SOUTH BEND, IND. -- David Gordon says it was like a long extra point.
The ball was on the Notre Dame 24-yard line and it was smack in the middle of the field. There were 5 seconds left and Boston College was trailing by 1 point. This wasn’t like the (ugh) Northwestern game, when he was asked to win the game with a 40-yarder from the left hash mark and wound up hooking it wide right.
”I had confidence in him,” said Eagles coach Tom Coughlin. “The ball was in the middle of the field, and he is an excellent direct-on kicker.”
But this was going to be a 41-yarder, and David Gordon had never kicked one that long in a game before. And this wasn’t just any ol’ game. This was Boston
College at Notre Dame -- NOTRE DAME! -- and No. 1 Notre Dame, at that. And this wasn’t just any ol’ BC at Notre Dame game, either, because this was 5 seconds away from being a Notre Dame fourth-period comeback for which they would have commissioned five new videos by sunrise.
David Gordon knew the game would come down to him. The walk-on. The rich kid. The one whose father is managing partner of the Hartford Whalers. The kid who got into serious kicking in the first place because Roger Staubach himself had offered the encouragement.
BC had taken the ball over on its 25 with 1:01 left, trailing, 39-38, after once leading by a 38-17 score. “I know our offense,” Gordon shrugged. “We score on the two-minute drill in practice all the time.”
Glenn Foley Co. made it all look very easy. Bing, bang, boom, and the ball was at the Notre Dame 33 with 12 seconds remaining. Then Foley hit Ivan Boyd on a little screen pass and Boyd lugged the ball from right-to-left, depositing the pigskin on the ND 24. He could not have done David Gordon a better favor had he called time out and placed the ball where it was by hand.
”Boyd’s play was huge,” Gordon saluted.
So now the game would come down to David Gordon. The walk-on. The rich kid. ‘’I knew I could make plays,” he said. “I just get so few attempts.”
Up in the stands Richard and Dee Gordon were agonizing. They had one thought on their mind: Northwestern.
”Can you imagine any kid, or the parent, in a situation like this?” inquired Richard Gordon. “Your son is out there with a chance to beat the No. 1 team in the country. It was pretty hard to watch.”
Northwestern. The thought was lurking in the back of David Gordon’s mind, too.
”A minute left,” Gordon recalled. “Ball hiked from the 23-yard line. Left hash mark. I didn’t make it. Believe me, I never felt worse in my life.”
A kicker must put such thoughts out of his mind, however, and Gordon says he went onto the field thinking only positive thoughts. The Notre Dame field is grass -- the only BC game on grass all season -- and Gordon is very comfortable on grass. “I kick on it all summer,” he pointed out.
Remember where he was. Notre Dame. This was No. 1 Notre Dame thinking about winning another national championship, and the only thing standing in its way was a left-footed transfer (Vermont) expatriate soccer player who has only had one previous chance to be a hero, and who could not deliver.
David Gordon was being asked to rectify 10 horrible minutes that would have haunted BC forever. When Foley hit Pete Mitchell with a 1-yard touchdown pass with 11:03 remaining, BC was up, 38-17. Then Notre Dame scored three touchdowns in less than five minutes and BC was on the verge of its most crushing defeat ever. David Gordon says none of this occurred to him as he trotted onto the field.
”Make that kick,” he declared. “That’s all I was thinking.”
He had missed a 40-yarder in the first half, but he said that really had no bearing on anything. They didn’t get into it quickly enough. It just wasn’t a smooth sequence. And it was also from the left of center. This one was perfectly located.
The snap was high. Foley made a nice grab and then came the difficult part. He had to get it down to give Gordon a chance for a decent kick.
”It was all right,” Gordon said. “As long as he gets it down fast, I can kick it. I just can’t be slow.”
The hold was crucial. Give Glenn Foley a huge assist on this one.
David Gordon kicked the ball, and it wasn’t one for the training film.
”It was kind of a knuckleball. I hit it a little bit too much with the toe, and not with the foot. I like to try to hit them perfect every time.”
He says this despite the fact he never watched it. He kept his head down on his follow through. The ball didn’t look as if it had enough altitude at first, but then it sort of gained strength. Halfway there it was drifting right, and if the ball is pulling to the right off the foot of a lefty, the cause is usually lost. Somehow the ball changed course, drifting back to the left.
He didn’t know it was good until he saw Foley raise his arms. Then, and only then, did David Gordon realize he had just delivered what can be considered the biggest victory in Boston College’s 100-year football history.
Check that. He still didn’t realize what he had done an hour later. He didn’t fully grasp that his name will forever be mentioned with O’Rourke and Flutie in BC lore.
”I guess I don’t realize that,” he admitted. “After Northwestern, it was drilled into me that one play doesn’t make a game. I learned that lesson. The only reason I was able to make the kick was due to everything that went before. I did my job, but there were so many others who also did theirs.”
Yeah, but the fact is that after 59 minutes and 55 seconds of astonishing football, nothing was decided until the rich kid kicked the football. David Gordon did what Richard Gordon usually does. He closed the deal.
”Are you going to ask for a scholarship now?” he was asked.
”I might,” he said with a smile.