Nov. 27, 2005
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - Notre Dame needed every last yard and every defensive stop to become eligible for its first Bowl Championship Series berth in five years.
Darius Walker ran 6 yards for the winning touchdown with 55 seconds remaining and took a direct snap to run in for the 2-point conversion, and the sixth-ranked Fighting Irish became all but assured of playing in one the four marquee bowl games with a 38-31 victory over Stanford on Saturday night.
Brady Quinn passed for 432 yards and three touchdowns but also threw two interceptions, and Notre Dame survived a wild final few minutes for its fifth straight victory since a 34-31 loss to No. 1 USC on Oct. 15. Walker ran for 186 yards on 35 carries.
The Irish (9-2) won seven of their final eight games under first-year coach Charlie Weis, who made a key decision to switch kickers in the fourth quarter then gave his team a major scare when he switched back to starter D.J. Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick missed a 29-yard field goal wide left with 2:15 to play after his earlier extra point missed off the left upright and then his 42-yard field goal attempt in Notre Dame's next possession went wide left.
Stanford took advantage.
The Cardinal, who will miss a postseason trip in coach Walt Harris' first year, went ahead 31-30 with 1:46 left after backup quarterback T.C. Ostrander's 4-yard touchdown pass to Matt Traverso. Ostrander set up the score with a 76-yard completion to Mark Bradford.
Jeff Samardzija caught two touchdown passes and Travis Thomas ran 8 yards for a score with 9:44 left for the Irish, who played in front of three representatives from the Fiesta Bowl and beat Stanford for the fourth straight time - having a much tougher time than they did in a 57-7 rout of the Cardinal here in 2003 in Tyrone Willingham's return to The Farm.
Samardzija increased his school-record single-season touchdown receptions mark to 15 and finished with nine catches for a career-high 216 yards to become Notre Dame's third career 1,000-yard single-season receiver. Maurice Stovall had seven catches for 136 yards and a TD.
Notre Dame could receive big money from this victory, too - at least $14 million for playing in the BCS.
Starting next year, Notre Dame will be guaranteed a projected $1.3 million from the BCS and would only receive about $4.5 million if the Irish play in one of the top bowls.
But Stanford made a game of it in the final event at 84-year-old Stanford Stadium, which will undergo a $90 million facelift to transform the venue into a state-of-the-art facility for 2006.
The Cardinal finished 5-6 against the second-toughest schedule in the nation and missed a chance at the school's first trip to the postseason since 2001.
The Cardinal certainly will be left to think all winter about a 20-17 loss to UC Davis - a team making the transition from Division II to Division I-AA - in Harris' home debut.
Construction began immediately after the clock expired, with three bulldozers and three dump trucks pulling onto the field to start pulling up dirt. A ceremony was held at halftime in honor of the stadium with dozens of former players in attendance.
Quinn's 10-yard touchdown pass to Stovall with 8:43 left in the third quarter gave the Irish the lead, but Fitzpatrick missed the extra point. Quinn completed 25 of 38 passes, overcoming his early mistakes to calmly lead the Irish on the winning drive.
Ostrander replaced starter Trent Edwards, who had been forced out of the previous two games with injuries and apparently re-aggravated a problem in his throwing arm. Ostrander came in to begin Stanford's second series of the third quarter and finished 11-for-15 for 197 yards and a touchdown.
The Irish led 7-0 just 15 seconds into the game after Quinn hit Samardzija for an 80-yard TD pass.
On Notre Dame's next possession, Kevin Schimmelmann intercepted a pass by Quinn - just the sixth pick of the year by Quinn - to set up Edwards' 27-yard TD pass to Bradford that tied the game at 7 with 11:38 left in the first quarter.
Quinn connected with Samardzija again on Notre Dame's next series with a 7-yard scoring pass. The Cardinal tied it on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Edwards to Justin McCullum 8:14 before halftime.
The BCS pairings are set Dec. 3.
"Despite all the projections and everyone writing things in pen and ink, we're really in a holding pattern until all the games are played," Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker said. "Notre Dame is certainly a great story this year."