After six straight losses to Boston College, Notre Dame didn't wait until the last-minute to put the Eagles away.
Brian Smith picked off a pass by Dave Shinskie with 98 seconds left to seal Notre Dame's 20-16 victory over Boston College on Saturday, the first win for the Fighting Irish over the Eagles since 2000.
It also ended a streak of five straight games for Notre Dame decided in the final minute. The Irish (5-2) went 3-2 in those games, including losing their eighth straight to USC a week earlier.
"After the SC loss, and BC's beaten us six times, it's really special for this team," said Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who was 26 of 39 passing for 246 yards. "I think this is a big win for this team and this university."
Golden Tate caught 11 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, including a 36-yard catch with 8:12 left that gave the Irish the lead. Notre Dame (5-2) forced five turnovers, including three second-half interceptions _ two by Kyle McCarthy.
"We're a high-wire act," Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said. "There's no margin of error for us. There's no safety net. When we fall off the wire, it's not good. So five turnovers is hard to overcome."
The Eagles (4-3) repeatedly burned the Notre Dame defense as Dave Shinskie threw for a season-high 279 yards and a touchdown. It appeared for a while the 25-year-old Shinskie would become the third freshman quarterback to beat the Irish this season, joining Michigan's Tate Forcier and USC's Matt Barkley.
While the BC running game struggled again on the road, finishing with 70 yards on 29 carries, Shinskie repeatedly found open receivers. BC looked much better than the team that came into the game with the nation's 106th ranked passing offense, averaging 171 yards a game.
Notre Dame coaches talked during the week about the need for the Irish to cutdown on the number of big plays they had been giving up, especially against the pass. Shinskie threw 10 passes of 20 or more yards and had a 15-yard run.
"To turn up all over and make big plays, that kind of counters some of those things, especially late in the game," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said.
BC had a chance to take control after scoring on its first possession of the first half to take a 16-13 lead, but the Irish defense came up big at key times. First the Irish forced a fumble by Montel Harris at their 1 on BC's second possession of the second half. It was the second lost fumble by Harris, who came into the game with a streak of 356 touches without a fumble.
Then on BC's next possession, McCarthy intercepted a pass by Shinskie at the Notre Dame 23.
McCarthy came up with another interception at the Notre Dame 26 with 4:23 left, that could have sealed the win. But the Irish offense went three-and-out and BC got the ball back at its own 32. On fourth-and-16, Shinskie completed a 28-yard pass to Rich Gunnell, who had 10 catches for 179 yards. On the next play, McCarthy was called for pass interference on a pass to Justin Jarvis.
Two plays later, Smith made the final interception.
"I should have just thrown it out of bounds, instead I tried to force it in there and make a play to Richie (Gunnell) who was making them all night and I ended it just throwing it right into the (defender's) chest," Shinskie said.
The BC defense contributed as well, tallying a safety in the first quarter and stopping the Irish on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 line early in the fourth quarter.
Boston College took the lead when Shinskie threw a 7-yard TD pass to Gunnell with 4:40 left in the second quarter. The Eagles had been outscored 53-0 at Clemson and at Virginia Tech in the first three quarters.
The Irish lead the series 10-9.