Notre Dame needed every last yard and every defensive stop to become eligible for its first Bowl Championship Series berth in five years.
Darius Walker ran six yards for the winning touchdown with 55 seconds remaining and took a direct snap to run in for the two-point conversion, and the sixth-ranked Fighting Irish became all but ensured of playing in one of the four main bowl games with a 38-31 victory over Stanford last night in Palo Alto, Calif.
Brady Quinn passed for 432 yards and three touchdowns but also threw two interceptions and Notre Dame survived a wild final few minutes for its fifth straight victory. Walker ran for 186 yards on 35 carries.
The Fighting Irish (9-2) won seven of their final eight games under first-year coach Charlie Weis, who made a key decision to switch place kickers in the fourth quarter, then gave his team a major scare when he switched back to starter D.J. Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick missed a 29-yard field goal wide left with 2 minutes 15 seconds to play after his earlier extra point missed off the left upright and his 42-yard field goal attempt on the next possession went wide left.
Stanford took advantage.
The Cardinal, which will miss a postseason trip in Coach Walt Harris's first year, went ahead 31-30 with 1:46 left after backup quarterback T.C. Ostrander's four-yard touchdown pass to Matt Traverso. Ostrander set up the score with a 76-yard completion to Mark Bradford.
Jeff Samardzija caught two touchdown passes and Travis Thomas ran eight yards for a score with 9:44 left for the Irish, who played in front of three representatives from the Fiesta Bowl and beat Stanford for the fourth straight time.
Notre Dame could receive big money from this victory, too -- at least $14 million for playing in the BCS.
* KANSAS 24, IOWA STATE 21: The Cyclones had a chance to wipe away the bitter memory of last season's missed opportunity. Instead, they let a berth in the Big 12 title game slip away in overtime again.
Visiting Iowa State wasted an 11-point lead and missed a field goal in overtime; the Jayhawks' Scott Webb then kicked a 34-yarder in overtime for the winning points.
Last year it was Missouri that defeated the Cyclones and prevented the Tigers from playing in the Big 12 championship game for the first time.
"It's rare in life to get second opportunities," Iowa State Coach Dan McCarney said. "Sometimes you wait 10, 15, 20 or 30 years and don't get another opportunity like we did today, coming up short like we did last year in overtime."
Before Webb kicked the winner, Iowa State's Bret Culbertson missed from 41 yards in overtime. Culbertson missed a field goal last year that would have beaten Missouri in regulation in the regular season finale.
* GEORGIA 14, GEORGIA TECH 7: The Bulldogs still rule the state. D.J. Shockley threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Bryan McClendon with 3:18 remaining and Tim Jennings clinched the victory with an interception at the goal line for 13th-ranked Georgia in a game featuring top defenses in Atlanta.
Georgia (9-2) defeated its intrastate rival for the fifth year in a row.
Both teams scored in the first quarter, then slogged it out much of the night in a field-position battle. Finally, the 20th-ranked Yellow Jackets (7-4) cracked.
* FLORIDA 34, FLORIDA STATE 7: Despite three losses and failing to reach the Southeastern Conference title game, Urban Meyer's first season at Florida can be called successful.
Or at the very least, a good start.
Chris Leak threw two touchdown passes and the defense created four turnovers as the No. 19 Gators overwhelmed 23rd-ranked Florida State in Gainesville.
"Obviously, we're here to play for championships. That didn't get done, but to go out and get a win against Florida State is huge," Gators linebacker Todd McCullough said. "That's something this team can build on."
Florida (8-3) finished undefeated at home for the first time since 2000 and knocked off its top three rivals -- Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State -- in the same season for the first time since 1996.
"That's a big feat," Meyer said. "Our players really thrived on that. They brought it up often."
The Seminoles (7-4) may have reached a new low under Coach Bobby Bowden. They have lost three in a row for the first time since 1983.
"With the talent on this squad, to go out and play like we did is real embarrassing," quarterback Drew Weatherford said.
* NEVADA 38, FRESNO STATE 35: Robert Hubbard ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns and Jeff Rowe hit Nichiren Flowers with a 12-yard scoring pass with 1:29 remaining as the Wolf Pack (8-3, 7-1) upset the 16th-ranked Bulldogs (8-3, 6-1) and claimed at least a share of the Western Athletic Conference title.
* MEMPHIS 26, MARSHALL 3: DeAngelo Williams closed out his career with 127 yards and two touchdowns as the host Tigers (6-5, 5-3 Conference USA) became bowl-eligible for the third consecutive year.
The Thundering Herd (4-7, 3-5) managed only 154 yards as it suffered its first losing season in 22 years.
* TENNESSEE 27, KENTUCKY 8: In Lexington, Ky., Erik Ainge passed for 221 yards and two touchdowns as the Volunteers avoided finishing last in the SEC East.
With the victory, Tennessee (5-6, 3-5) ended a disappointing season by extending the second-longest active winning streak in an uninterrupted series between major college opponents to 21 games.
Kentucky (3-8, 2-6) hasn't beaten Tennessee since 1984.
* RUTGERS 44, CINCINNATI 9: Brian Leonard and Ray Rice each ran for two touchdowns as the Scarlet Knights virtually ensured the program's first bowl berth since 1978.
With representatives of the Insight Bowl looking on at Rutgers Stadium, the Scarlet Knights (7-4, 4-3 Big East) rushed for a season-high 337 yards and sacked Bearcats quarterback Dustin Grutza nine times. Rutgers has had only four winning seasons since 1984 and had a 25-game losing streak in the Big East from 1999 to 2003.
* LOUISVILLE 41, SYRACUSE 17: Montrell Jones caught six passes for a career-high 118 yards and two touchdowns to help the 17th-ranked Cardinals (8-2, 4-2 Big East) win a school-record 12th straight home game.
"The seniors made sure we were going to finish that game with a win," Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino said.
The Orange (1-10, 0-7) finished with the first 10-loss season in the program's 110-year history.
* CONNECTICUT 15, SOUTH FLORIDA 10: The Bulls stumbled and fumbled their way right out of a chance to play for BCS berth in East Hartford, Conn. The Huskies (5-5, 2-4 Big East) held South Florida's vaunted rushing attack to 83 yards.