Notre Dame is a rare institution that has a built-in advantage for every home game.
Between "Touchdown Jesus," the Golden Dome and the historic campus, South Bend, Ind., has an aura all its own. Coming off a hard-fought loss at home last week against nationally ranked Oregon State and playing their second top-10 team in a row for the first time in school history, the Cougars had an uphill climb from the get-go when they played at Notre Dame.
They weren't able to break through.
Notre Dame emerged with a come-from-behind 17-14 win over the Cougars.
Here are the top three keys to the outcome of the game:
No. 1. BYU entered Saturday's game with the third-ranked rush defense, only allowing 2.2 yards per carry. Notre Dame's Theo Riddick and Cirre Woods must not have gotten the memo. The two combined for 257 of the Irish's 270 yards on the ground and the Irish's 47th-ranked rushing offense averaged 6.6 yards per carry.
With six minutes to play, BYU opted to punt and roll the dice that its defense would step up and get the ball back for the offense to have one last shot to tie or win the game. Riddick and Woods methodically moved the ball, however, picking up one first down after another. Notre Dame ran the clock down to 29 seconds and left the Cougars facing an 80-yard field and no time outs.
No. 2. Nothing kills a drive mentally faster than a quarterback running around trying to make a play and losing 19 yards instead. Riley Nelson had minus-27 rushing yards in the first quarter and finished with minus-7 yards on eight carries, and he really had to work to even come close to breaking even. He was sacked four times, but only one was due to immediate pressure and a blitz. The other three came on scrambles trying to make plays and making bad decisions.
No. 3. At the 8:20 mark of the fourth quarter, Nelson scrambled and saw Cody Hoffman wide open with nobody between him and the end zone, but Nelson appeared to hurry the throw and didn't even get the ball within 10 yards of Hoffman. There was still plenty of time for the Irish to score again, but had they connected, BYU would have taken a 21-17 lead and would have been in prime position for an upset.
BYU will travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech at 1 p.m. MT next Saturday.
Jonathan Boldt is the Editor-in-Chief of the UVU Review at Utah Valley University, and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jboldt24. www.uvureview.com