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Crum charges up Notre Dame

Times Staff Writers

Notre Dame players let the right guy lead them in a rousing rendition of the Fighting Irish fight song late Saturday night.

Linebacker Maurice Crum Jr. seemingly was in the middle of every big defensive development on the field during Notre Dame’s 20-6 upset victory over UCLA at the Rose Bowl, so why not let him stir up the troops once more afterward?

“He had a bunch of big plays,” Irish Coach Charlie Weis said.

Crum had two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, two pass breakups and a sack. He also forced a fumble. And he inflicted much of the damage after shaking off a leg injury that caused him to sit out part of the second quarter.

Crum’s biggest play came late in the third quarter when he helped knock the ball from Bruins quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s grasp before scooping it up and racing 34 yards for the touchdown that put the Irish ahead by the final margin.

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Crum also prompted Weis to use his coach’s challenge earlier in the quarter after Crum insisted -- correctly -- that he had stripped the ball from UCLA tailback Kahlil Bell before his knee touched the ground. Officials reviewed the play and awarded the ball to the Irish at the Bruins’ 29-yard line.

What was the extent of Weis’ knowledge of Bethel-Thompson before the game?

“We knew he was a righty,” Weis said of the Bruins’ second-string quarterback, who replaced starter Ben Olson after Olson was knocked out of the game late in the first quarter.

You can also say this about Notre Dame football players: They’re good students.

The Irish were ranked No. 3 in last week’s GSR (Graduation Success Rate) Survey, behind only the United States Naval Academy and Northwestern.

Notre Dame entered the game having suffered seven straight losses dating to last year, but the Irish players were described in Saturday’s pregame notes as, “diligent workers in the classroom.”

Notre Dame boasts nine players who have already earned their undergraduate degrees while the football team posted a 3.04 GPA for the spring semester in 2007, exceeding the 3.0 mark for the fourth consecutive semester.

The biggest hole UCLA had heading into the season seems to have been plugged nicely.

Last year, All-American kicker Justin Medlock propped up UCLA’s overly conservative offense with 113 points in his final season of eligibility.

But with redshirt freshman Kai Forbath, the Bruins’ kicking game hasn’t missed a step.

Forbath has made 12 of 15 field goals this season and is five of six on kicks of 40 yards or more. He came into Saturday’s game third in the Pacific 10 Conference in scoring with 48 points and had all six of the Bruins’ points against Notre Dame.

The only test Forbath has yet to take is a field goal with the game on the line.

“Obviously, I wouldn’t want our team to be in a position where it had to come down to that, but when it happens, I’ll be excited about it,” Forbath said. “I mean, I don’t dream about it in my sleep, but it is something I’ve been waiting for and I’ll be ready when the time comes.”

Guard Shannon Tevaga, who missed the last two games with a knee injury, returned to the lineup in the second quarter Saturday.

Bruins’ linebackers John Hale and Shawn Oatis left the game with concussions and receiver Dominique Johnson sustained a sprained left ankle, Bruins officials said. UCLA defensive tackle Chase Moline did not suit up for Saturday’s game because of what UCLA officials said were migraine headaches.

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Times staff writer Chris Dufresne contributed to this report.

chris.foster@latimes.com

chris.dufresne@latimes.com


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