Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Reliving Some ND Football (Sort of) Buzzer Beaters

March 17, 2017

The Irish basketball team survived and advanced in their first game of the NCAA tournament when Princeton's Devin Cannady attempted a shot that would have made him a hero if it fell. Fortunately for Mike Brey's team, Cannady missed it and it allowed for Notre Dame to hold on for the win.

At the same time, it also didn't allow for fans of March Madness to witness a buzzer beater and an upset, which is kind of what the tournament is all about.

Buzzer beaters don't happen in football all that much. Very rarely does a game end with a walk-off touchdown or field goal. The game just doesn't have the back and forth scoring like basketball for it to be a common occurrence. That's why a moment like ">the Kick Six in the 2013 Iron Bowl is so special. Something like that doesn't happen every Saturday and may only happen once a year out of the hundreds of college football games that are played. The fact that it happened in a game of that magnitude made it even more improbable. That is closer to a once a generation type of circumstance.

That's why seeing Notre Dame scoring in the final seconds of a game is so memorable. Blowout wins are great, and I'm sure fans would like to see more of them, but the late game heroics stick with you as a fan a little bit more. Where else can someone get the feeling of despair that turns to hope and then to jubilation in such a short amount of time?

In honor of March Madness, I figured it would be fun to take a look back at some recent Notre Dame football (sort of) buzzer beaters. Most of these wins didn't come down to the final play, but they came awful close to it. I'm excluding overtime games so Pitt in 2012 isn't going to get mentioned. We'll kick it off back in 2006 when a sluggish performance from a Charlie Weis team turned into a epic win against a team from out west.

The Shark takes down UCLA

This touchdown in the final seconds only happened because then UCLA coach Karl Dorrell decided to play conservative on his final drive to attempt to milk the clock. I'm sure if he could take it back and change his decision making he would. Then again, he had a defense that had held Brady Quinn and the Irish offense to 13 points and 265 yards of total offense through 59 minutes of the game. I'm sure he felt confident that his defense could stop the Irish from going 80 yards with only 1:01 on the clock.

It turned out all the Irish needed was three plays to go get that 80, 45 of which came on the catch and run by Jeff Samardzija that ended in a touchdown with 27 seconds left on the clock.

It was a game filled with frustration on offense. The offense was incredibly inefficient on 3rd down (4 of 19) and the running game was non-existent (41 yards on 35 carries). None of that mattered in the end.

I don't think many could tell you the specific details of other parts of that game. They just remember the finish with The Shark slipping a tackle and running to daylight. Then they remember seeing him react in the end zone like he expected it to happen. It was a great job by him and a terrific job by Quinn finding him when he left the pocket.

The Irish ruin Purdue's night in 2009

Remember former Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott? Neither do I.

I couldn't pick him out of a lineup if he was wearing a Purdue jersey with Elliott on the back of it. The 2009 Purdue team wasn't exactly a memorable one. They ended up 5-7 and were 1-2 at the time when they hosted Notre Dame for a night game in West Lafayette, Indiana.

They really had no business of being competitive with Notre Dame, but they had the Irish on the brink of falling to 2-2. Maybe it wouldn't have been the case with a healthy Jimmy Clausen and Michael Floyd. A turf toe injury forced Clausen out of the game early. He returned for the final drive to lead the team to a victory with touchdown to tight end Kyle Rudolph with 24 seconds remaining.

It came down to a 4th and goal play and Rudolph had a one on one matchup where he essentially used his big frame to box out the defender. He was the obvious choice to get the football. Todd Blackledge was the analyst on the telecast and essentially called out the final play before it happened. Purdue probably knew it was coming too and could do nothing to stop it.

An improbably win versus LSU in the Music City Bowl

If you're a betting man or woman, then you probably wanted to bet the house on LSU when Notre Dame was set to face them in the Music City Bowl. An injury ravaged Notre Dame team was going through a quarterback transition at the end of the 2014 season. They also were reeling after losing five of their last six, including an embarrassing blowout at USC where it appeared many didn't even show up to play.

Mike Denbrock and Brian Kelly came up with a terrific game plan that focused on running the ball with Malik Zaire in at quarterback and they used Everett Golson effectively in obvious passing situations to help move the chains as well. They were 11 of 17 on 3rd down, ran for 263 yards, and possessed the ball for over 60% of the game.

That game plan might have been all for naught if they didn't deliver on the final drive of the game and put Kyle Brindza in a position to kick a last second field goal. They finished the game off with a 14 play drive, that included three 3rd down conversions, which ate up the final 5:41 of the clock.

Brindza had a good career with the Irish, but 2014 was disappointing for him personally with him only converting 58.1% of his field goal tries all season. It had to be satisfying for him to earn a bit of redemption with that final 32 yard boot in his only attempt of the game for the win.

Golson to Koyack on 4th down over Stanford

There are always going to be mixed feelings from Notre Dame fans when it comes to Golson. They will always wonder what could have been if not for his academic issues and late season collapse in 2014. It's a bit crazy to think that after this win against Stanford, he was 15-1 as a starter with his one loss coming against Alabama.

I'm not sure if many recall that Golson was not having a great game on a wet day. He finished the game completing only 20 passes on 43 attempts with an average yards per attempt less than six. His final drive wasn't going so hot either and the Irish were in a hole down by four with a 4th and 11 coming up on Stanford's 23 yard line.

The struggles were swept away with one play. He drifted to his left and threw a bullet to an open Ben Koyack in the end zone. A coverage bust helped him get loose and Golson found him for the winning score with a minute left on the clock.

I didn't remember the throw and catch being as impressive as it was until I watched this view from the corner of the end zone. Technically there was still a decent amount of time for Stanford to get into field goal range and tie the game. But I'm counting this as a (sort of) buzzer beater either way because of how bad things looked heading into the play and how great everyone in the stadium felt after Koyack came down with the football.

Kizer to Fuller

DeShone Kizer found Will Fuller for a lot of big plays in 2015, but I don't think I need to get too specific for anyone to know what I'm referencing here. If Kizer ends up being a an All-Pro quarterback in the NFL one day, then they'll talk about him hitting Fuller for this touchdown against Virginia as the moment it all started.

The story is probably really fresh in everyone's mind since it wasn't too long ago that it took place, but in case anyone doesn't remember, Kizer was forced into action after a season ending injury to Malik Zaire earlier in the game.

The Irish blew a two score lead and Kizer had to come up with at least a field goal with 1:54 left on the clock. The drive started at their own 20 and included a clutch run for a 1st down by Kizer on 4th and 2 from the Notre Dame 28. Two completions later to Corey Robinson and CJ Prosise had the Irish on the edge of field goal range with a true freshman kicker potentially being put in a spot to win or lose the game. Justin Yoon had already missed a field goal earlier, so I'm not sure many fans were feeling overly confident about him at that time.

It never came down to Yoon, though, with the coaching staff deciding to go for the jugular with a slant and go called for Fuller on the outside. He broke open and Kizer drifted back and threw a bomb perfectly over Fuller's shoulder. Kizer pulled this off with the clock ticking down and Tyler Luatua having to race on to the field to replace an injured Durham Smythe as well.

Like that, Virginia fans were crushed and Kizer emerged as one of the best storylines of the 2015 college football season. 12 seconds were left on the clock, but they might as well have had Kenny Smith yelling, "It's overrrr!!!" with Vince Carter signaling it to the crowd in Charlottesville.

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