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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / 1996

Sanson Leaves Texas in State of Shock

Nonconference: His field goal as time runs out gives Notre Dame come-from-behind 27-24 victory over Longhorns, who commit costly late mistakes before record crowd.

September 22, 1996|From Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — Lou Holtz finally won at Texas, and he needed the luck of the Irish to do it.

Freshman Jim Sanson kicked a 39-yard field goal as time expired, capping a dramatic fourth-quarter rally as No. 9 Notre Dame defeated No. 6 Texas, 27-24, Saturday in front of 83,312--the largest crowd in Longhorn history.

Holtz had not won in Austin in three games as coach at Arkansas and said earlier this week that "God didn't mean for me to lose four times there."

When asked about the winning field goal, Holtz said, "It's hard to see when you're on your knees and head pointed to the sky."

It took Sanson's kick, a botched Texas punt and the only turnover of the game late in the fourth quarter to get Holtz his first victory in Austin and keep Notre Dame (3-0) unbeaten in four road games against Texas (2-1).

"I was real nervous, but I just wanted a chance," said Sanson, whom Holtz nicknamed "Foul Ball" because he missed so many in practice. "I told him to keep calling me that to get me mad. I wanted to prove him wrong."

The Irish improved their national title hopes and have a schedule that plays to their favor after tough games at home against Ohio State next week and Washington on Oct. 12. Ohio State defeated Notre Dame last season.

Desperate to prove that they could win a big game and show that last season's 10-2-1 record was no fluke, the Longhorns--1-7-1 against Top 10 teams since 1990--were devastated by the defeat.

"It's gonna be harder for us to pick ourselves back up and come back," said Texas fullback Ricky Williams, who gained 107 yards in 17 carries. "This hurts so much."

The game appeared headed to overtime, but Texas punter Mark Schultis shanked a 22-yard punt that gave Notre Dame the ball at its 43 with 59 seconds left. Autry Denson ran for 22 yards and Ron Powlus connected with Malcolm Johnson for an 11-yard play to set up Sanson's kick with five seconds left.

Texas led, 24-17, and was driving midway in the fourth quarter, but Notre Dame linebacker Lyron Cobbins intercepted a pass by James Brown that was tipped by Irish linebacker Kory Minor.

"He was trying to make a miraculous pass," Cobbins said. "It was not a good decision on his part, and we capitalized on it."

"I guess I forced it," Brown said. "But that play was messed up from the start. We were in the wrong formation. When I think about it now, I probably should have called timeout."

The turnover gave Notre Dame the ball at the Texas 34 with 6:47 left. The Irish had a first down at the Texas four-yard line, but the Longhorns stiffened, and a Notre Dame offsides penalty forced a fourth-and-goal from the six.

Notre Dame went with an option play and Denson maneuvered past Texas linebacker Tyson King into the end zone, allowing the Irish to tie the game at 24-24 with 2:54 to play.

Denson finished with 158 yards in 24 carries and the Irish ran for 292 of their 419 total yards.

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