SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It was only a year ago they somberly trudged away from this place under the cover of darkness, smarting from one of the most hideous losses in the annals of Boston College football history. And yesterday? The Eagles were soaring. Everyone who stood tippy-toed on BC’s bench to catch a glimpse of David Gordon’s game-winning 41-yard field goal was sent spiraling to atmospheric heights on the wings of an improbable 41-39 upset over Notre Dame that left the nation’s polls quaking from a tremor of seismic proportions.
In the span of one week, the Irish went from conquering heroes over Florida State in the Game of the Century to out-of-luck losers in the Upset of the Century.
Talk about shaking down the thunder.
Intent on avenging a humiliating 54-7 loss to the Fighting Irish last year, the Eagles took a 38-17 lead and withstood Notre Dame’s 22-point onslaught in the final 11:03 to come back in the last 1:01 and topple the Fighting Irish on Gordon’s game-winning kick.
Even Touchdown Jesus signaled it good, which made the victory that much sweeter.
“Absolutely,” said quarterback Glenn Foley, who was the picture of poise and perfection in the pocket by completing 30 of 48 passes for 315 yards and 4 TDs. “I thought they rubbed it in a little bit last year. The comments some people made, especially in the Boston media, never even gave us a chance to play the football game. You’d see on TV and you’d read in the papers that we didn’t even have a shot. But this win is big for
Boston College, and this win is big for the guys on the team.”
Especially for Gordon.
It came as a measure of sweet redemption for the senior walk-on from Avon, Conn., who, in the second game of the season missed a last-minute 40-yard attempt that resulted in a haunting 22-21 loss to Northwestern. Although he was absolved of any blame for BC’s toughest loss of the season, Gordon delivered BC its greatest victory of the year -- nay, its history -- when he capped a precisely-executed eight-play, 51-yard drive by converting the longest and biggest kick of his career.
Said Gordon, “I never even saw it go through. When I kick the ball, I’m so locked up that I try to just focus on the ball and try to keep my head down. I knew it was good when I saw Foley his holder raise his hands.”
“Who are they laughing at now? They’re not laughing at us, baby,” angrily shouted tackle Pete Kendall into a WBZ camera in the postgame euphoria.
The loss ruined Notre Dame’s (10-1) bid for a perfect season and a possible rematch with Florida State, whom the Fighting Irish dethroned in last week, for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl.
“I’m very proud of our team,” said Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz. “This was one of the greatest comebacks that I have been associated with. Our players hung in there. To be down so far and then come back and then for them to come down and kick a field goal, it’s heartbreaking.”
BC, which rolled up 477 yards total offense to 427 for Notre Dame, took a 3-0 lead when Gordon converted a 28-yarder with 8:02 remaining. Linebacker Stephen Boyd set up the score when he blocked a 47-yard field goal attempt by Notre Dame kicker Kevin Pendergast, scooped up the ball at the ND 45 and raced to the 15, where the Eagles were unable to move any farther than the 10 after three plays.
Foley, who had perfect protection all day long, came out firing on BC’s third possession when he completed four of five attempts for 53 yards -- on a 12-yard pass to Pete Mitchell (13 catches, 132 yards, 2 TDs), a 13-yarder to Clarence Cannon (5-51), another 10-yarder to Mitchell and an 18-yarder to Keith Miller -- before hitting Ivan Boyd (3-49-2 TDs) with a 4-yard touchdown for a 10-0 lead with 3:37 left.
Notre Dame shifted into its quick-strike mode in the second quarter and went 69 yards in five plays to get its first score of the game when Kevin McDougal faked up the middle to Lee Becton, faked the end-around to Mike Miller, then dropped back and hit Ray Zellars with a 39-yard TD that made it 10-7 with 11:58 left. BC, not to be outdone, put together a blitzkrieg score of its own when Foley capped a four-play, 64-yard drive by hitting Boyd with a 36-yard strike for a 17-7 lead.
The game turned into a slugfest on Notre Dame’s next possession when the Irish pounded out a 12-play, 74-yard drive that resulted in a 1-yard plunge by Jeff Burris.
BC counter-punched with a 14-play, 65-yard drive, in which it took six plays to go from its 36 to the Notre Dame 14. Tony Ransome carried for 14 yards on a reverse for a first down to the Irish 14, where the Eagles took seven plays to punch it in. Three plays after Darnell Campbell converted a fourth-and-1 with a 1-yard plunge, Foley hit Mitchell with a 3-yard dart to give the Eagles a 24-14 lead at halftime.
The Eagles were determined to turn it into a rout when the defense stuffed Notre Dame on its first possession of the second half, forcing a fourth-and-31 punt by Adrian Jarrell that traveled just 27 yards and took a BC bounce to the Notre Dame 39.
Four plays later, Campbell, the nation’s leading scorer, burst off right tackle for a 21-yard TD. Then, in a bold move, Steve Marciano came up with an onsides kick recovery to give BC possession at the Notre Dame 48, but the Eagles couldn’t capitalize when they were unable to drive past the 23, where Gordon missed a 40-yard attempt wide left.
Notre Dame marched 66 yards in 14 plays, with McDougal connecting with Derrick Mayes three times for 54 yards, but stalled at the 11. Pendergast kicked a 29-yard field goal that cut BC’s lead to 31-17. BC came up short on its next drive when it failed to convert a fourth-and-5 from the 28, but Eric Shorter gave BC new life when he intercepted McDougal at the Notre Dame 44.
Foley made the Irish pay when, on third and goal from the 1, he lofted a pass into Mitchell’s hands for a 38-17 lead. Then came the Irish onslaught.
With 11:03 left, Notre Dame rallied when Becton scored on a 29-yard burst then hit McDougal with the 2-point conversion pass to bring the Irish within 38-25. BC drove from its 23 to the Notre Dame 31, where Foley fumbled a snap and Jim Flanigan recovered to set up six-play, 67-yard drive that resulted in Zellars’ 4-yard TD run.
Trailing by a touchdown, Notre Dame needed another big play and got it when Foley again fumbled, but recovered, forcing a fourth-and-12 punt from the 30. Jeff Beckley pinned the Irish at their 34 with a 47-yard spiral, but Notre Dame got almost all of it back on its first play from scrimmage when McDougal hit Mayes with a 46-yard strike.
It was time to wake up the echoes, and the Irish faithful did when, on fourth and goal from the 4, McDougal hit Lake Dawson with the go-ahead TD.
BC, though, fashioned its greatest victory when Foley, operating the two- minute offense with 1:01 left and three timeouts, moved the Eagles from their 25 to the Notre Dame 33 in 42 seconds, hitting Mitchell with a clutch 24-yard pass.
He followed with a 9-yard screen toss to Boyd, which set the stage for Gordon’s dramatic kick.