Victory slips away in Ann Arbor
By BILL HART
ANN ARBOR, MICH.
In some football games, the difference between victory and defeat can be measured in as little as one second.
In the case of the battle in Ann Arbor, Mich., between No. 16 Notre Dame and No. 7 Michigan, that gap turned out to be four seconds.
With a touchdown by the home team with less than two minutes remaining, a dramatic offensive drive fell short as the Irish lost to the Wolverines, 26-22.
"I give Michigan a lot of credit," Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie said. "They came back and made plays, made some plays to win the game, and I thought we played hard. But when you turn the ball over three times, you're going to have a hard time winning."
After failing to score for most of the second half, a 20-yard pass by quarterback Jarious Jackson to a wide open Jabari Holloway put the Irish in the lead for the first time since early in the third quarter.
Then, after a successful two-point conversion pass gave the Irish a 22-19 lead with 4:08 remaining, senior split end Bobby Brown was penalized for excessive end zone celebration.
Wolverine tailback Anthony Thomas then took the ensuing kickoff 20 yards to the Michigan 42. Michigan quarterback Tom Brady received another gift from the Irish, in the form of a 15-yard penalty for a hit out-of-bounds by safety Ron Israel on a 15-yard reception by tight end Shawn Thompson.
A 20-yard complete pass, this time to split end David Terrell, brought the Wolverines to the Irish 5-yard line. Three plays later, Thomas stumbled in for a touchdown from the Irish 1-yard line.
"You know, that's what a defensive unit dreams of," Irish defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "Having a chance to win the ball game. Our kids played hard, and you've got to give them credit for the way they battled. We just got to get those things squared away that went wrong, come back and get the next one."
With 1:38 remaining in the game and on their own 26-yard line, Notre Dame quickly moved its way up the field in a last-ditch effort to win the game.
With completions to flanker Raki Nelson of 36 and 15 yards, Jackson moved the Irish to the Wolverine 21-yard line with 51 seconds left to play. Three plays later, after being sacked for a 10-yard loss by linebacker Dhani Jones, he completed another 20-yard pass to Nelson with four seconds remaining. The officials did not order a measurement or a first down, forcing the visitors, with no timeouts left, to watch the final seconds tick off the clock.
"It's obvious we have enough talent on this football team," Davie said. "It's obvious we have enough heart. If we play as hard as we played, if we continue to get better, we'll win our share of football games. But right now, we've got to eliminate some mistakes."
In the first half, after giving up six points in the first quarter off of two field goals, the Irish finally managed to string together enough plays to put them in a first-and-goal situation on the Michigan 5-yard line.
After runs by fullback Joey Goodspeed and Jackson failed to score, a perfectly executed reverse sent flanker Joey Getherall to the end zone to give the visitors their first lead of the game with 14:09 left in the second quarter.
The Wolverines struck again with a 37-yard field goal on the next possession, and looked to score again when the Irish offense stalled after a 40-yard option run by tailback Tony Fisher. But poor starting field position at their own 12-yard line, followed by a fumble, a sack, and a tackle for a loss of eight yards, gave the Irish the ball at the Michigan 41-yard line with 3:20 left in the half.
After a third-down conversion by Jackson to the 29-yard line, followed by a pass interference call for another first down, Jackson weaved his way in from 12 yards out to score with 57 seconds left in the half.
"Jarious played his butt off," Davie said. "Did Jarious play smart all the time? No. But I like his effort. He kept us in the game, and I thought he played well."
Apart from a fourth-quarter interception and four sacks, Jackson turned in another career performance, going 18-for-29 with 302 passing yards.
"I was a lot happier by my performance," Jackson said. "The thing about it is, we didn't win. That's the general side of it. I could care less about the three interceptions [against Kansas]. We didn't win, and that's the bottom line."
Fisher kept up his performance consistent from a week ago, leading the Irish ground attack with 12 carries for 75 yards and taking to the air with two receptions for 51 yards. Holloway also had 51 yards on three possessions, while Nelson led the Irish air offensive with 91 yards on five receptions.
"This was a defensive battle," Fisher said. "We had confidence in our defense, and they stepped up and made some plays. They gave it their all. Unfortunately, we weren't able to drive the ball."
Thomas provided all of Michigan's ground attack with 32 carries for 138 yards, while the duo of Terrell and Marcus Knight provided the air power with 115 and 73 receiving yards, respectively.
All Sports Stories for Monday, September 6, 1999