Autry Denson speaks so softly that some of his teammates might not have heard him say Notre Dame’s season didn’t end with its loss to Ohio State.
So he went out and showed them.
Denson rushed for 137 yards and one touchdown - including a 47-yard carry that was Notre Dame’s longest this season - as the No. 11 Fighting Irish rolled over No. 16 Washington 54-20 on Saturday. Ron Powlus also threw for three touchdowns.
The loss to Ohio State two weeks ago dealt a severe blow to Notre Dame’s hopes for a national championship. But Denson said earlier this week there was still something left to play for.
“Ohio State was a wake-up call,” he said. “We knew what we could do, we just went to our strength… . You put it together on Saturday no matter what.”
The win was coach Lou Holtz’s 96th at Notre Dame, second only to Knute Rockne’s 105. Ara Parseghian is third with 95 wins.
Holtz had spent the last two weeks worrying whether his team could recover. But any doubts he might have had were answered in the first series of the game, when freshman safety Deke Cooper picked off a Brock Huard pass at the Husky 38. Two plays later, Denson scampered 33 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Irish lead.
The Irish (4-1) rolled from there, running all over the Washington (3-2) defense with a rejuvenated offensive line and stopping the Husky offense cold. Notre Dame finished the day with 650 total offensive yards, the most since gaining 617 yards against Michigan State in 1991.
The Irish players exchanged high fives as time ran out, and left the field with their helmets raised to the fans.
“I told the team they’d find out a lot about themselves, things that I already knew but they had to find out,” Holtz said. “It did us a lot of good. I told them before the game that I really believed that we were a good football team.”
The game would have been even more lopsided if not for some careless mistakes by Notre Dame. The Irish held Washington to just 29 yards rushing in the first half, only to give up 14 points in the final 5 minutes before halftime. The Huskies finished with 257 total yards.
Denson got the Irish back on track, running for a career-long 47 yards on the third play of the third quarter. Powlus connected with Pete Chryplewicz four plays later, and Notre Dame led 33-14.
“In the halftime, everybody was talking like ‘That was their half, this is our half.’ Everybody was very fired up,” UW linebacker Jason Chorak said. “They just came out and did what they wanted to.”
Marc Edwards fumbled on Notre Dame’s next possession, and Washington’s Ink Aleaga recovered the ball at the Irish 45. But the Huskies couldn’t take advantage of their field position and were forced to punt. Powlus hit Chryplewicz again with a 29-yard touchdown pass - the longest reception of Chryplewicz’s career - to put Notre Dame ahead 40-14.
The Huskies went three-and-out again, and a penalty on the return gave Notre Dame the ball at Washington’s 45. Powlus, whose only mistake of the day was a fumbled snap, then fired a bomb to Malcolm Johnson for another score.
“It was fun to come out and bury them in the second half,” Powlus said. “It’s fun to beat up on a team.”
Powlus finished the day 8 of 12 for 194 yards. Huard, who left the game with a concussion in the third quarter, was 8 of 26 for 99 yards. Shane Fortney was 4 of 9 for 47 yards. Both quarterbacks were intercepted once.
Notre Dame 54, UW 20
Washington 0 14 0 6 - 20
Notre Dame 14 12 21 7 - 54
ND-Denson 33 run (Sanson kick) ND-Spencer 16 run (Sanson kick) ND-Kinder 2 run (Sanson blocked) ND-Farmer 21 run (Powlus run fails) Wash-Dillon 11 run (Wales kick) Wash-Shehee 1 run (Wales kick) ND-Chryplewicz 6 pass from Powlus (Sanson kick) ND-Chyrplewicz 29 pass from Powlus (Sanson kick) ND-Johnson 45 pass from Powlus (Sanson kick) Wash-Dillon 15 run (pass failed) ND-Stephens 23 pass from Jackson (Sanson kick) A-59,075.
UW ND First downs 16 31 Rushes-yards 42-111 58-397 Passing 146 253 Comp-Att-Int 12-35-2 11-16-0 Return Yards 16 10 Punts-Avg. 10-32.5 4-45.0 Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-3 Penalties-Yards 5-51 6-61 Time of Possession 28:46 31:14
RUSHINGWashington, Dillon 18-87, Reed 4-14, Shehee 8-7, Fortney 4-2, Huard 7-1, Keiaho 1-0. Notre Dame, Denson 14-137, Farmer 7-68, Kinder 11-60, Edwards 8-37, Goodspeed 4-26, Barry 3-25, Spencer 1-16, Mosley 1-13, Stephens 1-10, Powlus 5-8, Jackson 3-(minus 3).
PASSINGWashington, Huard 8-26-1-99, Fortney 4-9-1-47. Notre Dame, Powlus 8-12-0-194, Jackson 3-4-0-59.
RECEIVINGWashington, Janoski 3-48, Cleeland 3-45, Pathon 3-38, Coleman 2-11, Dillon 1-4. Notre Dame, Stephens 3-93, Chryplewicz 3-41, Edwards 2-46, Johnson 1-45, Nelson 1-20, Spencer 1-8.
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