Dallas Thompson knew as soon as the ball left his foot it was good. So did the Notre Dame players.
Thompson kicked a 27-yard field goal in overtime Saturday as Air Force upset No. 8 Notre Dame 20-17. As the kick sailed through the uprights, Thompson turned away, sank to one knee and put his head in his hands as his teammates swarmed the field and him.
“All I remember was trying to keep my foot up so they wouldn’t step on it,” the barefoot kicker said.
The Irish, meanwhile, walked off the field with heads bowed after losing to the Falcons for the first time since 1985.
“We need to handle this with class,” Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said. “Is it easy to take? No. We have no excuses.”
Despite the score, Air Force (4-2) was in control all day. Quarterback Beau Morgan rushed for a season-high 183 yards and a touchdown and hit 5 of 11 passes for 51 yards.
The Falcons’ defenders took care of the rest, limiting the Irish (4-2) to 67 ground yards, their fewest since gaining 56 in a loss to Purdue in 1985. They sacked Ron Powlus three times, and forced four fumbles.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage,” Holtz said. “We tried … everything.”
Powlus’ fourth fumble was the most significant. Notre Dame got the ball first in overtime, but Powlus, back to throw, was hit by Joe Suhajda and had the ball stripped away. Alex Pupich recovered.
Notre Dame was called for a face-mask penalty on Air Force’s second play, moving the Falcons to the Irish 10. After Todd Eilers rushed for 2 yards, Thompson came in for what would have been a 22-yard field goal attempt. As the kick sailed through, officials waved it off and penalized Air Force for delay of game.
The five-yard penalty didn’t matter as Thompson’s second kick also was perfect.
“He showed tremendous guts and courage,” coach Fisher DeBerry said. “He has missed some long ones, but no short ones.”
The Falcons forced overtime when Morgan handed off to Tobin Ruff, who scampered 26 yards to tie the game at 17 with 7:15 left in the game. The score came 5 minutes after Marc Edwards rushed a yard to break a 10-10 tie that had stood since halftime.
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