Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Harry O plus 30

This Saturday, Notre Dame hosts Michigan, 30 years less nine days after the most memorable ND game I ever attended during my four (mostly) glory-starved years in South Bend. I was unlucky enough to get Gerry Faust as coach for my sophomore, junior, and senior years, but the 1980 ND team was pretty darn good, despite being lightly regarded. It finished 9-1-1 in the regular season, losing only to USC, and lost to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in a game that it just as easily could have won. The spark that lit the fuse for Dan Devine's final season as coach was the second game of the season, against the Wolverines. ND was coming off a big win over a good Purdue team, but Michigan, with a super wide receiver named Anthony Carter, was a much sterner test. The game was only broadcast locally, which was a real shame. We go into the last drive of the game with less than a minute to play and Michigan leading 27-26...

I was sitting up in the student section above the end zone that the Irish were driving away from. I saw at least one fan prepare for the historic boot by pulling out and quickly running through her rosary beads. The story goes that, just as Oliver kicked the ball, the wind that had been blowing from that end zone towards "our" end suddenly died. I can't vouch for that, but that ball seemed to hang in the air for about five minutes. We only knew that it had sneaked over the crossbar when we saw the people begin rushing the field. It took a good long while, but I eventually meandered on down on the turf myself. Keep in mind that this was only the second game I'd ever attended. I figured that similar heroics were BOUND to happen over the next four years. Nope, this one was pretty much it, at least in terms of home games. But, if I had to have only one great moment of ND football, this was a pretty good choice, one routinely listed as one of the Top 20 ND games of all time. The "God Bless Harry Oliver" signs lingered in the South Bend area for a long while. (Sadly, Oliver died just a few years ago.)

The Michigan radio announcer's call of the same climactic play is worth hearing, as well, if only because the "shock to the system" appears to have been so great that he temporarily forgot how to count!

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