to lead into halftime but was unable to hang on late to No. 5 Notre Dame in the fourth to fall 17-14 Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Fighting Irish kicked off its game-winning drive in the fourth quarter with a 31-yard gain through the air before Theo Riddick pushed through the line for 19 yards to move the ball to BYU’s five. On third down, Notre Dame scored with a go-ahead touchdown from two yards out to take a 17-14 lead and secure the win with 12:52 in the fourth quarter.
After the Cougars (4-4) led 14-7 at the half, Notre Dame’s (7-0) Riddick gave the Fighting Irish momentum late in the third quarter breaking out of the pile for a 55-yard gain to set up 1st and goal. The Cougar defense once again shined in the red zone holding the Fighting Irish to just one yard on their three rush attempts. Notre Dame’s 24-yard field goal slipped in to close the gap to 14-10 with 2:25 remaining in the third.
“I was proud of our team, one or two plays short from being able to come away with a victory,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “Most likely the best game collectively we played offensively, defense and kicking, but when you put the composite together it was good enough to get us within striking distance and we had a great chance to pull off the upset. But ultimately we didn't make a critical play here or there right down the stretch to win the game.”
After going 17 quarters without giving up an offensive touchdown, the Notre Dame defense gave up two to BYU in the second quarter.
Freshman running back Jamaal Williams led BYU’s ground attack with 64 yards on 14 attempts. Williams also had seven grabs for 42 yards. Junior Cody Hoffman proved to be a steady target with 86 yards on eight completions and a touchdown.
Senior signal-caller Riley Nelson was 23 of 36 for 177 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Junior defensive back Daniel Sorensen led the defense with 10 tackles while senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree had two tackles for loss and seven tackles.
The Cougars stood firm in Notre Dame’s opening drive, holding the Fighting Irish to a 40-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left after four minutes of play.
Nelson opened BYU’s initial drive with a 20-yard pass to Hoffman to get the offense rolling but Manti Te’o interrupted the drive picking off a tipped ball.
Notre Dame had big pickups of 29 yards and 20 yards to move down field on a 5-play 64-yard drive capped off by a 4-yard touchdown pass. The score put the Fighting Irish in the lead 7-0 with 1:30 left in the first.
Williams hurt the Fighting Irish on his feet with five runs including a 21-yard takeoff on BYU’s 8-play, 56-yard scoring drive that tied the contest 7-7 with 8:25 left before the break. Nelson found a wide-open Hoffman in the back of the endzone from six yards out for the score, ending a streak of four straight games the Notre Dame defense had not allowed a touchdown.
Ezekiel Ansah got a piece of a Notre Dame pass before Kyle Van Noy grabbed it for his first interception of the season. The Cougar offense capitalized on the turnover with a quick 4-play scoring drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown toss to Kaneakua Friel to put BYU on top 14-7 with 6:07 on the clock.
Notre Dame moved to BYU’s 14 for another shot in the red zone but the Cougar defense held firm and the Fighting Irish missed the 28-yard field goal with 2:30 left in the half.
Nelson hit Hoffman for two 19-yard passes, one coming on 3rd and 12, to set up a 46-yard field goal but the Cougars were unable to convert to keep the score 14-7 in favor of BYU with 6:31 in the third quarter.
BYU remains on the road as it travels to Atlanta to challenge Georgia Tech on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on the Fox Sports Network and ESPN3.