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Quinn, Samardzija lift Notre Dame to miraculous win over UCLA

Oct 21, 2006 - 10:43 PM SOUTH BEND, Indiana (Ticker) -- With a Bowl Championship Series bid on the line, Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija helped Notre Dame wake up the echoes and avoid an embarrassing loss.

Quinn hooked up with Samardzija for a game-winning 45-yard touchdown with 27 seconds remaining to lift No. 10 Notre Dame to a thrilling 20-17 triumph over UCLA.

A preseason favorite to contend for a national championship, the Fighting Irish overcame an uninspiring performance with one of their patented late-game miracles.

"Good teams win games like that," said Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, who was an 8-year-old when the teams last met. "Good teams win at the end of the game. Somehow, good teams make a play at the end of the game to win."

"I've never lost a game like this in this fashion before," UCLA coach Karl Dorrell added. "I'm proud of how our kids played, played hard. That's really all I can take from it."

In the first meeting between the schools since 1964, the Fighting Irish looked sluggish offensively and yielded several big plays on defense over the first 59 minutes Saturday.

But after a touchback punt gave Notre Dame the ball on its own 20 with 1:02 remaining, Quinn needed just 35 seconds to put his team in front. The Fighting Irish trailed, 17-13, when Quinn rolled to his right on first down and found Samardzija for a 21-yard pass to the Notre Dame 41.

Quinn hooked up for a 14-yard completion to David Grimes on the ensuing play, advancing Notre Dame to the UCLA 45 and setting the stage for Samardzija's heroics.

"They had been getting some decent pressure on us," Weis said. "They had some decent protections. ... Fortunately the first two plays we called, even though Brady was under some duress, the first couple of calls we had were the calls that I kind of drew up on the sideline before we got the ball back."

After dropping back on 1st-and-10, Quinn pump-faked over the middle before rolling to his right and finding Samardzija, who caught the ball at the Bruins 30 and broke a pair of tackles on his way to the end zone.

"One thing we talked about was getting Jeff across the middle," Weis said. "Because unless he got across the middle (defender), it would just be a completion for 15 yards.

"But Brady bided some time and then Jeff got across that middle guy. You get any good receiver in the open field, where he's on the run, you've got a chance of something big happening."

Still a contender for the Heisman Trophy, Quinn completed 27-of-45 passes for 304 yards and two TDs.

"Brady Quinn obviously is a very talented quarterback and made the critical plays at critical times," Dorrell said. "I think that's the difference in the game. They had some experience at that standpoint and did the nice job of finishing the final minute and two seconds."

Samardzija had 118 yards and a pair of scores on eight catches while Grimes hauled in eight receptions for 79 yards for Notre Dame (6-1), which has won four straight since an ugly loss to No. 2 Michigan last month.

Bruins quarterback Patrick Cowan was impressive in just his second start in place of the injured Ben Olson. The redshirt sophomore went 16-of-32 with 217 yards and two TDs while Marcus Everett hauled in six catches for 102 yards and a score for UCLA (4-3), which fell 0-4 all-time against Notre Dame.

Cowan found William Snead for a 36-yard TD pass with 7:18 remaining in the first half to give the Bruins their largest lead of the contest at 14-7.

However, Carl Gioia converted a 20-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and drilled a 33-yarder late in the third quarter to draw the Fighting Irish within 14-13.

UCLA's defense took over from there, repeatedly thwarting Quinn and Notre Dame's high-powered offense. The Bruins came up with a huge stop on 4th-and-1 with 2:20 remaining, stuffing Quinn on a sneak attempt.

"It's 4th-and-1, it's the end of the game," Weis said. "You're going to punt right down and hold them down there? Maybe you could do that and maybe you could take that chance, but we were in plus territory."

Notre Dame's defense forced UCLA to punt after three plays on the ensuing possession, but the Bruins successfully whittled 78 precious seconds off the clock. Unfortunately for Dorrell, the shocking milestone upset was not meant to be.

"We had a chance to win it, we were there all the way to the final minute and didn't find a way to finish," he said. "That's what it comes down to. We didn't find a way to finish. We had opportunity to do so on almost every phase, offensively we could have got our first down. We could have finished the game by exhausting Notre Dame's timeouts. We didn't do that."

Dorrell was, in fact, proud of his defense, which limited Notre Dame star running back Darius Walker to just 53 yards on 21 carries.

"Our defense played well for the most part," he said. "We did try to stop the run and we were able to do that pretty well. Notre Dame was just as effective against us in the run game. So I thought really both teams played hard, played hard and battled. It was a good defensive effort on both sides."

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