On October 20th, 2006, driving back to Notre Dame after a short Fall Break, I daydreamed about the slim chances of the Irish (ranked #10 with a record of 5-1 at the time) sneaking into the National Championship picture with 6 more wins and a healthy amount of luck.
For the first 59 minutes of the game the next day, I wondered if maybe I should have spent some more time at home instead of returning to campus early, with the UCLA defense completely stifling the Irish offense to the tune of just 41 yards on the ground and 4 successful 3rd down conversions on 19 attempts.
With 2:26 remaining in the game and Notre Dame trailing 17-13, Charlie Weis elected to sneak Brady Quinn on 4th and 1 at the UCLA 35. With that field position, and after converting 4 of 4 fourth down attempts throughout the game, it was the logical and easy choice. The Bruins d-line, which had dominated in the trenches all day, stopped Quinn short of the first down line.
With just two timeouts remaining the Irish defense made 3 big stops to get the ball back in Brady Quinn’s hands for one last gasp attempt. Following a holding call on ND on the first UCLA punt attempt that would have put the ball on the Irish 37, the UCLA punter booted a 59 yarder into the end zone for a touchback.
With the way Weis’s offense struggled to move the ball all day, the outcome looked grim. 1:02 left on the clock. 80 yards, no timeouts. Irish BCS hopes on the line. Then this happened:
Its 6 years later and I still get chills every time I watch this video. As Samardzija crossed the goal line, chaos ensued in the student section. A group of about 10 of us dog piled in the top rows of section 34 and ended up tumbling 5 rows down from where we started. The euphoria was so overpowering that it was only an hour later in my dorm room that I realized I had massive bruises and splinters from that fall down the old stadium benches.
As we here at HLS look back at some of our favorite ND memories – both related and unrelated to football – I consider myself wildly lucky to have had countless incredible experiences in South Bend. While that season didn’t quite turn out as perfectly as we had hoped, on that afternoon Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija reminded us about what it takes to win under any circumstances and reminded us why you should never count out the Irish.