Oct. 9, 1999
By JR ROSS
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame just wasn't Notre Dame the first few games this season. Mental mistakes. A nonexistent rushing game. Poor clock management.
The Irish just seemed unorganized and lethargic as they opened 1-3, but now it looks like they're back. And they have Jarious Jackson to thank for it.
Jackson threw for four touchdowns, tying a school record, and ran a career-best 48 yards for another as Notre Dame beat Arizona State 48-17 Saturday.
"This is the Notre Dame team I expected at the beginning of the year," Jackson said. "I am glad to see it finally turned around."
Jackson was uncharacteristically erratic as the Irish (3-3) lost three straight, throwing three touchdowns and six interceptions in his first four games - his total from all of last season. The Notre Dame lone captain and fifth-year senior even took to hiding from reporters in the lockerroom after losses to Purdue and Michigan State.
But just when things seemed their worst, Jackson rallied the Irish for a comeback win over Oklahoma last week and became the first Irish quarterback to pass for 240 yards or more in four consecutive games.
He picked up right where he left off this week, finishing 10-of-17 for 223 yards while rushing nine times for 93 yards before sitting out Notre Dame's final drive.
"Jarious steps up and makes big plays," said Notre Dame coach Bob Davie. "He's a guy I think right now that he's playing the best football of his career, and that's a big statement.
"He's back, he's healthy, and he's confident in what we're doing scheme-wise."
The Sun Devils (2-3), however, seem to be just the opposite, committing six turnovers, five of them in the first half.
The Irish struggled in the first quarter, unable to capitalize on Arizona State's first two turnovers.
But after Stephen Baker missed a 24-yard field goal attempt, Jackson drove the Irish 80 yards in six plays, hitting Bobby Brown for a 42-yard touchdown pass with 11:06 left in the second quarter to begin the onslaught.
On Arizona State's next play, A'Jani Sanders intercepted Ryan Kealy's pass at the 28 and returned it for a touchdown untouched. The play was similar to Sanders' interception return for a touchdown in last year's meeting, a 28-9 Irish win, in which he returned a Kealy pass 25 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, also to put the Irish up 14-0.
"You can't turn the ball over six times like the did and expect to win," Sanders said. "I like playing this team."
Things just got worse from there for the Sun Devils. Kealy drove Arizona State deep into Irish territory and hit Tariq McDonald for 23 yards to the 12-yard line. But McDonald fumbled into the end zone and Deke Cooper recovered it for Notre Dame.
"A couple big plays where we made mental mistakes made the difference," said Arizona State tight end Todd Heap, who had eight catches for 100 yards. "We were driving the ball well. If we could have eliminated three or four of those big mistakes, it would have been a much closer game."
Jackson made Arizona State pay for its fourth turnover, scrambling 44 yards to the Sun Devils' 6 before he rolled out right and threw left to tight end Dan O'Leary, who eluded the only defender in the area and strutted into the end zone as the Irish went up 21-0 with 7:13 left.
Three plays later, Cooper, who had two fumble recoveries in the first half, intercepted Kealy's pass at the Notre Dame 43 and returned it to the 25. Jackson hit Joey Getherall on the next play for a 25-yard touchdown pass, and the Irish capped off a scoring splurge in which they put 27 points on the board in just 5:24.
Kealy was 18-of-30 for 196 yards and three interceptions before he was yanked in the fourth quarter. Arizona State leading rusher J.R. Redmond rushed for 63 yards on 13 carries before he was pulled in the third quarter with a sore shoulder. He was scheduled to have x-rays taken on Monday.
"I thought we moved the ball well," said Arizona State coach Bruce Snyder. "We played good football, so when the avalanche started, that's a sense of frustration you have to deal with."
Meanwhile, everything seems right again at Notre Dame.
"Our whole season has been given back to us," Brown said.