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COLLEGE FOOTBALL SPOTLIGHT

Notre Dame mourns Declan Sullivan, then loses to Tulsa

The loss of Sullivan, the team's videographer who died on Wednesday, casts pall over the game Saturday. Irish take 27-18 lead before losing.

October 30, 2010|By Mike Hiserman

One of the most tumultuous weeks in Notre Dame football history ended Saturday with a 28-27 loss at home to Tulsa.

Before the game, just before the team captains met at midfield for the coin toss, there was a moment of silence and prayer for Declan Sullivan, and his photograph was shown on the scoreboard.

Sullivan, 20, a videographer for the Notre Dame football team, died Wednesday from injuries he sustained when the tower from where he was filming practice toppled over during a wind storm.

Players from both teams wore helmet decals shaped like a shamrock with his initials in the middle on what was another blustery day in South Bend, Ind.

"As a football coach there's been more difficult weeks relative to the game itself," Fighting Irish Coach Brian Kelly told reporters after Saturday's game. "But in terms of the tragedy that occurred, there's never been a more difficult time in my life."

Sullivan's family is grieving and has avoided placing blame for the death of the gregarious and popular junior, though critics have suggested he never should have been working from the tower with the weather as it was. Therefore, for Kelly, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick and other Notre Dame officials, it looks like a different kind of storm is beginning to gather.

Safety officials are investigating Sullivan's death. Federal rules prohibit workers from using scaffold structures during storms or high winds unless use is deemed safe.

During a news conference last week, Swarbrick said he was out on the practice field and the weather had been "unremarkable" until a "pretty extraordinary gust of wind."

However, that account is at odds with a "tweet" Sullivan sent during the practice that the wind up in the tower was "terrifying."

Sullivan also noted the forecast for stormy weather in this fateful tweet before practice: "Gusts of wind up to 60 mph well today will be fun at work … I guess I've lived long enough."

About the football

Notre Dame lost quarterback Dayne Crist to an injury in the first quarter, yet rallied behind backup Tommy Rees to lead, 27-18, in the third quarter.

But Tulsa scored on a 59-yard punt return by Damaris Johnson, then won it with the only points in the fourth quarter — a 27-yard field goal by Kevin Fitzpatrick with 3 minutes 23 seconds left in the game.

Notre Dame took the ball from its own 22 to the Tulsa 19 in the final minutes, but a Rees pass was intercepted by John Flanders in the end zone with 36 seconds left.

The victory snapped a Tulsa losing streak of 19 games against Bowl Championship Series teams dating to 1998.

Crist, a Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High product, reportedly sustained a ruptured tendon in his left knee when he was tackled at the end of a 29-yard run. He may miss the rest of the season.

Notre Dame was routed by Navy last week, and Navy was upset by lowly Duke, 34-31, on Saturday.

Game of the day

Alabama Birmingham scored on a two-point conversion pass from Bryan Ellis to Jeffery Anderson that gave the Blazers a 50-49 overtime win over Southern Mississippi.

The score was tied, 35-35, at the end of regulation. Alabama Birmingham scored first in overtime, but Southern Mississippi scored back-to-back touchdowns to take a 49-42 lead.

Pat Shed then scored on a 13-yard run for Alabama Birmingham, and Coach Neil Callaway went for the win.

Records and streaks

Evan Royster established a Penn State career rushing record with a 20-yard run in the first quarter against Michigan. Royster entered the game 31 yards behind Curt Warner, who ran for 3,398 yards from 1979-82.... Josh McGregor of Jacksonville passed for a school-record seven touchdowns in a 61-17 win over Morehead State.... Kansas fell to Iowa State, 28-16, for its 11th consecutive Big 12 Conference loss.... Temple defeated Akron, 30-0, for its school-record tying 10th straight home win and second consecutive shutout, a first since 1971.... Northwestern defeated Indiana, 20-17, for the Hoosiers' ninth consecutive Big Ten Conference loss.

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

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