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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS UCLA Bruins, 2006

Foiled Spoiler: Notre Dame 20 - UCLA 17

Notre Dame Jeff Samardzija...
OCTOBER 21: College Football: Notre Dame Jeff Samardzija (83) in action, rushing for touchdown vs UCLA, South Bend, IN 10/21/2006 (Photo by Simon Bruty/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
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With another bye week underway and no game to throwback to I’m going to look back to when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team played the UCLA Bruins in 2006.

Notre Dame and UCLA have played each other a total of four times, with Notre Dame winning all four meetings. Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory was 24-0 in 1964. Notre Dame’s all time record is 945-338-42 (.729), and UCLA’s all time record is 628-451-37 (.579). Notre Dame has been to 39 bowl games, with a record of 19-20-0 (.487), and UCLA has been to 37 bowl games, with a record of 16-20-1 (.446). Notre Dame has spent 867 weeks in the AP Poll, and UCLA has spent 554 weeks in the AP Poll.

The below excerpt is from the 2006 Notre Dame Football Review, in Vol 148 of the Scholastic Magazine, written by Daric Snyder.

Foiled Spoiler

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, UCLAs defense forced another three and out.

UCLAs 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.

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. UCLAs 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.”

From the Press Box

Notre Dame’s 20-17 comeback win was only the third time that the Irish won a game with a touchdown in the last 30 seconds. The other two games are legendary to Irish fans. In 1979, Notre Dame prevailed in the Cotton Bowl 35-34 over Houston after three touchdowns from quarterback Joe Montana in the last eight minutes of the game. The game is remembered as the “Chicken Soup Game” as an ill Montana sat out for the third quarter, yet returned to lead the Irish to victory after eating a bowl of chicken soup. The next historic victory came in 1992, with quarterback Rick Mirer and halfback Jerome Bettis coming together for a touchdown and two-point conversion to vault the Irish over Penn State, 17-16. This vicious game at Notre Dame Stadium is remembered as the “Snow Bowl” for the snowstorm that plagued both teams throughout the game.

Enjoy the bye week and I’ll be back next week with a Wake Forest throwback.

Cheers & GO IRISH!