South Bend, Ind. • Two-touchdown underdogs on the road, the BYU Cougars put up a decent fight, but couldn't pull off the upset on Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium.
In a defensive slugfest, No. 5-ranked Notre Dame eked out a 17-14 win over BYU, improving to 7-0 and dropping the Cougars to 4-4.
Notre Dame took the lead for good with an eight-play, 72-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter. George Atkinson made BYU safety Joe Sampson whiff on a 2-yard TD run, giving the Irish a 17-14 lead with 12:52 remaining in the game.
The Cougars drove inside ND territory on their next possession, but Riley Nelson missed a wide-open Cody Hoffman downfield for what likely would have been a touchdown. After a 9-yard sack put them out of field-goal range, the Cougars elected to punt from the Notre Dame 34.
They didn't get the ball back until 22 seconds remained in the game, but an offensive pass interference penalty negated a big first-down play.
The Cougars had a 14-7 lead at halftime in front of a sellout crowd of more than 80,000 and a national television audience on NBC, but they did not score in the third quarter.
The only score in that quarter was a 24-yard field goal by Notre Dame's Kyle Brindza, and BYU was shut out in the second half.
BYU fell behind late in the first quarter, but evened the score at 7-7 on an eight-play, 56-yard drive. The drive was capped when Nelson threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Hoffman.
It was the first time in more than four games that Notre Dame's defense had allowed an offensive touchdown, a stretch spanning 17 quarters and an overtime session.
The Cougars drove to the Irish 19 on their first possession, but Nelson lost 16 yards on a sack and then was intercepted by Manti Te'o.
The Irish took a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter when Tommy Rees threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert. Brindza missed two field-goal tries in the first half.
After Kyle Van Noy intercepted a tipped pass, the Cougars drove the short field, 30 yards, to take the lead. Kaneakua Friel caught a 2-yarder from Nelson for the 14-7 lead.