Dec. 29, 1984
HONOLULU – It had all the earmarks of a classic Notre Dame comeback. In fact, the Irish already had done it once that day-rebounding from a quick 14-0 deficit to tie the contest at 17 heading into the final period of the Aloha Bowl against SMU.
This time, the Ponies had grabbed a 27-17 advantage with 6:13 remaining. With SMU expecting a pass, Notre Dame ran nine straight times in a 2:57 period before John Carney’s 31-yard field goal at the 3:15 mark.
The Irish defense then did the job, halting Reggie Dupard on a third-and-four attempt from the SMU 26. Mike Kovaleski stopped him after only a single yard.
After SMU’s punt, quarterback Steve Beuerlein went to work from the Irish 23 with 2:42 left on the clock. Beuerlein had thrown only 12 passes to that point in the game. He would throw 11 in the next 2:19, almost enough for a patented Notre Dame finish. But he finished one short.
A second down Beuerlein run for 14 yards gave the Irish a first down at the SMU 17. Mark Bavaro grabbed a first-down pass for one yard and the clock kept moving. On second down, Beuerlein’s throw for Joe Howard near the goal line caught Howard leaning the wrong direction. On third down, Beuerlein threw for Tim Brown, only to have the ball tipped into the air and knocked to the ground by SMU safety Tim Green. On fourth down, Beuerlein scrambled out of the pocket to his right and found Milt Jackson open in the end zone.
For the 10th-ranked Mustangs, it marked the moment of their 27-20 victory. Beuerlein’s throw was just past the outstretched hands of Jackson with 23 seconds remaining.
SMU took advantage of its quickness to put touchdowns on the board on its initial two possessions.
Junior quarterback Don King threw for 24 yards on the first SMU play from scrimmage, then Dupard ran for 11 yards the next down. A sprained ankle quickly put Dupard on the sidelines, but it mattered little. Sophomore Jeff Atkins-who eventually earned the offensive MVP award-caught a key 16-yard pass on third down and eventually scored on a seven-yard run.
The next time they had the ball, the Mustangs drove 80 yards in 14 plays-with King throwing to Cobby Morrison for a 21-yard score. King made the key play of that drive, throwing for 21 yards to Ron Morris on a third-and-18 call from the Irish 29.
Brown returned the SMU kickoff 53 yards to the SMU 47 – and Pinkett went to work. He carried five times down to the Pony 17 before catching a pass from Beuerlein in the end zone for the touchdown. The Irish defense held this time, and Notre Dame again went to work.
Starting from their own 15, the Irish had a 27-yard pass to Alonzo Jefferson nullified by clipping. Still, they came right back with a 15-yarder to Bavaro plus a facemask violation against SMU-then a 28-yard shovel pass to Jefferson. Another key stop of Jefferson on third and two by SMU halted the march-but Carney connected from 51 yards (the longest of his career and an Aloha Bowl record) to make it 14-10. SMU scored the final points of the half on a 47-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining to make it 17-10 at the break.
Notre Dame was able to force Mustang punts on the first three possessions of the second half, but the Irish couldn’t take advantage until the third try. Pinkett ran off gains of 11 and 13 yards, and Mark Brooks finally took it in from 11 for a 17-17 tie with 2:10 left in the third period.
SMU came right back to take the lead on an agonizingly long, 19-play drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock. The Ponies did it the hard way, with Dupard twice converting on fourthdown runs after SMU reached the Notre Dame 25. Brandy Brownlee’s 30-yard field goal made it 20-17 with 11:47 left in the game.
The Mustangs needed seven running plays to score what appeared to be the clinching touchdown. Atkins took a pitch for 22 yards and Dupard added 11 before Dupard’s eventual two-yard scoring run.