Jefferson's block reverses Irish fortunes
By MIKE CONNOLLY
Luckily for Irish fans, Clifford Jefferson is forgetful.
After stumbling on a fade route and watching Termaine Fulton catch a touchdown pass, Jefferson — in his first collegiate start — put the play behind him in Notre Dame's 48-13 victory over Kansas.
"I had to react and put it behind me," Jefferson said. "Being a DB, coaches teach you that you have to have a short memory. So I had a short memory and put it behind me."
When the Irish offense stumbled out of the blocks in the second half and Jarious Jackson threw his second of three interceptions on the day, Jefferson had a chance to make a big play.
Kansas kicker Joe Garcia lined up for a field goal that could cut the Irish lead to four and boost the Jayhawks' confidence even higher. But that kick never came near the uprights. Jefferson flew down the line from the right corner and blocked Garcia's attempt.
Fellow sophomore Rocky Boiman scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the Jayhawks' 34-yard line.
"I wanted somebody to make a play and when coach called block right," Jefferson said. "I knew I had a chance to get the momentum on our side again."
From that point on, momentum clearly wore blue and gold.
Tony Fisher scored on a two-yard run after the block to increase the Irish lead to 27-13. Fisher finished the day with 111 yards on 13 carries.
"Momentum swings all the time in football games," senior captain Jackson said. "One moment you have it; one moment you don't. I could tell that the defense was more up-tempo in the second half. Once they stopped them and blocked that field goal, that created momentum. Big hits, big plays — anything can change the momentum of a football game."
Two minutes later, Anthony Denman returned Kansas quarterback Zac Wegner's fumble 31 yards for a touchdown and a commanding 34-13 lead. Fisher added another touchdown and back up quarterback Arnaz Battle completed the scoring with a flourish. He ran 74 yards and broke several Kansas tackles for his first career rushing touchdown.
"We talk about how momentum is one play away from coming our way," Irish head coach Bob Davie said. "That's the great thing about college football, you never know when that big play is coming. You never know who is going to make that play but you are always one play away."
The Irish seemed to have momentum at the game's opening. Irish safety A'Jani Sanders smacked Jayhawks tailback David Winbush on Kansas' first possession to jar the ball loose. Boiman recovered the fumble and three plays later, Jackson scampered 38 yards for a touchdown.
The Jayhawks' next possession ended in a another turnover. Deveron Harper played Wegner's pass attempt perfectly and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. Harper's interception was the senior's first of his career.
After another Winbush fumble, junior tailback Tony Driver dove one yard into the end zone to give Notre Dame a 20-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, however, Kansas struck back. Wegner hit Mitch Chandler for a 14-yard touchdown. Chandler led the Jayhawks receiving with 88 yards on four catches.
Wegner hit Fulton three minutes and 50 seconds later to cut the lead to 20-13 going into halftime.
"I felt like we had the game under control," Davie said. "But just the way it was going there at the end of the half. We let them have momentum and it was kind of that snake-bit feeling a little bit. I was a little concerned but I really felt we had the game in control."
All Sports Stories for Monday, August 30, 1999