Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame dreams died in '93 loss to Boston College
Eagles stunned Irish with last second field goal
It's the game that still causes heartache for many Fighting Irish fans.
Notre Dame was undefeated going into the Nov. 20, 1993, home game against Boston College.
The Irish — led by head coach Lou Holtz — defeated No. 1-ranked Florida State 31-24 at Notre Dame Stadium the week before in a battle of the nation’s top two teams. That clash had been promoted as the "Game of the Century."
The victory over coach Bobby Bowden's Seminoles moved Notre Dame into the No. 1 spot. The Irish needed only to beat the Eagles — ranked No. 12 with a 7-2 record — to earn a spot in the Fiesta Bowl and a chance at the national title.
It was expected to be easy. A year earlier, the Irish had downed the Eagles 54-7. Tom Coughlin was now in his third year as head coach at BC.
From the opening kickoff, things didn't go smoothly for the Irish.
See the Tribune's coverage of the 1993 defeat by Boston College: http://goo.gl/2pBqSK
Led by quarterback Glenn Foley, BC pulled ahead 10-0 in the first quarter, and led 24-10 at halftime. The Eagles scored a touchdown on their first possession in the second half.
In that third quarter, BC's Ted Page sacked Irish quarterback Kevin McDougal for a 16-yard loss, forcing Notre Dame to punt from its own 13-yard line.
By the end of the third quarter, the Eagles were ahead 31-17, and Irish fans were near despair.
Suddenly, the Irish echoes seemed to awaken. The team clicked, and the Irish overcame a 38-17 deficit, scoring 22 points in the final 11 minutes.
McDougal's four-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to wide receiver Lake Dawson with 1:09 to play put the Irish ahead, 39-38.
It seemed a miracle.
But BC had the ball on their own 25-yard line with a minute to play and one more chance to win the game.
Foley nearly ruined the drive when Irish linebacker Pete Bercich dropped a potential game-clinching interception, but he rebounded to complete four passes on the drive.
Foley found tight end Pete Mitchell for 12 yards on third-and-10. He connected with Mitchell twice more for 6 and 24 yards and moved into Notre Dame territory. His final pass, a nine-yard completion to Ivan Boyd, put the Eagles on the 24-yard line with five seconds left.
Suddenly, the outcome of the game rested on the shoulders of Eagles place kicker David Gordon, a little-known walk-on who had failed on two game-winning field-goal attempts in the previous two years.
Gordon lined up and kicked from 41 yards.
In a heart-stopping, last-second effort, Irish dreams were crushed. The kick was good, and BC stunned Notre Dame 41-39.
"Eagles fly at N.D.," read the headline in the next day's South Bend Tribune.
"With one swing of his left leg Saturday, Boston College kicker David Gordon ruined what could have been one of the greatest comebacks in Notre Dame football history as well as an Irish claim to the No. 1 ranking in the country," Tribune sports writer Al Lesar wrote in the next day's newspaper.
The kick stayed true, "through the uprights like an arrow through Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz's heart," Tribune sports editor Bill Moor wrote.
"The loss is very devastating. We hurt, but it's all part of life," Holtz said after the game.
BC fans stormed the Notre Dame field in the aftermath.
"The BC folks hugged and danced wildly while the Irish fans and cheerleaders stood by misty-eyed in disbelief," Tribune reporter Kathy Borlik wrote in the next day's paper. "More than a few Boston fans attempted to grab handfuls of sod, but thanks to the cold or successful groundskeeping, the turf didn't give. Perhaps the turf just didn't want to go to Boston."
"If last Saturday's Notre Dame win over Florida State rated as its 'Game of the Century,' this was Boston College's biggest moment since the Tea Party," Tribune sports writer David Haugh wrote.
It was BC's first-ever win over Notre Dame. Sports Illustrated devoted its next cover to the Eagles' victory.
The loss dropped Notre Dame to No. 4 in the ranking, pushing the Irish out of the running for that year's national championship title. Florida State defeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and claimed the national crown.
Holtz would remain Notre Dame's head coach through the 1996 season, but never again earned a chance at the national title.
BC would end the season with a 9-3 record. It would be the last season leading the Eagles for Coughlin. He is now head coach of the New York Giants, and led that team to victories in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI.