SOUTH BEND, Ind. — David Gordon, who had failed on two game-winning field-goal attempts in the last two years, kicked a 41-yarder on the last play Saturday and Boston College upset No. 1 Notre Dame, 41-39.
The field goal ruined Notre Dame's rally from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter and wrecked its bid for a perfect season. It also clouded the Irish's chances for a ninth national championship and stopped their 17-game winning streak.
"I knew I could do it," said Gordon, a senior who came into the game with only 11 field-goal attempts for No. 17 Boston College. "I didn't hit it well, it was kind of low, but it went through."
Said Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz: "To be down so far and then come back, and then for them to come down and kick a field goal, it's heartbreaking. . . . The loss is very devastating. We hurt, but it is all part of life and you learn to handle it. It's not the end of the world."
Notre Dame (10-1) was trying to complete its third perfect regular season since 1949. Instead, it lost to the team it beat, 54-7, here last year.
The Irish overcame a 38-17 deficit in the final 11 minutes. Kevin McDougal's four-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to Lake Dawson with 1:09 to play put them ahead, 39-38.
But Glenn Foley, who threw four touchdown passes, drove the Eagles (8-2) from their 10 to set up the winning field goal. Gordon had missed from 40 yards earlier in the game.
Gordon missed a last-second field-goal attempt in Boston College's 22-21 loss at Northwestern earlier this season. His 43-yard attempt in the final moments of last season's tie with West Virginia was blocked.
The victory was the Eagles' eighth in a row and avenged one of their most embarrassing defeats.
"You couldn't ask for a better ending to a football game. We're a better football team than we were a year ago. It was two different years, two different teams," Boston College Coach Tom Coughlin said.
The Eagles lost two of their final three games after last season's loss to Notre Dame, including a defeat by Tennessee in the Hall of Fame Bowl.
"In January, when I was home after the bowl game, everyone harped on the Notre Dame game," Boston College linebacker Stephen Boyd said. "They said, 'You had a great season, but Notre Dame killed you.' We waited 365 days for this."
This was the eighth time Notre Dame had lost a perfect regular season in the final game, most recently in 1989 when it lost at Miami, 27-10. Not since USC beat the Irish, 42-23, in 1979 had a visitor scored more points at Notre Dame Stadium.
The last time Notre Dame played as No. 1, it lost at home to No. 18 Penn State, 24-21, on Nov. 17, 1990, on a field goal with four seconds to play.
Boston College led by 24-14 at halftime and scored a touchdown on its first possession of the second half.
"We just weren't very sharp in the first part of the game, but I felt we would play our way into the competitiveness of the game, which we did," Holtz said.
Lee Becton's 29-yard touchdown run, plus his two-point conversion pass back to McDougal, made the score 38-25 with 10:12 to play. After Foley fumbled a snap, the first big mistake of the day for Boston College, Notre Dame scored again on Ray Zellars' four-yard run with 4:02 to play and cut its deficit to 38-32.
The Irish got the ball again after forcing Boston College to punt. McDougal threw 46 yards to Derrick Mayes, who made a sprawling, over-the-shoulder catch and put the ball at the Eagle 21.
After gaining another first down, Notre Dame took a timeout before McDougal found Dawson over the middle for the go-ahead touchdown.
Becton set a Notre Dame record by rushing for more than 100 yards for the sixth consecutive game. He gained 122 yards in 14 carries.
Foley completed 30 of 48 passes for 315 yards. He also tied Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie's school record for the most completions in a career with 677.
Foley, who passed for only 121 yards in last year's loss to Notre Dame, threw two touchdown passes each to Ivan Boyd and Pete Mitchell as Boston College opened a 38-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. Darnell Campbell, who ran for 115 yards, added a 21-yard touchdown run.