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Originally published October 3, 2009 at 4:43 PM | Page modified October 4, 2009 at 12:34 AM

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Huskies lose heartbreaker to Notre Dame

Irish win in overtime, 37-30, to keep streak alive against Washington.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Latest from the Husky Football & Basketball blogs


SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Washington's fourth trip to Notre Dame turned into a classic college football game Saturday, featuring seven lead changes and a heart-stopping finish, leaving the 80,795 in attendance and millions watching on TV hoarse with excitement.

The result, however, left Washington quarterback Jake Locker speechless, the most vivid evidence that Washington's 37-30 overtime loss to Notre Dame was a game the Huskies felt they should have won. There was no happy-just-to-be-close after this one, even if it also presented more evidence of how quickly the Huskies have returned to respectability in the first year under coach Steve Sarkisian.

After it was over, Locker headed to the locker room, showered, dressed and boarded the bus, uncharacteristically asking not to speak to reporters and apparently not saying anything much to anyone else along the way.

"I haven't seen him this bad," said tailback Chris Polk. "This was like the absolute worst I've seen him."

Said Sarkisian: "I think ultimately when you play that hard and get that close, you have an opportunity and it doesn't go your way when you feel like you almost should have won the game, it's hard. It's hard on everybody."

Amplifying the pain is that the Huskies might have won it for want of 1 measly yard in a game in which the teams combined for 987 of them.

Twice in the second half, the Huskies were stopped a yard short of a touchdown that would have put them up by more than a touchdown, each time allowing Notre Dame to stay in the game.

"You know, the bottom line is this game came down to we had two opportunities to score touchdowns from the 1-yard line, two separate occasions, and we came away with three total points," Sarkisian said. "That's the bottom line."

The first opportunity came late in the third quarter when Locker was stopped short on two sneaks from the 1-yard line on third and fourth down and UW ahead 24-19.

The second failure was even more galling.

The Huskies had a chance to all but sew this one up when they marched from their own 25-yard line deep into Notre Dame territory midway through the fourth quarter.

With just more than seven minutes left, Polk initially was ruled to have scored on a 6-yard run that could have put UW ahead 31-22. Instead, after a replay review, the play was overturned and the ball placed at the 1-yard line, first and goal for the Huskies.

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That seemed like no big deal, the way the Huskies were moving the ball. But Polk lost 1 yard on a run, then a Locker to D'Andre Goodwin pass was incomplete and a Locker run went for no gain. The Huskies kicked a field goal, but then caught what looked to be a huge break when Notre Dame was called for roughing the snapper, giving UW another first-and-goal at the Irish 1-yard line.

But again UW couldn't get it in. A Polk run went for no gain, then after a false-start penalty move the ball back 5 yards, a Locker pass to Paul Homer fell just a foot or so short.

On third down, Locker was stopped. Finally, with 3:04 left in the game, Erik Folk kicked a 24-yard field goal to put UW ahead 27-22 ending a 19-play, 69-yard drive.

Sarkisian said he felt he had no choice but to kick a field goal there and put UW ahead by five. But the failure to score a touchdown set up a frantic ending.

Notre Dame drove 63 yards for a TD and a two-point conversion to go ahead 30-27 with 1:20 left. Typical of UW's efforts, the Huskies came right back to tie the game with six seconds left on a 37-yard field goal by Folk.

But in a sense, the damage had been done.

Notre Dame scored on its first overtime possession to take a 37-30 lead and UW's OT possession never really got going, especially after Locker was sacked for a 9-yard loss on second down. On fourth-and-19 from the 34, Locker threw right at the goal line to a leaping Goodwin, who was sandwiched by Notre Dame safeties Harrison Smith and Kyle McCarthy.

"It was almost one of the greatest catches of all time," Sarkisian said.

Instead, it left the Huskies 2-3 on the season, 0-8 against Notre Dame and wondering what hit them.

"We can't stand it," said linebacker Cort Dennison. "I mean, last year it was all right to be close. But this year, we are all sick to our stomachs. None of us are talking in the locker room. It's not a good feeling. It's heartbreaking because we were so close."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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