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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS UCLA, 2006

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UCLA v Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 21: Jeff Samardzija #83 of Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs with the ball after a reception during the game against UCLA Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium on October 21, 2006 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame won 20-17.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Since I don’t have a Notre Dame Fighting Irish football vs. Marshall game to “throwback” to ... this week I’m going to have a little fun and look back at the meeting between Notre Dame and UCLA in 2006. (Who doesn’t love a little Brady Quinn to Jeff Samardzija?!)

The following excerpt is from the 2006 Notre Dame Football review, in the February 2007 Issue of the Scholastic. It was a dramatic win for the Irish, and the Bruins held Notre Dame to only 20 points, but a win is a win, right?

On October 21, the UCLA Bruins came to South Bend planning to derail the then-No. 10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish crusade for a BCS match-up. “While the Bruins had won only half their games thus far, they boasted one of the most stubborn defenses in the country and seemed poised to stun Notre Dame’s high-flying offense. The Bruins would go on later in the season to upset USC’s national championship bid but, despite keeping the Irish pinned until the last minute, were unable to foil Notre Dame.

Notre Dame’s first drive after kick off ended prematurely with a Darius Walker fumble on Notre Dame’s 39-yard line. UCLA was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, missing a 47-yard field goal attempt a few plays later. The Irish and Bruins then exchanged another round of scoreless drives, with Notre Dame punting after three plays and the Bruins turning the ball over on downs at the UCLA 44-yard line.

With good field position, Brady Quinn and the Irish offense found little resistance on a seven-play drive to the end zone, and Jeff Samardzija caught the 2-yard touchdown pass from Quinn. Notre Dame would have trouble repeating this offensive success for the rest of the game. “While Terrail Lambert intercepted UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan’s first down pass following the touchdown, UCLA’s defense forced another three and out.

UCLA’s next drive was more successful, as the Bruins moved the ball 87 yards on their first trip to the end zone. The Bruins scored on a deep 54-yard pass from Cowan to Marcus Everett, exploiting the weakness of the Irish secondary. After tying the game, the Bruins held the Irish on two consecutive drives. UCLA then scored again on another 36-yard breakaway pass from Cowan to William Snead.

UCLA v Notre Dame Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Irish tried to respond on the final drive of the first half, but after stalling within 10 yards of the goal line, they settled for a field goal as the clock expired, leaving the game 14-10 UCLA at the half.

The third quarter proved to be a high impact defensive battle. On the first five drives, both offenses moved the ball a combined total of 25 yards. Notre Dame broke the stalemate later in the quarter with a 60-yard drive that ended in a 33- yard field goal by Carl Gioia. At the end of the third, UCLA held the ball and a 14-13 lead.

With the Irish offense still unable to take control of the game, Notre Dame’s defense hoped to keep the Bruins quiet in the fourth quarter. Despite the defensive efforts of the Irish, the Bruins kicked a field goal midway through the quarter, extending their lead to four points. Notre Dame urgently needed a touchdown, yet their drive after the UCLA field goal quickly ended in another punt. UCLA’s next drive mirrored Notre Dame’s, giving the Irish another opportunity with 3:33 remaining on the clock. But again, Notre Dame’s potent no-huddle offense came up short, turning the ball over on downs after a rapid drive to the UCLA 35 -yard line.

With 2:20 remaining, UCLA hoped to overcome the Irish defense to lock away the game, but the energized defenders held their ground. Using all three of their remaining timeouts, the Irish put the ball in Quinn’s hands one more time with 55 seconds left on the clock. From the Notre Dame 20-yard line, Quinn quickly moved the ball with a 21-yard pass to Samardzija. Without hesitation, the offense reassembled and Quinn threw a 14-yard pass to David Grimes for another first down to stop the dwindling clock. Still 45 yards from the end zone with only 27 seconds remaining, Quinn again threw long to Samardzija, who dodged past several UCLA defenders on his way to the end zone for the winning touchdown. UCLA had little opportunity to respond as Derek Landri sacked Cowan to end the game.

The dramatic victory marked another historic game for the famed Irish and proved the resiliency of Charlie Weis’ squad. “Good teams win games like that,” Weis said in a post-game interview. “Good teams make a play at the end of the game to win.”

So, how do you feel about the team after the season opener versus Ohio State? Will this team go 11-1? 10-2? 9-3? Will we blow out Marshall this weekend? What say you?

Cheers & GO IRISH!