Relive the greatest moments in the history of Notre Dame football, in text and on two audio CDs.
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- BOOK & CD
- Product dimensions:
- 10.50(w) x 10.50(h) x 0.83(d)
Read an Excerpt
Notre Dame Beats Miami in 1988
Disc 2, Track 10
October 15, 1988
While not the longest running, nor the most significant of Notre Dame football matchups, the Miami Hurricanes became as bitter a rival in the 1980s as any at Notre Dame. In fact, the rivalry became so fierce that, citing "the interest of the schools, the students, and collegiate sports," officials at both schools ended the annual game in 1990.
In their four previous meetings, Miami had dominated the Irish by a collective margin of 133 to 20, including a 58 to 7 drubbing in 1985. In that game, Miami's infamous coach, Jimmy Johnson, poured on offensive scoring well into the fourth quarter. The humiliating, blow-out game was the last in head coach Gerry Faust's Notre Dame career. Avenging that loss was in the hearts and minds of Notre Dame students, fans, and players alike as the Hurricanes came to South Bend in October 1988. Even as early as the school year before the matchup, a student magazine on campus printed a poster of Jimmy Johnson announcing, "Avoid the Rush, Hate Miami Early. Only 198 Days Left!"
By the week of the anticipated game, signs proclaiming "Remember 58-7" and more distasteful statements referring to Miami's notorious football program and their coach hung from dorm rooms across campus. Miami's sports department, and even Jimmy Johnson's home, were flooded with phone calls and postcards from overzealous Irish fans. Pregame hype had grown to such an unprecedented height that the university, Coach Lou Holtz, and the team captains all made public requests in the days before the game for the students and fans to express their excitement about the matchup in more "positive" ways.
By gameday, young entrepreneurs were adding fuel to the pregame fire, selling the latest in anti-Miami T-shirt propaganda to tens of thousands of fans. Although officially frowned upon by the university, Notre Dame fans can still be spotted from time to time wearing the most popular of those '88 Miami game T-shirts, "Catholics vs. ConvictsUnfinished Business."
Coming into South Bend, Miami was ranked No. 1. They were defending national champions and had won thirty-six regular season games in a row, including twenty straight road games. Holtz, now in his third year as head coach, needed to get everything he could out of the No. 4 Irish that day. At the student pep rally the night before the big game, using motivational tactics that Knute Rockne himself would be proud of, Holtz surprisingly and boldly guaranteed an Irish victory against Miami. The packed Stepan Center crowd of players and fans roared with excitement.
Unlike typical autumn days in South Bend, this October afternoon seemed more like Florida, with the sun shining brightly and temperatures reaching the mid-70s. The weather was perfect for the thousands of Notre Dame fans who had been eating, drinking, and celebrating at tailgate parties throughout the stadium parking lots for days leading up to gameday. At Notre Dame, tailgate festivities have been perfected, and the days leading up to this historic Notre Dame-Miami matchup were no exception. By game time, tickets were being scalped outside the stadium for up to $1,000 apiece.
Amid all of the hype and heat, it wasn't surprising that the afternoon began with an all-out skirmish between the teams at the entrance of the stadium tunnel during warm-ups. By kickoff, the Irish players and the roaring crowd of 59,075 were ready to witness one of the most hard-fought, back-and-forth games in Notre Dame history. The thrilling game would feature a blocked field goal, a foiled fake punt, four interceptions, five lost fumbles, and a controversial sixth.
Early in the second quarter, Pat Terrell intercepted a pass by Miami's Steve Walsh and returned it for a touchdown to give the Irish a 21 to 7 lead. At the time, Terrell may have thought his touchdown run was his best play of the day. He admits now that history has convinced him otherwise.
The Hurricanes were not about to leave South Bend without making a game of it. Scoring on two of Steve Walsh's three touchdown passes of the game (he would finish the game a career high thirty-one of fifty for 424 yards), the determined Hurricanes tied the score as the first half ended.
Notre Dame stormed out of the locker room for the second half, invigorated by a memorable motivational speech. As Notre Dame teams do, the offense and the defense spent halftime in the locker room on opposite sides of a two-sided blackboard. As the offensive players wound up their discussion about their second half game plan, the Notre Dame defensive players were ranting and raving about their intentions for the second half. Suddenly, with all the fierce emotion of the moment, a defensive coach's fist came blasting through and shattered the blackboard, to the surprise and excitement of all.
The Irish scored ten unanswered points in the third quarter behind senior quarterback Tony Rice, Tony Brooks, and stars Ricky Watters, Florida-native Derek Brown, Pat Eilers, and diminutive kicker Reggie Ho. Defensive lineman Jeff Alm also added a skyscraping interception in a third quarter dominated by the Irish. And defensive end Frank Stams continued to play like a champion. Later calling the day "absolutely perfect," Stams physically and emotionally led the Notre Dame defense, sacking the previously un-sacked Walsh, causing mayhem by putting backfield pressure on the Hurricanes, tipping the pass Terrell intercepted for a touchdown, causing two Miami fumbles, and recovering another.
Miami stormed back in the fourth quarter behind a Carlos Huerta field goal, and with five minutes to play, the Hurricanes nearly tied it with a would-be touchdown that was ruled a fumble, yet remains a source of controversy to this day. The game-saving hit to cause the fumble was made by Notre Dame's punishing Michael Stonebreaker, and recovered by team cocaptain George Streeter. The controversy over whether Cleveland Gary broke the plane of the goal line before taking the hit from Stonebreaker will always be a sore spot for Miami fans.
The Hurricanes were still down by seven points and regained the ball, moving it to the Notre Dame eleven. It was fourth down and six, fifty-one seconds left to play when, like they had done so many times before (including an amazing comeback victory against Michigan just four weeks earlier), Miami came through in the clutch. Quarterback Steve Walsh hit Andre Brown with an "over the shoulder," a fade pattern in the end zone, putting the Hurricanes within one point of the Irish. What would Jimmy Johnson do now? Go for one point and the tie, letting the polls decide his fate? Go for the two-pointer and the win, but risk a loss? Johnson would later explain without regret, "We always play to win."
With the cool confidence of a team sure of its destiny, and amid the loudest crowd in Notre Dame history, registering at 110 decibels on the sideline, the Irish approached the line of scrimmage with just forty-five seconds left. Across the line of scrimmage was the most successful, toughest, fastest team in college football. They knew what they had to do. For a moment, it seemed as if the echoes of football seasons past and a parade of Irish ghosts joined Notre Dame faithful everywhere, rallying their team for one last play as Steve Walsh took the snap.
Calling the game and the pivotal play were Westwood One Radio's Tony Roberts and Tom Pagna. "How do you play this one, Coach?" Roberts quizzed Pagna. "Do you blitz or do you play it straight?"
"I think I have to play it man-to-man and get some pressure on him," Pagna answered. Roberts called the play, "(Dale) Dawkins wide to the right, Brown in the slot, Conley the wing-man on the right side. Three wide receivers right. They're going to go for two. Back to throw. Walsh looks...looks...looks...has the time...lobs the ball!" Walsh's pass soared. Miami's intended receiver, Leonard Conley, leapt into the air. And with a quick step in front of Conley, Pat Terrell did the same. For a moment, football history seemed to be dangling in the balanceold vs. new, tradition vs. modern domination, heart vs. hype, "Catholics vs. Convicts."
"The pass is...batted down!" proclaimed Roberts, "It's batted down by Terrell!" With just the very tips of his fingers, Pat Terrell sent the ball harmlessly to the ground, securing the Irish victory and reaffirming Notre Dame's place in collegiate football history. "And the Irishthey win it this afternoon! They're out in front 31 to 30, as Jimmy Johnson went for two. Forty-five seconds left to go and Pat Terrell breaks up the two-point pitch that would have put Miami of Florida out in front!"
Cheers of triumph echoed again in Notre Dame Stadium like they hadn't in years. Notre Dame had avenged Miami's domination of the past and set the crown jewel in what would become a national championship season.
Ironically, Terrell and Conley knew each other well. Both hailed from the St. Petersburg, Florida, area, and had faced each other as rivals in high school. For that last play, instead of being in his running back position, Conley set up in the slot across from Irish defender Terrell. Terrell looked across the line of scrimmage right before the play and caught Conley's eye. "We just grinned," said Terrell, "and I had a feeling then that they might be looking to throw the ball his way."
When asked, "Where were you when Notre Dame beat Miami in 1988?" Irish fans young and old provide countless memories, yet the same feelings of elation and pride. As fans poured onto the field, Notre Dame players joined their fellow students and held their golden helmets high in salute and appreciation. Irish faithful across the nation knew once again what it felt like to be champions.
Even today, people will stop Terrell on the street to talk about his last-minute, game-saving leap. "There were fifty-nine thousand at that game that day," Terrell laughs, "and I think every single one of them over the last thirteen years has told me what they did or how they felt when I got that deflection. It gets kind of funny, but it still does mean a lot to me."
Appropriately, during the University's Century Celebration of Notre Dame Football in 1999, Pat Terrell's game-saving deflection was named the most memorable moment in Notre Dame football history.
For every fan watching that day, indeed it was.
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