July 8, 2000
Hamburg, Germany - It couldn't have been scripted any better. That was the consensus after Notre Dame's alumni football team utilized a game-saving end zone interception by Ivory Covington on the final play to hold off the Hamburg Blue Devils 14-10 in front of a noisy crowd of 18,500 at Volksparkstadion in Hamburg.
The Irish overcame two early missed field goals and a 3-0 deficit as Steve Belles rushed for one score and threw for another to give the Irish a 14-3 lead midway through the final period. But, the Blue Devils roared back, scoring a touchdown with just more than four minutes remaining - and they were knocking on the door again as the final play unfolded with 0.9 seconds left on the clock.
That's when Covington made a diving end zone interception as the Hamburg team ran its final play on a second-and-goal situation from the Irish seven.
"I thought we had you guys," said Blue Devil defensive end Tuli Mateialona in the joint press conference after the game. "It must have been the luck of the Irish."
"Watch out for those little leprechauns," said Irish tailback Reggie Brooks, who was selected the Notre Dame MVP by the Blue Devils' fan club and received a trophy during the press conference.
"The whole atmosphere was electric," said Blue Devil assistant Jeff Reinebold. "The way the Notre Dame players were jumping around, I don't think the game was any less important to them than when they won the national championship in 1988."
Neither team had much success running the football, with the Irish netting only 47 yards on the ground and the Blue Devils managing only 52. Brooks paced he Irish with 46 yards on 13 carries, including a key 14-yard gain on a third-down play in the final minutes.
Irish starter Terry Andrysiak threw for 129 yards. Belles came off the bench and hit a 50-yard bomb to Clint Johnson on his first throw of the night, setting up his own two-yard option keeper on third down.
Notre Dame began by driving 48 yards in 10 plays to start the game, before Ted Gradel's 39-yard field goal came up just short. Andrysiak completed his first three passes of the game for a combined 28 yards. Then, Hamburg came right back, using a 51-yard passing gain to set itself up at the Irish 14 where Andreas Lefevre connected from 31 yards for a 3-0 Blue Devil lead.
The Irish fumbled the football away on their next series after a 59-yard throw from Andrysiak to Adrian Jarrell took Notre Dame to the Blue Devil nine. To start the second period the Irish missed out on a 13-play march that reached the Hamburg eight, when Gradel missed left from 35 yards out. It was Ty Goode's interception near midfield that set up the first Notre Dame points, with Belles hitting Johnson for 44 on the next play.
The two teams traded fumbles early in the third period, and a second Irish recovery after a Blue Devil pass completion set up Notre Dame at the Hamburg 36. This time, Belles, hit Johnson for a 23-yard touchdown play to make it 14-3.
The final Hamburg points came on a 49-yard drive, the last 31 on a pass from Matt Wyatt (a former Mississippi State quarterback) to Che Johnson (he played at New Mexico).
Two Brooks' runs for 14 yards each gained first downs for Notre Dame. But the Irish finally had to punt and Hamburg took over with 1:33 left on its own 47. Wyatt's passing put the Blue Devils within striking distance, but Covington ended the suspense a moment later.
IRISH ITEMS: The game started about 15 minutes late, as afternoon rain slowed down the pregame pageantry. There were some 400 cheerleaders surrounding the field throughout the game. . . Game-time temperatures were in the 50s, after the team bus drove through a downpour to reach the stadium . . . Just prior to Notre Dame taking the field, a six-minute video highlighting Notre Dame football was shown on the big screen at one end of the stadium . . . The Irish entered the field to a standing ovation and fireworks . . . Leprechaun Michael Brown was in attendance for the game . . . The boisterous atmosphere was helped by recorded music that played throughout the game . . . Said Reinebold after the game, "A lot of people thought this game would never happen. They laughed when it was suggested. What you saw today will probably never happen again on this continent." . . . The first busload of Irish players was slated to leave the hotel for the airport at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning (Hamburg time).
Notre Dame Individual Leaders
RUSHING - Reggie Brooks 13-46, Dean Lytle 8-23, Mark Green 2-12, Chris Smith 4-2, Lee Becton 3-0, Steve Belles 2-(-1), Pat Steenberge 1-(-5), Terry Andrysiak 4-(-30).
PASSING - Terry Andrysiak 16-7-0-129, Steve Belles 8-4-0-77-1 TD, Pat Steenberge 1-1-0-(-3).
RECEIVING - Emmett Mosley 3-48, Lee Becton 2-7, Clint Johnson 2-67-1 TD, Adrian Jarrell 2-73, Reggie Brooks 2-(-5), Cikai Champion 1-13.
PUNTING - Scott Palumbo 6-247-41.2
KICKOFF RETURNS - Lee Becton 1-5.
PUNT RETURNS - Clint Johnson 2-32.
TACKLES (solos, assists, total) - Ivory Covington 5-0-5, Reggie Fleurima 3-1-4, Ty Goode 3-0-3, Pat Eilers 3-1-4, Melvin Dansby 2-0-2, Dave Butler 2-0-2, Wes Pritchett 1-1-2, Jeremy Sample 2-0-2, Kurt Belisle 2-0-2, Mark Monahan 0-2-2, one each by Brandy Wells, Steve Belles, Dean Lytle, Adrian Jarrell, Scott Palumbo, Bill Gibbs, Mike James, Tom Freeman, Brian Hamilton, D'Juan Francisco.
SACKS - Reggie Fleurima, Dave Butler, Melvin Dansby.
Team Statistics HBD ND First Downs 10 14 Total Net Yards 276 250 Total Plays 53 62 Net Yards Rushing 52 47 Rushes 19 37 Net Yards Passing 224 203 Completed-Attempted 18-34 12-25 Had Intercepted 2 0 Punts 5-37.4 6-41.2 Kickoff Returns 3-58 3-69 Punt Returns 4-60 2-32 Penalties 9-68 9-54 Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-2