The parallels go back to 1985 and Gerry Faust’s last season as coach, and that’s not a good sign for Notre Dame.
For the first time in 11 seasons, the No. 8 Irish lost to Air Force, 20-17 in overtime on Saturday, due in large part to a rushing game that netted only 67 yards--their worst showing since gaining 56 against Purdue in 1985.
“We need to handle this with class,” Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage. We tried to isolate them, we tried to zone them, we tried to T-block them. We tried everything.”
Air Force (4-2) sacked Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus three times, and forced him to fumble four times. His last fumble came on the first play of overtime and all but sealed Notre Dame’s fate.
Powlus, back to pass, was hit by Joe Suhajda and lost the ball. Alex Pupich recovered.
Notre Dame (4-2) was called for a face-mask penalty on the second play, moving the Falcons to the Irish 10. After Todd Eilers rushed for two yards, Dallas Thompson came in for what would have been a 22-yard field-goal attempt. But as the kick sailed through, a delay-of-game penalty was called.
Didn’t matter as Thompson’s second kick was also perfect.
“All I remember was trying to keep my foot up so they wouldn’t step on it,” the barefoot kicker said. “So I had to hop around the field for about five minutes.”
Air Force quarterback Beau Morgan led the Falcons with a season-high 183 rushing yards and a touchdown. Morgan also completed completed five of 11 passes for 51 yards.
The game might have had a different outcome but for a controversial call with less than a minute left in the first half. Powlus connected with Raki Nelson on a 13-yard pass in the end zone, but officials ruled that Nelson didn’t have control of the ball as he hit the ground.
Holtz protested, but the call stood. Television replays showed Nelson had the ball cradled in his arms as he touched the ground.