When it mattered, when it was all on the line, Jarious Jackson did what he had to do.
After struggling most of the game, Jackson passed to Jay Johnson for a 16-yard touchdown with 36 seconds left to give Notre Dame a 28-24 victory over Navy Saturday and extend its NCAA-record winning streak over the Midshipmen to 36 games.
“Jarious struggled today throwing the football,” Notre Dame Coach Bob Davie said. “Then he comes back late in the game and makes the throw to win. . . . He finds a way. He doesn’t panic.”
It’s a theme Jackson has been working on all season. Saturday’s comeback was the third time Jackson has led the Irish back from a late deficit and the fifth time this season Notre Dame has had a game decided on a last-minute drive.
“I’m sure everybody was kind of in suspense, because I saw the players running toward Jay,” Jackson said. “But at the same time I just put the ball in the air where I knew it would get to Jay.”
Jackson’s game-winning floater wasn’t pretty, but neither were the Irish (5-3), who racked up 130 yards on 13 penalties--the most in more than two decades--and consistently played themselves out of scoring opportunities. Yet Navy (2-6) couldn’t capitalize to beat the Irish for the first time since 1963, when Roger Staubach was the Midshipmen’s quarterback.
The streak was in danger with 5:56 left when Tim Shubzda kicked a 33-yard field goal to put Navy ahead, 24-21.
After Notre Dame took over at its 41, Jackson converted two straight third-down situations to begin the drive.
Perhaps his biggest throw came on fourth and 10 with 1:20 left when he connected with Bobby Brown at the 27, and Brown twisted forward for the first down, keeping Notre Dame alive by inches.
“It’s a disappointing loss. It’s one that hurts you deep inside because you know you played your tails off,” Navy Coach Charlie Weatherbie said. “I don’t think it gets easier to lose at all. You show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”
After yet another third-down conversion and two dropped passes in the flat, Jackson threw a floater to Johnson just inside the five. Johnson spun away from a defender and just got inside the pylon for the winning score.