SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Although UCLA fans were outnumbered by thousands, they made their presence known late in the fourth quarter Saturday against Notre Dame.
With many dressed in a lighter shade of blue than the majority of Irish fans, the Bruins supporters cheered with excitement when it appeared that their team was ready to upset No. 10 Notre Dame.
But it wasn't to be. The Irish stopped UCLA's offense when it needed to, and Brady Quinn found Jeff Samardzija in the final minute for a 20-17 come-from-behind win.
"It feels pretty bad, but we have to look at this as a learning experience," junior defensive tackle Kevin Brown said. "We have to keep moving forward."
For the second time this season, UCLA could not close a game — which is either a sign of a young team still growing or an inconsistent one destined to underachieve.
Against Washington, UCLA blew a 16-point lead in the first half and lost, 29-19. On Saturday, the Bruins led, 17-13, and had the ball with 2:20 remaining before it lost.
For Coach Karl Dorrell, who has been criticized for losing close games, UCLA's latest setback will hurt for weeks to come.
"This gives you a bad taste in your mouth, but you know what, life's tough sometimes," Dorrell said. "You've just got to fight through it, keep battling, and sometimes when you keep grinding, good things happen at some point."
The Bruins did many things right against the heavily favored Irish.
They moved the ball when they had to in the first half and got two touchdown passes from Patrick Cowan, who played well in his second start. Their defense also played well most of the game, getting pressure on Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and stopping the Irish on a key fourth-down play late in the game.
But when it counted, the Bruins came up short.
"This game is for 60 minutes and it doesn't matter how we played before that," Cowan said. "There are no words to describe how I feel except that I could have played a whole lot better."
UCLA, which dropped to 0-3 on the road, will play host to Washington State in a Pacific 10 Conference game next week, and the Cougars upset Oregon on Saturday.
The Bruins, who are 2-2 in league play, still have an opportunity to qualify for a bowl game, but they have to win at least two of their final five games.
"The Pac-10 is what is most important to us," Brown said. "This loss was a test for us. We have a chance to put what we learned into play next week."
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