By TOM COYNE
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Glenn Earl wasn't supposed to jump. Notre Dame's
season would have taken a precipitous drop if he didn't.
Earl was supposed to be guarding against a fake when Air Force kicker Dave
Adams attempted a game-winning 28-yard field-goal attempt as time expired in
"I was really supposed to give Tony (Driver) a push and watch for the
fake," Earl said.
Earl jumped instead and got a hand on it, clearing the way for Joey
Getherall to score his third TD of the game in overtime as No. 19 Notre Dame
beat Air Force 34-31 on Saturday.
"You dream about that your whole life. Especially as a kicker, you don't
get many opportunities like that," Adams said. "When it came off my foot it
felt like I hit it straighter and higher than any of my previous kicks. It felt
like my best kick of the day."
Getherall said he couldn't watch.
"I was just praying, hoping that they blocked the kick," Getherall said.
While Irish players celebrated around him, Notre Dame coach Bob Davie rose
from a crouch and calmly removed his headset.
"I was so calm I almost passed out," he said.
Air Force beat the Irish 20-17 in overtime the last time they played four
years ago when Notre Dame was ranked No. 8.
"No doubt that was in the back of our minds the whole week," Getherall
It marked the fourth time this season that special teams have played a key
role in Irish victories.
The game-winning play was a fake option right, but Matt LoVecchio pitched
back to Getherall, who ran around the left end and dove into the end zone for
the 9-yard score.
"Once he got the ball, we knew he was going to score," LoVecchio said.
The Irish players piled on Getherall in the end zone.
"I thought I was going to die under there," Getherall said. "There was
probably 5,000 pounds on me."
It was the first overtime victory ever for Notre Dame (6-2) in four tries
and the first overtime loss for Air Force (5-3) in four tries. The victory also
made the Irish bowl eligible and buoyed the hopes of the Falcons despite their
second straight loss.
"It definitely hurts, but if nothing else I want it to show people that we
deserve to play in a bowl," said Ryan Fleming, who had eight catches for a
career-high 163 yards.
The Irish controlled the first and third quarters, and the Falcons
controlled the second and fourth. Air Force scored 18 points in the fourth
quarter to force the overtime, outgaining the Irish 265 yards to 30 yards in
"Their defense was tired at the end. If we played another quarter and a
half, we would have really shoved it down their throats," Fleming said.
The Irish twice narrowly averted losing in regulation. With the score tied
at 28 late in the fourth quarter, LoVecchio was nearly tackled for a safety by
Dan Probert but managed to escape.
Notre Dame appeared to have the game under control when Getherall scored on
a 68-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter. But Air Force came back in
the fourth quarter as Mike Thiessen threw a 30-yard TD pass to Chris Jessop,
Bert Givanetti recovered a fumble in the end zone, and Adams kicked a 34-yard
field goal with 1:56 left.
Getherall had four catches for 116 yards. LoVecchio passed for three
touchdowns - the fourth straight game the freshman has passed for at least two
touchdowns. He's the first Notre Dame quarterback to do that since Rick Mirer
in 1992. LoVecchio was 10-of-25 for 171 yards.
Thiessen threw two touchdown passes, giving him 11 for the season. That's
the second most by an Air Force quarterback since the Falcons went to the
option in 1980. Beau Morgan had 12 TD passes in 1995. Thiessen was 17-of-28 for
a career-high 265 yards.
Thiessen said he didn't know why the game had such big swings in momentum.
"I really don't think emotionally our team got down," he said. "Our team
has a lot of pride."