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    Notre Dame raises bar despite OT loss to Nebraska

    September 9, 2000 Print it

    Sean Deveney
    The Sporting News

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It was only a few minutes after Nebraska's 27-24 overtime win over Notre Dame in South Bend, and already the silly questions were coming at Bob Davie. Does this loss, close as it was, put Notre Dame back on the map? Does this loss ruin the season for the Irish?

    Whoa. First things first.

    This was a game of big breaks and a little luck, most of which went the Irish's way. Consider these three plays:

  • After falling behind 21-7 early in the third quarter, Julius Jones returned the kickoff 100 yards to bring Notre Dame back to 21-14.

  • The Huskers regrouped the next series and drove to a first-and-10 on the Notre Dame 36-yard line, but a screen pass from Huskers quarterback Eric Crouch went off fullback Judd Davies' hands for an interception. That interception took the life out of the Nebraska offense - the Huskers had 16 first downs before the interception, but only three after.

  • Early in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame's Joey Getherall scored the tying touchdown on an 83-yard punt return.

    Those three plays, plus some surprisingly fierce play by the Notre Dame defense, nearly knocked out Nebraska. But while some of the success of those plays can be attributed to the skill of Jones and Getherall, there was also quite a bit of luck involved.

    And, overall, the Huskers dominated the Irish, with 377 yards of offense to 224 for Notre Dame. Nebraska had 20 first downs; the Irish had 11.

    "We did not move the ball well today, on a consistent basis," Davie says. "But we had those big plays, and that kept us in it."

    Luck is, of course, part of the game, and after last year's Murphy's Law debacle, it must be refreshing for Notre Dame to have some fortune on its side. But though the score was close, it is unfair to say that Notre Dame's season was made or ruined here. We still don't know how good Notre Dame is, and the Nebraska game was too full of big breaks to be a good yardstick.

    What this game does, though, is put Notre Dame in a spot where it is expected to win its next two games: at home against Purdue and at Michigan State.

    Earlier in the week, Davie said he hoped the Nebraska game "raised the bar" for Notre Dame football, and it has. After competing so tightly with the top-ranked team in the country, and after beating No. 25 Texas A&M 24-10 last week, the Irish will be expected to come out of its difficult opening four games 3-1.

    If the Irish live up to those expectations, this season could end in a major bowl game. The schedule gets much softer after Michigan State - Stanford, Navy, Air Force, Boston College, Rutgers and a tough road game at USC.

    A 10-1 season in South Bend is possible, and with the only loss coming in overtime to the No. 1 team, the Irish would be a likely BCS bowl team. As long as the breaks keep falling their way.

    Sean Deveney is a staff writer for The Sporting News.

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