So the Irish (8-3) pushed their all-time record against their fellow football independent to 6-2, and their record against BYU at South Bend to 5-1, while the Cougars came up just short, again, against one of the better opponents on their schedule. BYU (7-4) came in looking for a signature win, and left wondering what might have been.
"It is hard to swallow, because we are so close to breaking through," said senior receiver JD Falslev. "If we execute, this is a whole different ball game. … The program is right there."
On this Saturday, that meant not being able to do much against a stout defense on the road. Just as Wisconsin did two weeks ago in a 27-17 win, the Irish gave up plenty of yards 247 on the ground, 168 through the air but kept BYU out of the end zone in the second half.
"There's no satisfaction at all in that deal," offensive coordinator Robert Anae said of the 415 yards that produced just 13 points.
Symbolic of BYU's struggles was the failure to get points after Paul Lasike's 46-yard run gave them a first-and-goal at the Notre Dame 6 with about five minutes left. Taysom Hill's second-down pass intended for Cody Hoffman, who appeared to be open on a slant, was knocked down by Jaylon Smith.
Then, Anae dialed up a running play for Hill on third-and-goal from the 6 that was supposed to provide an extra blocker at the point of attack, but Notre Dame blew it up. Justin Sorensen's 22-yard field goal attempt to make it a one-score game was blocked by Jarron Jones.
"Disappointed with that blocked field goal at the end," Mendenhall said. "I was hoping to [make it] and get the ball back one more time at the end and bring it right down to the wire. But give Notre Dame credit for blocking the kick."
Lasike and Hill each rushed for 101 yards, and Jamaal Williams added 43, but few of those came in the red zone, where the Irish defense made the going a lot tougher. Hill completed 21 of 36 passes for 168 yards and a 7-yard TD to Falslev, but throwing was difficult in the fierce wind.
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees took advantage of BYU's shaky secondary situation at the start of the game and threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open DaVaris Daniels. He finished 15 of 28 for 235 yards, but was picked off by Craig Bills in the end zone in the fourth quarter when the Irish were threatening to put the game away.
BYU went without starting boundary corner Mike Hague (groin injury) and started without field corner Robertson Daniel, who was ill. Daniels courageously entered the game later in the half, but by then Notre Dame had a 14-7 lead, thanks to Tarean Folston's 2-yard TD run after a 30-yard catch by TJ Jones on third-and-8.
"It felt different [than last year's 17-14 loss to Notre Dame], but it still hurts," Mendenhall said.
"I am still disappointed. I was really hopeful and believed we had a great chance to win the game coming out here, and even [still do] after playing it."
O In Short • BYU sputters in the red zone in the second half, fails to topple Notre Dame in brutal weather conditions.
Key Moment • Notre Dame's Jarron Jones blocks Justin Sorensen's 22-yard field goal attempt with 4:15 left.
Key Stat • BYU got just six points two field goals on three surges inside the red zone in the second half.