The wait is nearly over. August 23rd will be the last Saturday before college football is officially back. I can’t wait.
It was October 15th, 1988 when the #1 ranked Miami Hurricanes came to South Bend, Indiana to take on the #4 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Miami was the defending national champions and were on a 36 game winning streak. Notre Dame is famous for ending long winning streaks, they beat Oklahoma in 1957 to end the Sooner’s 47 game winning streak. They beat Texas in 1971 to end a 30 game winning streak and now they were taking on another team with a long streak going.
Miami had pounded Notre Dame for 4 straight games, starting with a 20-0 romp in Miami’s first national championship season, 1983. In 1984, the Hurricanes beat the Irish 31-13 and then in 1985 it was the greatest of insults when they beat Notre Dame 58-7.
They took a year off from each other in 1986 and then Miami stuffed Notre Dame again in 1987, 24-0. What created the most bad blood on Notre Dame’s side was the 58-7 drubbing in former Irish head coach Gerry Faust’s last season.
1988 was going to be different because the Irish had hired Lou Holtz as head coach and they had picked up their recruiting efforts and this team was ranked #4 and undefeated coming in.
Some Notre Dame students came up with the slogan ‘Catholics vs Convicts’ and sold some tee shirts. The media caught wind of it and ran with it.
Neither term was accurate for either school, but there was plenty of bad blood.
These teams just did not like each other at all.
The bad blood was evident from the very first as the two teams had a big fight even before the game got going.
The Miami Hurricanes had that 36 game winning streak going and had a load of talented players on both sides of the ball.
But, Notre Dame was talented, too.
Notre Dame’s Frank Stams (6-4, 237) a senior Defensive End from Akron, Ohio hit Miami QB Steve Walsh twice in the first 2 drives the first time causing a fumble and the second stopping a drive. Stams was one of many Irish and Hurricane players that had an outstanding day in this game, but Stams may stand out as the Notre Dame defender that had the most impact.
Notre Dame QB Tony Rice was a great runner and fair passer out of South Carolina that ran the 40 yard dash in the 4.4 range enabled the Fighting Irish to run a wishbone attack in short yardage. Rice was excellent in an option offense, and his play made the Irish a dangerous football team.
Notre Dame took a 14-7 lead, when Frank Stams came up with yet another big play deflecting a Steve Walsh pass which was picked off by Notre Dame’s Pat Terrell who returned it for a TD giving the Irish a 21-7 lead in the 2nd quarter. If Stams was not the best Notre Dame defensive player that day, then it was Pat Terrell.
Miami didn’t lay down and die and came back with a vengeance.
All American Irish LB Mike Stonebreaker hit Chudzinski and separated him from the ball before half should have been a fumble but it was called an incomplete pass. This was the first of several controversial calls. Steve Walsh hit Cleveland Gary the Fullback to score right before halftime to tie the game at 21.
Miami’s Bubba McDowell, who knocked down the 2 point conversion against FSU in 1987, had blocked 8 punts coming into this game. That is sort of an incredible stat in itself. So, he lives up to his reputation and he blocks a 43 yard field goal attempt by the Irish in the 3rd.
Miami had blocked the Field Goal and then they failed on a fake punt and Notre Dame’s Tony Rice hit Wide Receiver Ricky Waters on a long pass on the very first play, after the failed fake punt, to the 2 yard line. Pat Eilers scored out of the wishbone and left half back. Eilers was a transfer from Yale who wanted to play at a school where football was more important and one could still get a quality education.
Notre Dame made it 31 to 21 near the end of the 3rd.
In the 4th quarter, Miami comes back and kicks a Field Goal reducing the lead to 31-24.
Brent Mussburger annoyingly talks the entire game about Miami’s comeback against Michigan, so television fans are expecting a Miami comeback win.
Miami had driven for a score and the most controversial call of the game occurred. Miami Fullback, Cleveland Gary, caught a pass and fumbled at the Notre Dame 1 yard line.
Miami people thought he was down. Notre Dame people thought it was a fumble. I honestly couldn’t tell from many replays if he was down or the fumble was legit, but Miami fans are still angry about that call to this day.
Late in the 4th quarter, Miami was driving for another score and Frank Stams came off the corner and caused yet another fumble.
Almost forgotten in this game was the play of Miami’s defense. Middle Linebacker Bernard Clark from Miami made another huge tackle for loss. Miami’s Randy Shannon sacked Rice and caused Rice to fumble in return. Miami got the ball back inside the Notre Dame 20 with a little over 2 minutes left.
It all came down to 4th down at the Notre Dame 11 for the Hurricanes. Barry Alvarez was the Defensive Coordinator for Notre Dame and he had his troops ready. It doesn’t sound like Notre Dame’s defense did that much since Miami had 30 points and a ton of yardage, but Miami had one of the most explosive offenses in all of college football.
There was 51 seconds left in the game. Walsh hit Andre Brown with 45 seconds left in game for a TD.
Miami coaches and fans complained about the Cleveland Gary call but never say anything about the earlier Chudzinski no fumble call and the replays clearly show that Andre Brown never had control of this pass on 4th down.
Miami and Jimmy Johnson decided to go for 2 and win the game. Remember the year before in 1987, the Seminoles went for 2 and missed allowing Miami to win. Now, it was that same situation again but with Miami trying to score.
Walsh puts the ball up for Leonard Conley and it was broken up by Pat Terrell of Notre Dame.
31-30 Notre Dame with about 45 seconds on the clock.
Notre Dame put their star QB Tony Rice on the Kick off return team knowing that Miami was going to onside kick. That was some crazy stuff. Notre Dame without Tony Rice would have cost them their season, but the Irish recover the onside kick anyway. Game over.
Some people think that the Miami Hurricanes were the better team and they were loaded.
Miami had speed to burn on both sides of the ball and talent across the board. Russell Maryland at Defensive Tackle later became the very first pick in the draft. Randy Shannon was a LB for Miami and after a brief NFL career later became head coach at Miami.
Rob Chudzinski was a 5th string TE in 1987 and now the starter in 88 and not super talented but had great hands.
Bernard Clark had an exceptional game for the Hurricanes from his MLB position. Like Shannon, he is now a college coach after a brief career in the Pros.
Steve Walsh completed 31 passes out of 50 attempts good for 424 yards and 4 TDs. He did throw 3 interceptions but otherwise had a fantastic day. Fullback Cleveland Gary was outstanding as was TE Chudzinski and WR Andre Brown.
As good as Miami was, Notre Dame went undefeated and won the championship that season and they had some top talent as well.
Cornerback Todd Lyght had a great game. Lyght would later become the 5th pick in the entire draft and had a very successful playing career and is coaching in the NFL now. Chris Zorich, the talented nose guard for Notre Dame went to the same high school as Dick Butkus. Like Butkus, he also played for the Chicago Bears after he won the Lombardi Trophy for the Nation’s best lineman.
Notre Dame’s Tight End Derek Brown and Defensive Back Pat Terrell were both Floridians. Jimmy Johnson thought he had Derek Brown coming to Miami but he visited South Bend, Indiana and loved the tradition and signed with the Irish.
Notre Dame LB Wes Pritchett had a spectacular game, too.
Tony Rice was a really good college QB and played some Canadian football, mostly. Ricky Watters played WR in 1988 for the Irish and was a really good NFL Runningback rushing for over 10,000 career yards.
This game was hard fought from beginning to end and a classic, one of the best ever.
There is a quality broadcast on Youtube of this game, but I don’t usually send people over there since they won’t let me post links over there. You do have to listen to Brent Mussburger which is not ideal, but the game is awesome and a fun watch.