CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Quarterback DeShone Kizer came in for the injured Malik Zaire and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller with 12 seconds left Saturday and No. 9 Notre Dame beat Virginia in a thrilling finish, 34-27.
The last-minute victory was tempered when Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said after the game that Zaire would be out for the season with a fractured ankle.
The injury comes a week after the Fighting Irish (2-0) lost their top running back Tarean Folston, and found a strong backup in C.J. Prosise.
Notre Dame lost the lead when Virginia scored with 1:54 remaining. With Zaire out, 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 Matt 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 threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third for Virginia, taking 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.
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 C.J. 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.