CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — That whole idea of finishing things came back to bite Virginia again.
Matt Johns threw for two touchdowns, ran for a third and set up a go-ahead score with a long completion, but Virginia couldn't hold on after taking the lead with 1:54 remaining in a 34-27 loss to No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday.
The Fighting Irish won it on a 39-yard pass from from backup quarterback DeShone Kizer to Will Fuller with 12 seconds left, leaving the Cavaliers to remember the mantra they repeated all summer about finishing games.
Three times last season, they were leading or tied in the fourth quarter and came up short.
"We had them right where we wanted them, but we just didn't finish," linebacker Micah Kiser said.
The loss came in a game in which Virginia's defense held the Fighting Irish without a third-down conversion in 10 tries, but allowed two fourth-down conversions and scoring plays of 59 yards, 24 yards and the long game-winner.
None hurt more than the final play.
"We wanted to get pressure and keep the ball in front of us, but that last play there was a devastating one for us," Virginia coach Mike London said.
Notre Dame was in trouble when Virginia scored with 1:54 remaining. With starting quartreback Malik Zaire knocked out of the game with a fractured ankle, Virginia (0-2) had rallied, but Kizer came to the rescue on the final drive.
He ran 4 yards for a first down on fourth-and-2 from the Notre Dame 28, and later found the speedy Fuller behind Maurice Canady down the left sideline for the winning touchdown.
The game drew more than 58,000 to Scott Stadium, many of them in Fighting Irish green, and when the final gun sounded, the team gathered on the field for an impromptu celebration, to the delight of the crowd.
Those same fans had been silenced only minutes before as Johns completed a 34-yard pass on third-and-15 to put the ball at the Irish 1, and then Albert Reid took it in on the next play to give Virginia a 27-26 lead.
Johns was 26 for 38 for 289 yards, and took back momentum after Notre Dame opened a 26-14 lead. The Irish were seemingly one more score from putting the game away and sending fans for the exits, but instead, Johns led a six-play drive to his 4-yard TD run, and then the drive ending with Reid's 1-yard run that had the stadium pulsing.
Notre Dame started to take control in the third quarter, after Virginia drove to the Irish 15 and wound up settling for a 43-yard field goal try that missed. Following an exchange of punts, Zaire sent Will Fuller streaking down the right side and hit him with a perfectly thrown pass, a 59-yard touchdown that put them back ahead, 19-14.
They made it 26-14 with a three-play, 45-yard drive capped by Prosise's 24-yard run, but lost Zaire when he appeared to roll his ankle on a designed run that gained just three yards. Zaire was helped off the field and later taken to the locker room on a cart, and Kizer went the rest of the way.
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