Tom Zbikowski and his teammates would not secondguess officials on the play that overturned a turnover, costing Notre Dame possession and momentum late in the third quarter of Monday’s Fiesta Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium.
"It could have been one of those game-changing plays,’’ said Zbikowski, who recovered the apparent fumble and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown.
Although referees called a penalty during the return, Notre Dame would have had the ball on the Ohio State 41-yard line with 2:25 left in the quarter.
Officials reviewed replays and determined that Buckeyes receiver Anthony Gonzalez never had possession of the ball, ruling it an incomplete pass.
The play after the reversal, Ohio State kicked a field goal for a 24-13 lead, and the Irish never were closer than seven.
"We went from a huge emotional high to a huge emotional low,’’ defensive end Victor Abiamiri said.
"You just have to get over it and keep playing. That’s what football is all about,’’ safety Chinedum Ndukwe said.
"Hopefully they made the right call. We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position.’’
Zbikowski scored four times in the regular season, on two interception returns and two punt returns.
"It happened too fast. It came out, so I tried to pick it up and run with it,’’ Zbikowski said.
"It didn’t happen, though. What if.’’
Senior tight end Anthony Fasano, who will graduate in May but has a year of eligibility remaining, said he will decide in a week whether to return to school or declare for the NFL draft.
"If it was my last game, it was bittersweet,’’ said Fasano, who had two receptions for 12 yards after making 45 receptions in the regular season. "It was a great four years with great teammates.
"We believed this game was the defining game of our season. Notre Dame is back, even with the loss in this game. I think they are back for a while. I’ll be rooting for them wherever I am.’’
NO SECOND GUESSING
Tied 7-7 with two minutes left in the first quarter, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis opted to go for it on a fourthand-1 play at the Ohio State 6-yard line.
Quarterback Brady Quinn was sacked for an 8-yard loss, turning the ball over to Ohio State, and Buckeyes wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. scored on a 68-yard reverse six plays later.
"It’s easier in hindsight to say, hey, take the three points, but we planned on going into the game and taking a lot of chances,’’ Weis said.
TROUBLE IN PARADISE
Notre Dame has lost its last four bowl appearances in the Valley, its last three Fiesta Bowls.
After winning the 1989 national championship over West Virginia here, the Irish lost to Colorado in 1995 and fell to Oregon State in 2001.
Oregon State won a rematch in the 2004 Insight Bowl, played at Chase Field.