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College Football Classic Rewind: BC Shocks #1 Notre Dame With Last-Second FG

Posted on November 15, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Many college football experts and fans have been asking for years: What’s wrong with the Notre Dame football program?

It may be a lack of continuity in head coaches or the inability to recruit the best high school players or the fact that the talent is now spread all over the country that has led to the downfall of Notre Dame.

But for those who are superstitious or believe in luck, they will point to the Irish’s last-second loss to Boston College in the final game of the 1993 regular season that not only shattered the dreams of the Irish’ s chances of a national title that season, but has brought several years of mediocrity for the Irish.

Notre Dame entered the game with Boston College as the #1 team in the country following their 31-24 victory over Florida State in a game billed as the “Game of the Century” and had won their previous 17 games.

With one more victory, the Irish would finish the regular season with an 11-0 record and probably would go on to play in the Fiesta Bowl in a rematch against Florida State with a chance for a second national title under head coach Lou Holtz.

The one remaining obstacle between the Irish and a trip to Tempe was the #17 ranked Boston College Eagles, who were coached by future head coach Tom Coughlin in his third season as the BC head coach.

The Eagles had rebounded from a 0-2 start which included a 22-21 loss to lowly Northwestern when kicker David Gordon missed a potential game-winning 40-yard field goal with over a minute left, to win their next seven games, thanks to a high-powered offense led by quarterback Glenn Foley and running back Darnell Campbell, who was the nation’s leading scorer with 20 touchdowns.

Despite their offensive firepower and hot winning streak, the Eagles were not given much of a chance against the Irish as they were 18-point underdogs as they traveled to South Bend.

But the Eagles had some extra motivation for the game as they had been humiliated by the Irish the year before 54-7 which included a fake punt by Notre Dame even though they led 37-0.

The Irish, the fans at Notre Dame Stadium, and the viewers watching the game on NBC, were in for quite a shock.

The first big break of the game went to the Eagles as linebacker Stephen Boyd blocked Kevin Pendergast’s 47-yard field goal attempt, then scooped up the loose ball at the Notre Dame 45-yard-line and returned it 30 yards to the Irish’s 15-yard-line.

However, the Notre Dame defense did not permit a 1st down and forced a field goal attempt from Gordon, whose 28-yard kick was true to put BC on top 3-0 midway through the first quarter.

After forcing a Notre Dame punt, the Eagles were able to get into the end zone as Foley completed four of five passes for 53 yards on a drive which ended with his 4-yard touchdown pass to Ivan Boyd to give BC a 10-0 lead with 3:57 left in the first quarter.

The Irish seemed to come to life early in the second quarter when at the Eagles’ 39-yard-line, quarterback Kevin McDougal faked a handoff to running back Lee Becton, then faked an end-around to Mike Miller, and fired a pass for Ray Zellars, who made the catch and scored the touchdown to cut the BC lead to 10-7.

Glenn Foley was sensational as he completed 30 of 48 passes for 318 yards and four touchdown passes in BC's upset of #1 ranked Notre Dame.

But the Eagles responded quickly on their next possession as Foley connected with Boyd for another touchdown, this time from 36 yards out as Boyd made a spectacular diving catch in the end zone to push the BC lead back to 10 points at 17-7.

Notre Dame answered with a 12-play, 74-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by Jeff Burris to cut the deficit to 17-14, only to have the Eagles put together their own methodical drive as they drove 65 yards in 14 plays, which included a 4th & 1 conversion, as Foley threw his third touchdown pass of the first half, a 3-yarder to tight end Pete Mitchell to give BC a 24-14 lead as the two teams went into the halftime break.

The partisan crowd in South Bend was going restless as their Irish punted on their opening possession of the second half, giving the Eagles a short field after punter Brian Ford’s punt only traveled 27 yards to the Notre Dame’ 39-yard-line.

It took the Eagles four plays to get back into the end zone as Campbell burst through for a 21-yard touchdown run to give Boston College a shocking 31-14 lead early in the third quarter.

Just when it seemed like it could not get worse for the Irish, the Eagles surprised Notre Dame with an onside kick, which was recovered by BC’s Steve Marciano at the Notre Dame 48-yard-line.

The Eagles drove 25 yards to the Irish’s 23-yard-line before the Notre Dame defense held and forced a field goal attempt from Gordon, whose 40-yard-kick hooked wide left keeping the deficit at 17 points.

After dodging a bullet with the onside kick, the Irish were able to close the gap to two touchdowns as Pendergast made a 29-yard field goal to end a 14-play, 66-yard drive.

The Irish defense bended but did not break on its next possession as they stopped the Eagles on a 4th & 5 from the Notre Dame 28-yard-line, only to have strong safety Eric Shorter pick off a McDougal pass to give the ball back to BC at the Irish 44-yard-line.

The interception led to another touchdown pass from Foley, a 1-yarder to Mitchell, to seemingly put the game out of reach as the Eagles now had a 38-17 lead with 11:13 left in the fourth quarter.

But with their national championship hopes on the line, the Irish would begin one of the greatest 4th quarter rallies in Notre Dame history.

Notre Dame quarterback Kevin McDougal led the Irish to 22 straight points in the 4th quarter.

It took the Irish only 61 seconds to get into the end zone as Becton went in from 29 yards out to trim the lead to 38-23.

With no overtime in Division I-A football in 1993, Holtz called for the Irish to go for the two-point conversion and when Becton took a handoff from McDougal, only to throw it back to the quarterback, who made the catch and got in the end zone, Notre Dame now trailed 38-25.

However, the Eagles’ offense appeared to be unfazed as they drove from their own 23 to the Notre Dame 31 until Foley fumbled a snap from center, which was recovered by Notre Dame defensive tackle Jim Flanigan at the Irish’s 33-yard-line.

Six plays later, the Irish had another touchdown as Zellars punched it in from four yards out and the lead was now down to six points at 38-32 with 4:02 remaining in the game.

Despite the furious comeback, the Irish needed to do something they had been unable to do for most of the afternoon to have a chance to pull out the win: stop the Boston College offense.

The Irish go that stop as Foley fumbled another snap on 3rd &9 in his own territory, but recovered the fumble to salvage a BC punt, which traveled to the Notre Dame 34-yard-line where the Irish offense took over with 2:51 remaining.

That is when McDougal connected with wide receiver Derrick Mayes for a 46-yard gain to put the Irish at the BC 21-yard-line.

Now it seemed only inevitable that the Irish would get into the end zone and pull off 4th quarter comeback for the ages.

But after gaining another 1st down, the Irish were face with a 4th & goal from the four-yard line with just over a minute to go.

McDougal took the snap and fired a pass for the back of the end zone, where tight end Lake Dawson made the catch for the touchdown that tied the game at 38.

And when Pendergast drilled the extra point, the Irish were ahead for the first time in the game at 39-38 and 67 seconds away from completing a perfect regular season.

After controlling the game for the first three quarters, it seemed that the Eagles were on the verge of the most heartbreaking loss in school history, especially when Anthony Comer muffed the ensuing kickoff and only got back to his 10-yard-line.

But the Eagles got a break when Notre Dame was called for personal foul penalty on the kickoff, adding 15 yards and giving BC the ball at their own 25-yard-line with 1:01 on the clock and two timeouts.

Even though his team only needed a field goal to win, Foley had to drive about 50 yards to give his kicker, Gordon, a realistic chance for a field goal since his career-long was only 39 yards.

Foley threw an incomplete pass on 1st down, then had his 2nd down pass almost intercepted by Irish linebacker Pete Bercich, only to have the ball slip through his hands and giving BC a 3rd down with 47 seconds left.

Foley would find Mitchell for a 10-yard gain and a 1st down, then hit Comer for a six-yard gain who stepped out of bounds at the Eagles’ 43-yard-line to stop the clock with 27 seconds to go.

Then on 2nd & 6, Mitchell made his 13th and most important reception of the game, a 24-yarder to put BC at the Irish’s 33 with 18 seconds remaining when Foley called timeout.

After an incomplete pass on 1st down, Foley found Boyd for a nine-yard gain to the Notre Dame 24 where BC spent their last timeout with five seconds to go.

With very little time and no more timeouts, Coughlin had to call on Gordon to try and win the game with a career-long 41-yard field goal.

David Gordon drills the game-winning field goal that ended the hopes of a national championship for Notre Dame.

For Gordon, it was a shot to exorcise some demons, not only for his miss against Northwestern, but also for his potential game-winning field goal the year before against West Virginia which was blocked and allowed for the game to end in a 24-24 tie.

The snap was high, but Foley was able to snatch it and get a good hold, for the left-footed Gordon to make a clean kick.

The ball appeared that it was going to hook to the right, but suddenly it hooked back in and went through the uprights as time expired to give the Boston College Eagles a 41-39 upset and their first ever win over Notre Dame.

It was the biggest victory for Boston College since Doug Flutie’s famous “Hail Mary” touchdown pass against Miami in 1993, and propelled the Eagles to #11 in both polls following their upset.

However, the Eagles would fall the following week 17-14 to undefeated West Virginia to finish to snap their eight-game winning streak, but would bounce back with a 31-13 victory over Virginia in the CARQUEST Bowl and finish the season with a 9-3 record and a #13 ranking in the final AP poll.

Following the season, Coughlin would leave to become head coach of the NFL’s expansion Jacksonville Jaguars.

As for Notre Dame, they would accept an invitation to play in the Cotton Bowl, where they defeated Texas A&M 24-21 to finish the season #2 in both polls behind #1 Florida State.

However, the 1993 season marked the last time that Notre Dame was truly one of the elite programs in college football.

Since the 1994 season, the Irish have lost at least three games in every season, only have two seasons in which they won at least 10 games, and won just two bowl games after losing nine consecutive bowl games.

Maybe it’s just coincidence, but the Notre Dame football program has never been the same ever since David Gordon’s knuckleball went through the uprights for Boston College in 1993.


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