Oct. 2, 1999
By JR ROSS
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Jarious Jackson is the heart and soul of the Irish.
Against Oklahoma, he finally gave them the heart to win.
Jackson threw for two touchdowns and ran for one in leading Notre Dame to 20 unanswered second-half points and a 34-30 victory over No. 23 Oklahoma on Saturday, Notre Dame's biggest comeback win in 13 years.
"I said we've got to get this victory," Jackson said. "I said if I have to put an IV in my arm after the game, we're going to get this victory."
Notre Dame looked disorganized and unemotional in opening the season 1-3, and Jackson didn't look like his old self. Expected to lead the team as its lone captain and a fifth-year senior, he was erratic. He threw four interceptions in his first four games, matching his total for all of last season, and no longer looked like a dangerous threat to run.
So when Josh Heupel hit Brandon Daniels for a 15-yard touchdown pass to give Oklahoma (3-1) a 30-14 lead with 10:01 left in the third quarter, the Irish looked whipped once again.
Until Jackson took over.
He hit Jabari Holloway for a 15-yard touchdown with 7:20 left in the third to begin the comeback. After Lee Lafayette intercepted Heupel's pass at the Irish 44, Jackson led Notre Dame down to the 1, where Tony Driver punched it in to pull the Irish within 30-28 with 2:37 left in the quarter.
"That was basically the turning point in the ball game," Heupel said. "If we continue to drive in that series, we're sitting really well. I focused on one receiver, made a bad decision and they capitalized on it."
Jackson wasn't finished, leading Notre Dame on its most impressive drive of the season.
The Sooners downed Jeff Ferguson's punt at the 2 with 14:45 left. Runs by Driver and Tony Fisher gave Notre Dame some running room, and five plays later Jackson scrambled for 23 yards, showing no signs of the turf-toe injury that has hampered him the last four weeks.
Later, he hit Joey Getherall for 29 yards to the Oklahoma 7, and Driver eventually scored from the 1 with 9:19 left to give Notre Dame its first lead since Daniels' 89-yard kickoff return in the first quarter.
"Once we got the first first down, it was all downhill from there," said Jackson, who was 15-of-21 for 276 yards. "I just wanted to get the ball away from our end zone because you can't do much when you're down on your own 2-yard line."
Jackson again drove the Irish inside the Oklahoma 10 on Notre Dame's next possession, but Jim Sanson missed a 21-yard field goal - his second miss from within 25 yards - and Oklahoma had one last shot.
But Heupel threw four straight incompletions, and Notre Dame ran out the clock to avoid its second 1-4 start in three seasons.
"We had to break through and win a game," Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said. "We really learned how to win this game. We've come back in each of the last three games, and we realize you can't keep coming back and not winning."
Jackson finally had the complete game that coaches had expected all season, rushing 15 times for 107 yards as Notre Dame racked up 566 yards against a defense that averaged giving up 263 a game.
The Irish also shut down the nation's No. 1 offense - built up against the likes of Baylor, Louisville and Division I-AA Indiana State. The Sooners, who had averaged 536 yards a game, were held to just 237, and Heupel was 22-of-40 for 168 yards and three touchdowns and one interception.
"Notre Dame just basically whipped us in the second half. Their will to win was greater than ours," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "Jarious Jackson just did it all himself. He was a major factor and the difference in the game. He made us look foolish at times, missing tackles and giving up big runs."
After averaging more passing yards than rushing yards this season, Notre Dame also put up a respectable running game for the first time since rushing for 363 yards against Kansas in the season opener.
Fisher led Notre Dame with 140 yards on 26 carries, the first time an Irish runner has broken the 100-yard barrier since the Kansas game.
The only real disappointment Saturday was Daniels' school-record 229 kickoff return yards, including an 89-yard return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
"This will be the first night I can watch ESPN and look forward to the highlights," Davie said. "It'll be fun to just see what some other people did across the country and not have to turn the volume down."