Dec. 29, 1983
MEMPHIS – Notre Dame risked being labeled a “Scrooge” by finally shedding its charitable image in the 1983 Liberty Bowl.
After literally giving away victory and a chance at a major bowl bid to Penn State and Air Force in the waning seconds of the last two games of the regular season, the Irish defense tightened its money clip and emphatically refused Boston College’s request for a 10-2 record and residency among the nation’s top 10 teams.
With just 1:08 left on the clock and the Irish clinging to a perilously slim 19-18 advantage, Boston College faced a crucial fourth-and-four situation at the Notre Dame 35-yard line. Quarterback Doug Flutie, the Eagles’ shifty 5-9 junior who already had completed 16 of 36 passes for 287 yards, was threatening to pull off another magical comeback.
But Flutie’s last attempt fell incomplete. The Notre Dame defense blitzed and forced Flutie, who had slipped on the frozen turf, to unload the ball a bit sooner than planned. Freshman cornerback Troy Wilson smothered intended receiver Joe Giaquinto, who dove for Flutie’s pass and missed.
The Irish took possession with just a minute left and needed only to run out the clock for the 19-18 victory in Memphis. The Notre Dame defense had clung to its final margin of victory for 22 minutes-an eternity for Irish players, coaches and fans who were shivering with the thought of deja vu.
Senior quarterback Blair Kiel, who was relegated to relief duties after the first three games of the season, regained the starting nod on the basis of his off-the-bench performance in the last game against Air Force. He responded by completing 11 of 19 passes for 151 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to freshman Alvin Miller.
Kiel’s accurate passing complemented Notre Dame’s two-pronged running attack which somehow managed to establish a strong footing on the icy field that was slippery between the hash marks and soft on the sides.
Instead of the usual I-formation, fullback Chris Smith and tailback Allen Pinkett shared time behind the huge Irish offensive line. The set-up was new, but the plays were the same. And the wrinkles caused the Eagle defense plenty of problems. Pinkett skated for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 28 carries, while it took Smith 18 tries to gain his personal best of 104 yards.
But despite the offensive displays of Flutie and Kiel and Company and the last-minute heroics of the Irish defense, the difference in the game proved to be Mike Johnston’s one successful extra point. His next two attempts were blocked, but he still fared better than the Eagles. Brian Waldron slipped on his only try and both two-point conversion attempts failed.
Flutie’s pinpoint passing (three completions for 64 yards) moved Boston College into the end zone in just seven plays after the opening kickoff. Flutie’s favorite receiver, Brian Brennan, dove for a 17-yard touchdown catch to put the Eagles on the board.
But the Irish came right back with a 15-play, 87-yard drive that consumed nearly eight minutes. On fourth and one, Pinkett crossed the goal line. Johnston kicked the only successful PAT of the evening and Notre Dame led 7-6.
Holding penalties thwarted Notre Dame’s next two scoring opportunities and nearly wiped out a third after Golic blocked a John Mihalik punt and Stacey Toran recovered at the Eagles’ six. But on third and 14, Kiel lofted a scoring pass to Miller, who had only caught two the entire season.
On their next possession, the Irish marched 53 yards in six plays as Pinkett scored from the three around right end. Notre Dame moved in front 19-6.
But Flutie got back on track after the ensuing kickoff with a 42-yard pass to fullback Bob Biestek. Three plays later he connected with flanker Gerard Phelan for a 28-yard touchdown.
The Irish opened the second half by driving to the Eagles’ 15 but were forced to give up the football when Pinkett was stopped short on fourth and one.
Flutie then directed the Eagles 85 yards downfield and tossed a three-yard scoring pass to tight end Scott Gieselman. But Tony Furjanic, Notre Dame’s defensive MVP with seven tackles and an interception, batted Flutie’s two-point conversion pass away from Gieselman, and the Irish were still ahead, 19-18.
Defensive Most Valuable Player
Tony Furjanic, Linebacker