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Eagles swoop on five Irish turnovers in shocker

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Notre Dame pushed its luck too far.

After seeing a stadium full of green "Return to Glory''
T-shirts this season, the Fighting Irish decided earlier this week
to join the party. It wasn't a good idea.

Wearing green jerseys at home for the first time in 17 years, Notre Dame (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP)fumbled away a perfect season with a 14-7 loss to
Boston College on Saturday.

"I thought it was a good way to encourage our fans in our sea
of green we have been talking about,'' coach Tyrone Willingham said
after his first loss at Notre Dame. "It's important, because it
talks about an attitude, about the Notre Dame family coming
together as one.''

Instead, the Fighting Irish fell apart, and the green jerseys
ended up motivating the Eagles instead.

"It felt like they didn't respect us at all, '' defensive end
Mathias Kiwanuka said. "They thought they could come out and do
anything; they didn't have to prepare the way they did other
games.''

Maybe he was right. A model of efficiency in winning their first
eight games, the Fighting Irish lost three of their seven fumbles,
and backup Pat Dillingham threw two interceptions. One was returned
71 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Jason Ott.

"I was thinking, 'Don't trip, don't trip,' '' Ott said. "The
trick is to always be around the ball and eventually something will
happen.''

Notre Dame (8-1) entered the game confident it had indeed
returned to its glory years after a big win at Florida State last
week. But the Irish gave the ball away all day, and the Eagles
(5-3) gladly took advantage, scoring both touchdowns courtesy of
first-half turnovers.

"We killed ourselves putting the ball on the ground,'' center
Jeff Faine said. "When you keep shooting yourself in the foot,
it's tough to win.''

Notre Dame held BC to 184 yards and nine first downs, but the
Irish could not overcome their own mistakes. Dillingham replaced
Carlyle Holiday for the second quarter when the starter went out
feeling "woozy'' after a hit.

The bitter loss conjured memories of the 1993 season, when
unbeaten Notre Dame defeated Florida State and became No. 1, then
lost the next week to Boston College in the final game of the
regular season.

The Fighting Irish were having their best season since 1993
before running into the Eagles, who ended a 23-game regular-season
losing streak against Top 25 teams. It was BC's first win over a
top 10 team since beating No. 8 Notre Dame in 1994.

While Notre Dame was all but eliminated from national title
contention, the Fighting Irish probably can earn a berth in a BCS
bowl game if they close out the season with wins over Navy and
Rutgers and USC.

Derrick Knight, who finished with 129 yards on 26 carries, ran 3
yards for a first-quarter touchdown, five plays after Ott recovered
a fumble by tailback Ryan Grant.

The clincher came when Dillingham threw a shovel pass right to
Ott, who caught the ball in stride and ran untouched for the score
with 4:03 left in the first half.

Notre Dame, with an offense ranked 109th among 117 I-A teams,
finally scored with 2:25 left when Carlyle Holiday threw a 20-yard
TD pass to Maurice Stovall.

The Irish did not try an onside kick but got the ball back at
their 24 with 12 seconds remaining. After a holding penalty knocked
eight seconds off the clock, Holiday's final desperation pass was
batted down at the BC 37 as the Eagles rushed the field and
celebrated.

Several Boston College players tore up chunks of grass from the
end zone, just as they did after a win here in 1999.

The Irish lost the last time they wore green -- 35-28 to Georgia
Tech in the 1999 Gator Bowl. The last time Notre Dame came out
wearing green at home was Oct. 26, 1985, when the players changed
from blue to green jerseys at halftime of a 37-3 win over USC.

Perhaps the most famous switch to green came on Oct. 22, 1977,
when the Irish warmed up in blue, then came out in green and beat
No. 5 USC 49-19. The win was a springboard to the '77 national
championship.

With such a poor past against BC in big games, Willingham
believed the time was right to wear green. Boston College coach Tom
O'Brien viewed the move as a compliment.

"The guys were excited when they saw the green jerseys,''
O'Brien said after his biggest win in six years at BC. "They took
it as a great sign of respect that we made it ... that we were
somebody to be reckoned with ... that they needed the green jerseys
to beat us.''

Trailing 14-0 at the half, Notre Dame fumbled away two scoring
chances early in the third quarter. One drive ended at the BC 11
when Marcus Wilson fumbled and Eagles defensive tackle Tim Bulman
recovered. But Boston College gave the ball back when Gerome Sapp
intercepted a pass by Brian St. Pierre. Two plays later, Grant
fumbled again, and Bulman recovered again at the BC 22.

Dillingham replaced an ineffective Holiday in the second
quarter. But the sophomore, who led the Irish to two wins earlier
this season when filling in for an injured Holiday, was not up to
the task. He threw two interceptions, and Holiday came in for the
second half.

A record crowd of 80,935 showed up on a sunny but chilly day.
Most expected the Irish to put away the Eagles, then go into USC
unbeaten on Nov. 30, with a chance to make it to the Fiesta Bowl on
Jan. 3.

Boston College took a 6-0 lead with 2:39 left in the first
period. Holiday was unable to stick the ball in Grant's belly, and
Ott pounced on the loose ball at the Irish 38. Knight set up his TD
run with a 22-yard dash. The extra-point kick was wide left.

When the Irish took possession 3:51 into the third quarter,
Holiday was out and Dillingham in. On his second series, Dillingham
made the biggest mistake of the game.

With Notre Dame facing third-and-6 at the BC 14, Dillingham
dropped back to pass, but the Eagles put on a ferocious rush. The
quarterback sidestepped one defender, then inexplicably tried to
throw the ball away with a shovel pass. But Ott caught it and ran
for the TD with 4:03 left in the half. Brian St. Pierre threw to
Sean Ryan for the 2-point conversion, and the Eagles led 14-0.

"I'm hurt. I'm disappointed, because I feel like it didn't have
to happen,'' Willingham said. "But that's athletics. Sometimes you
get them. Today, they got us.''