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COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 10

In Game of Inches, Irish Get a Victory

College football: Notre Dame makes a goal-line stand in closing seconds and defeats Boston College, 31-26.

November 08, 1998|KELLY WHITESIDE | NEWSDAY

BOST0N — The season came down to six inches.

With 11 seconds remaining, Boston College trailed Notre Dame by five points. It was fourth and goal with less than a yard to go.

As the sold-out crowd of 44,500 shook the metal bleachers at Alumni Stadium on Saturday, the Notre Dame defense gathered in the end zone.

"It was solemn in the huddle," Irish safety Deke Cooper said.

Notre Dame Coach Bob Davie told his team to expect either a bootleg or a Mike Cloud run up the middle. For Boston College Coach Tom O'Brien, the choice was easy: It would be Cloud.

"He's my best back," O'Brien said. "He's a fifth-year guy playing at home, he's going to have the ball."

All Cloud needed to do was sneeze to get over the goal line. He deserved those six inches. But he didn't get them, and Notre Dame escaped with a 31-26 victory.

Cloud, one of the best running backs in the country, wound up rushing for 141 yards, although yards were harder to come by as the clock ticked to less than a minute. On first and goal from the four, he ran for two yards. On the next play, he fought for another yard. On third down, Cloud was stopped by linebacker Jimmy Friday inside the one.

"It comes down to who wants it more," Friday said. "As long as there was space and a place to stand, our defense had a chance."

Notre Dame's secondary had been picked apart all game. The Irish (7-1) already had given up 491 yards. Now the goal was not to give up 492.

All the No. 13 Irish had to do was guess right, hope for a blown assignment and stop the fourth-leading rusher in the country. An Eagle blocker missed his assignment, and Cooper was free to run inside. He was so close that Cloud couldn't even breathe. Helmets collided and Cooper pushed Cloud a yard backward.

"I heard some celebrating," Friday said. "Then I turned and saw that he wasn't across the goal line."

At that moment, dozens of Irish players ran on the field, oblivious to the clock, which had six seconds left. All that mattered was the scoreboard and the victory.

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