What was the greatest Fighting Irish football game in the history of Notre Dame Stadium?
Aug. 29, 2005
According to Irish fans, it was Notre Dame's landmark 31-30 win over top-rated Miami in 1988 in a game that keynoted that Irish national championship season.
As part of Notre Dame Stadium's 75th anniversary celebration this season, the University's official athletics web site, www.und.com, compiled a list of the greatest wins in Notre Dame Stadium history and asked Irish fans to vote on the most memorable victories.
The voting took place over two months this past summer with 45 games on the ballot. After tabulations, here are a few trends from the voting:
According to voters, the greatest era in Notre Dame Stadium history was 1988 through 1993. Seven of the top 10 games fall into this time frame, including the top three choices by fans (1988 vs. #1 Miami, 1993 vs. #1 Florida State and 1990 vs. #2 Miami).
Wins over longtime rivals (USC, Michigan) resonate among the Irish faithful. Twelve of the top 20 games selected were wins over USC (six) and Michigan (six).
Signature moments cause a game to stand out in Notre Dame fans' memories. "The Snow Bowl" (Notre Dame vs. Penn State in 1992) was ranked fifth. "The Green Jersey Game" (Notre Dame vs. USC in 1977) was ranked fourth. "The Reggie Ho Game" (Notre Dame vs. Michigan in 1988) was ranked sixth. "The Harry 'O' Kick" (Notre Dame vs. Michigan in 1980) was ranked 10th.
The new configuration of Notre Dame Stadium (rededicated in 1997) has yet to see its share of greatest victories. Notre Dame's recent upset wins over Michigan (2002 and 2004) were 11th and 12th on the list, but a win over Purdue (1998) was only able to break into the top 30.
Notre Dame fans remember recent games more fondly than those played in the past. Of the top 20 games selected, only six were played before 1977.
Here is the final top 10 list of Greatest Victories in Notre Dame Stadium, as voted on by Notre Dame fans on www.und.com.
Free safety Pat Terrell knocks down a two-point conversion with 45 seconds remaining to break Miami's 36-game regular-season win streak. Entering the game, Miami had won 20 straight on the road and owned a 16-game win-streak overall. Notre Dame's defense forces seven turnovers, including a 60-yard interception return by Terrell (on a ball tipped by defensive end Frank Stams), handing the Hurricanes their first loss on an opposing field since 1984. Stams dominates the game on the defensive end, tipping the pass for an interception return, recovering a fumble and forcing a crucial fourth-quarter fumble. Unsung hero and special teams standout Steve Belles makes a critical play as well, stuffing Miami on a fake punt in the third quarter. The Irish offense, shuffling in eight different linemen due to an assortment of injuries, rushes for 162 yards while the defense holds the Hurricanes to 74 rushing yards.
#1 Florida State
After #1 Florida State scores on its first drive, Notre Dame answers with 21 straight points for a 21-7 halftime lead. Notre Dame answers immediately with an 80-yard touchdown drive during which Irish coach Lou Holtz catches the vaunted Florida State defense on its heels with a 32-yard touchdown reverse by flanker Adrian Jarrell. The Irish rush for 239 yard and four touchdowns (Florida State had given up just four rushing touchdowns the entire season entering the game), led by 122 yards from Lee Becton - who had a 26-yard scoring jaunt. Defensive back Jeff Burris notches two of the rushing touchdowns from Notre Dame's full-house goal-line backfield alignment. Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward is solid for Florida State, throwing for 297 yards and rushing for 74 more, but his last minute desperation heave at the end of the game is knocked down by Shawn Wooden - ending Florida State's 16-game win streak.
Keyed by five field goals from Craig Hentrich, a 94-yard kickoff return by Rocket Ismail and a staunch red-zone defense, Notre Dame eliminates Miami from national championship consideration in the most-recent meeting of the heated rivalry -- handing the Hurricanes their second loss of the season. Notre Dame rushes for 276 yards against the second-ranked defense in the nation, led by Ismail (100 yards) and Rodney Culver (72). The Irish also pick off Heisman Trophy candidate Craig Erickson two times and hold Miami to just eight yards rushing in the third quarter.
While Notre Dame had worn green jerseys prior to this game, this epic contest will forever be known as "The Green Jersey Game." Notre Dame warms up in its traditional navy blue uniforms, but finds brand new green jerseys waiting in the locker room before kickoff. Adding to the pre-game drama, a Trojan horse, built by 20 Notre Dame students, is wheeled into the Stadium as the Irish take the field. The "Green Machine" is born and the Irish would eventually don their green jerseys for six more victories during the season and claim the national championship. Joe Montana throws for 167 yards, two touchdowns (to Ken MacAfee) and rushes for two more scores. Notre Dame hands USC its worse defeat since 1966 (a 51-0 demolition in Los Angeles by an Ara Parseghian team).
#22 Penn State
"The Snow Bowl." Notre Dame scores its only touchdown of the game with 20 seconds remaining when Rick Mirer, playing his final home game in an Irish uniform, hits Jerome Bettis over the middle for a four-yard touchdown pass. On the two-point conversion attempt, among a persistent snowfall covering the Notre Dame Stadium turf, Mirer scrambles right until he finds Reggie Brooks in the back of the end zone for the game-winning conversion. Brooks rushes for 78 yards in the game as Penn State holds Notre Dame's top-rated offense to 344 total yards, while the Irish defense is equally stingy -- holding the Nittany Lions to 238 total yards. Mirer finishes the game 12 of 23 for 164 yards.
Freshman Ricky Watters begins the scoring with an 81-yard punt return in the first quarter and walk-on kicker Reggie Ho nails a 27-yard field goal, his fourth of the game, with 1:13 remaining to begin Notre Dame's run to the 1988 national championship. Despite misfiring on his first nine passes of the game, Tony Rice engineers a 71-yrd, 10-play drive that culminates in Ho's final field goal. Michigan's Mike Gillette misses a 47-yard field goal wide right toward the south end zone as time expires. The Notre Dame defense holds Michigan to 74 passing yards.
Rick Mirer makes his first start in Notre Dame Stadium and delivers, hitting Adrian Jarrell with a game-winning 18-yard touchdown strike with 1:40 remaining. Mirer's hookup with Jarrell caps an impressive nine-play, 76-yard drive. Michigan leads the game by 10 points entering the fourth quarter, but the Irish answer with 14 points in the final 15 minutes on two long drives. Two big interceptions by the Irish defense play a part in the victory as well. With Michigan looking to seal the game in the fourth quarter with another score, Michael Stonebreaker intercepts Elvis Grbac in the end zone. Grbac is then picked off on Michigan's final drive by future 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Brooks, for the final 28-24 victory.
#9 USC (5:18)
This game had everything -- a pre-game confrontation in the tunnel, a comeback victory by the Irish and a satisfying win over one of Notre Dame's biggest rivals. Trailing 24-21 with nine minutes remaining, Tony Rice leads the Irish on a 15-play, 80-yard drive culminated by his 15-yard touchdown run. The drive comes after Rice starts the contest just four of 15 in passing attempts and turns the ball over twice on a fumble and interception. D'Juan Francisco bats away Todd Marinovich's pass in the end zone with 1:40 to play to ensure the victory. Rice rushes for 99 yards and two touchdowns, while Rocket Ismail adds 33 yards rushing and 62 yards receiving. The Irish also rush for 266 yards as a team against the Junior Seau-led Trojan defense.
Eric Penick's 85-yard touchdown run in the third quarter ends USC's 23-game unbeaten streak and denies the Trojans a second-consecutive national title. The game was a pivotal triumph in Notre Dame's 1973 championship season as the Irish defense holds Anthony Davis to 55 yards rushing and dominates the time of possession, keeping the ball 40 of the game's 60 minutes. Bob Thomas boots three field goals and the Irish defense keeps the Pat Haden-Lynn Swann combination at bay for the upset victory.
This game forever will be remembered for Harry Oliver's 51-yard field goal just clearing the north goalpost as time expires to push Notre Dame to a miracle two-point victory. Not only did the more than 59,000 fans profess that the afternoon's persistent wind, which was blowing against Oliver, stops before his kick, they also see Michigan denied on key two-point conversion try with 0:41 seconds remaining that would have made Oliver's kick a game-tying conversion instead of the gamewinner. The two teams answer each other with two touchdowns in the second quarter, but Michigan holds a one-point lead when Oliver misses a PAT attempt following John Krimm's 49-yard interception return in the third quarter. Notre Dame inches ahead 26-21 after Bob Crable's forced fumble sets up a Phil Carter touchdown. Michigan, however, answers with a pass from John Wangler to Craig Dunaway, setting the stage for Oliver's heroics.