Here us celebrate the silver Anniversary team, Holtz’ champion of the 1988 season.

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1987-Pre-Championship year Deja vu

1987 had ended with the taste of ashes. Stirring victories over Michigan, SC and Alabama raised wishes that to be dashed in stroked nerves season finishing losses to pen Stae in the cold that State College, to the Miami Hurricanes by shutout in the sunny Orange Bowl, and also then come Texas A&M in the cloudy noodle Bowl. In the 80’s the irish had made bowl heroes out of the formerly undistinguished Buck Belue of Georgia and also Bucky Richardson of the Aggies.

A new Offensive heat Coach

But Lou Holtz went back to occupational with a vengeance in the Spring. Lou to be comfortable v his quarterback, Tony Rice. That trusted defensive Coordinator Barry Alvarez. And also Lou had actually hired a brand-new Offensive heat Coach. His name was Joe Moore, and also well, Joe did not take a most time come “learn the Notre Dame culture.” Moore gained after it through vigor, best away, Camel dangling indigenous his lips.

Cerrato was liven recruiting, and also Lou had actually mentioned he might use some extra speed, so Vinnie, working east to west, stopped in Wilkes-Barre, more accustomed to creating those heavy of thigh rather than swift of foot, however he snagged a player through the surname of Raghib Ismail, nicknamed “Rocket.”

Nevertheless the schedule looked daunting.

Sure Michigan would certainly be comes to Soiuth Bend, but they had actually talent, and coming in top top the Ides that October were the Miami Hurricanes and also the irascible, contemptuous, unctuous Jimmy Johnson. The 1988 continuous season would finish in the Coliseum, where Rodney Peete was getting ready to command the Trojans come glory.

Sheesh! Miami had actually lost just one game, an upset to penn State in Tempe, because Johnson’s second year. They were the defending nationwide Champions.

Spring Promise

Lou choose the way his team looked in the Spring. The attack line to be responding, in a fashion, come Joe Moore. Andy Heck, just moved end from TE, was flourishing as the tackle opposite Dean Brown. Two kids from Catholic schools, Tim Grunhard from St. Laurence, and also Tim Ryan from Rockhurst in Kansas City, were the guards flanking Mike Heldt. But Moore preferred to have depth, and also would have actually players choose Mike Brennan and Joe Allen ready to go. Through mid-October, this would be important.

Tony Rice was now comfortable after ’87’s baptism through fire, and also Braxston Banks and also Anthony Johnson were now the junior stabilizing pressures with Mark environment-friendly with the hotshot sophs Tony Brooks and Ricky Watters. Watters would additionally spend time as a wideout v Yalie play Eilers and Steve Alaniz. Derek Brown to be a thoroughbred in ~ Tight End.

Lou feeling comfortable with what Alvarez was structure on the protective side of the ball.

Chris Zorich, indigenous CVS best there ~ above the Chicago Skyway, having actually lifted weights (lots the them) and gotten acclimated as a freshman in ’87, was all set to go at nose Guard. He to be flanked by George Williams and also rawboned Jeff Alm. The irish nominally played a 4-3, but converted fullback frank Stams regularly had his hand top top the ground. There was brand-new founded athleticism at outside linebacker wit Andre Jones, flash Gordon and also mercurial freshman Arnold Ale. Ned Bolcar was one tough inside linebacker but had to be a back-up behind stalwarts Wes Pritchett and Mike Stonebreaker.

The secondary was the best the Irish had actually had in a while. Todd Lyght to be an All-America candidate at cornerback. Opposite swift Stan Smagala. George Streeter began at safety opposite converted receiver pat Terrell, through Corny Southall the command backup. Lou and also Alvarez invested some time mentioning Stams and Terrell and their change from the attack side that the ball. Alvarez thought not only that the relocate would no be problematic, but also that either or both can be playmakers. Boy! Howdy!


At Notre Dame, the is special when a freshman just takes the practice field by storm. Browner and Bradley had, Bobby Taylor later did, and also yes, Virginia, Ron Powlus, pre-collarbone injury, would in the following decade.. However this man made people stop and also look once he was going to it is in in the action. Rocket Ismail to be the faster human ever before to play in ~ Notre Dame, he was elusive, and he loved the game. Rocket Ismail no only had “it” he to be “it.”


There were wonderful undercurrents once Bo play Holtz. He and also Lou had been assistants, at different times, under Woody Hayes.

This was a great Michigan team. While that would begin out 0-2, the 2 losses would certainly be come Notre Dame and also Miami,and the Wolverines would not shed again, consisting of a season-ending increased Bowl success over USC.

Then over there was another factor. Bo was, in 1988, in his 20th year together coach that the Maize and Blue and also one the his specialties was not shedding to the same team in continuous years. It had actually happened to Bo and also Michigan only three times, in ’75 and also ’82 come Ohio State and also in ’85 to Iowa. The Irish had beaten Michigan soundly, 26-7, in Ann Arbor in 1987. And Bo wanted no repeat that that.

The Irish acquired the early on edge on a Lou Holtz specialty, a special teams touchdown.. Will-of the-wisp Ricky Watters snaked throughthe Wolverine punting team because that an electrifying 81 yard TD. Climate Reggie Ho, all 5’5″ of him, included a ar goal and the Irish had a 10-0 lead. The ireland ground game, in their an initial outing under Joe Moore’s raspy-throated leadership, maintained penetrating into Michigan territory, however could not punch the ball into the end-zone. But it to be close enough for Reggie Ho, and he kicked one more Field Goal for a 13-0 lead.

The game was a rarely night video game in southern Bend and also the faithful tried to find Wolverine blood on the moon. But Bo was having none ot it.. The Wolverines stormed back on a Tony Boles kickoff return and a 1 garden plunge by Leroy Hoard, and then, early in the 3rd quarter, a one garden TD run by Mike Taylor. Suddenly, Michigan had actually a 14-13 lead. There were lumps in the throats of the irish fans in the stands, however not in the throats of the irish players.

Ho notched his third field goal early on in the 4th quarter and the irish led 16-14.. If the young ireland line to be paving the method for 222 rushing yards ~ above the day, Michigan preserved generating some offense, and Mike Gilette notched a field goals in the see-saw battle for a 17-16 Maize and Blue lead.

The ireland doggedly soil on because that Ho’s fourth ar goal and a 19-17 ireland lead with 1:13 left. Michigan take it the occurring kickoff and had a furious rally yet could not acquire close enough and also Gilette’s long, late field goal attempt to be wide. Final score: Notre Dame 19-Michigan 17. The ireland were 1-0. Whew!

But We have to Play Miami!?!

Everyone’s eyes turned come October 15, 1988. Miami and Jimmy Johnson. The Canes had actually Steve Walsh, Randall Hill, Russell Maryland, Cleveland Gary, plunder Chudzinski, Greg Mark, Randy Shannon, boy name “Tiger” Clark, and a male named Maurice Crum. The Hurricanes had damaged Notre Dame in your last four meetings through a merged total of 132-20. Ol’ harbor Arthur Jimmy, high institution classmate the Janis Joplin, had actually that smirk, and also the talent to ago it up.

Oh, the Florida State Seminoles were ranked #1 in the preseason polls. The ‘Noles celebrated with typical class and grace, do a laboratory video. Then, in the Orange Bowl, Miami did your rap, wrapping the ‘Noles in a 31-0 beating. But the ‘Noles will always have that rap video!!

Building on Michigan

The Irish following traveled to east Lansing to fulfill the Spartans, and confront George Perles’ lovely stunt 4-3. The Spartans eked out an early field goal because that a 3-0 lead. When Holtz readjusted his plays come Perles’ defense, the irish were able come “eke” also, gaining two an ext field purposes from Reggie Ho because that a 6-3 halftime lead. Ho had now accounted for the last 6 Notre Dame scores. Holtz marhaled his troops in ~ halftime and also the irish generated practically 200 yards rushing yards in the 2nd half, v Rice streaking in native the 8 in the third quarter because that a 13-3 functioning margin. Holtz inserted his new weapon, Rocket Ismail together an end on the punt block team. Punting block, not punt return. For this reason Ismail clogged the punt!!

Alvarez’ defense held true and also Mike Stonbreaker ceded the dagger come Sparty through a 39 garden interception return because that a clinching touchdown in the 4th quarter and the final 20-3 margin.

The Linebacker Illuminati assembled, bellied as much as the bar, and also declared, after 2 games, the irish offense ~ above life support.

Then we played Purdue, ago in southern Bend. Notre Dame 52-Purdue 7, embarassing both the Boilers and the besotted Illuminati. An ext significantly, there was one play the made irish fans speak “It’s various this time.” v Notre Dame sharp through a 14-0 lead at the finish of the very first quarter, the worry was however in doubt. Climate Rice tossed to Rocket Ismail because that a 54 garden touchdown pass. Oh, yeah! The ireland rang the bell three much more times in the 2nd quarter because that a 42-0 halftime lead.

Staying home, the irish entertained Stanford, coached by Jack Elway, more detailed as a sire than as a football coach. The irish offense had actually now hit its stride and also had Stanford by 28-7 at halftime prior to closing the transaction at 42-14. Rice appeared to be enhancing as a passer.

The Irish had just one an ext game before Miami, a expedition to Pittsburgh to play Mike Gottfried’s Panthers. For the very first time, the ireland were facing really athletic quarterback, Darnell Dickerson. He to be big, elusive and also could reset and throw the sphere the couple of times he was flushed from the pocket. Alvarez’ defense to be no an enig to Dickerson and Gottrfried, and the ireland offense, additional by the continuous Ho’s late field goal, offered Notre Dame a concerned 17-14 lead at halftime in merganser Pitt Stadium.

Pitt never ever rolled over, however the Notre Dame defense tightened in the second half and organized the Panthers come two ar goals while touchdowns through Braxston banks in the third quarter and also steady Mark eco-friendly in the 4th quarter brought the irish the 30-20 win. The an excellent news was the the irish were 5-0 because that the very first time because 1980, Devine’s critical year. The other an excellent news was that the Pitt outing would not leaving the ireland overconfident because that Miami.

Build Up

There was a swirl that emotions ~ above the Notre Dame campus, not all of them good. The later on banned ” “Catholics matches Convicts” t-shirts to be a big seller.

Miami would certainly be getting here with great players, swagger and a 36 game continuous season to win streak. And also a head coach who just loved the attention of being a lightning rod. It to be the an initial big game on the campus due to the fact that the 1980 Michigan game and would be for the pole place in the polls. In ~ Notre Dame, win is both expected and traditional. Yet there is nothing the gets the juices flow in the Notre Dame neighborhood quite favor being the underdog in a big game. And also Louis Leo Holtz, one underdog his entirety life, loved gift thrown right into the briar patch from whence underdogs sprang.

Warming up on the field that day to be Maurice Crum, a linebacker from Miami, and Andre Jones, one OLB because that Notre Dame. Later, each had a child who would certainly play for Notre Dame.

Miami always came alive on the roadway trying to get in the very first intimidation and pushing the house fans back in your seats. During the pre-game warmups the Canes ran v the Notre Dame team and bumped right into a number of Notre Dame players. Push me, support you, eh? Well, there were fisticuffs in the North finish Zone. It was a pair gusher of testosterone and adrenaline.

In the locker room, Holtz gained sanctimonious and also warned his players about fighting and threatened dismissal if anyone brawled.But, never one to let a crisis go come waste (cf. OU-Arkansas 1977, ND-SC later in the year-Brooks/Watters) Holtz readily available thatif Miami started a fight after the game, the it was fair video game for the ireland to hit back-and win, topic to one proviso-“Save Jimmy Johnson for me.” The football player went ballistic and also left the locker room and also charged onto the field. The method Lou currently retells the story is that he was not concluded through his pregame remarks. Nevertheless, the squad rushed out, touched the sign, exited the tunnel………

Oct. 15, 1988

Bright, sunny, football time in Michiana. The campus had that distinct aura, the aroma the a stew the equal components adrenaline,vitriol and anticipation that had actually been simmering every week. These were no the tickets you provided away come the dentist or doctor. These to be the ones you kept.

The Fighting ireland drew an initial blood, with Stams slapping the ball out that Walsh’s hand, however the Irish could not convert.

But the ireland were attacking, and later scored the an initial touchdwon that the game on a Tony Rice keeper from 7 yards out, following good blocks by the right side the the line and a well block by Tony Brooks—for a 7-0 first quarter lead.

The Canes struck back in the 2nd quarter top top a brief pass indigenous Walsh come Andre Brown to node the score in ~ 7.

In the second quarter the Irish had the finest of the for many of the quarter, v a long 57 yard pass to Ismail setup up a drive capped by a nine yard happen from Rice ~ above a delay to Braxston banks for the score. Later, the cavern family the Mishawaka would certainly name their baby boy “Braxston” after Banks. No a lot of of human being in Mishawaka called “Braxston.!!” 14-7 Irish.

Then came the play that resulted in the greatest eruption in Notre Dame Stadium because the green jersey entry of ’77. It to be cooked up by the two defenders who had converted from offense Walsh reduce back, greatly harassed by frank Stams obtained a tiny too lot air under the ball and swooping in, with a receiver’s stride, hands and fluidity, play Terrell snatched the ball out that the air, and raced right into the southern eend zone from 60 yards out and a magnificent and delirious 21-7 lead. The rout was on! Or not.

People who had actually watched Miami come back in Ann Arbor for a 31-30 success by overcoming a 30-14 deficit through 5 minute to go, then experienced deja vu. Johnson and Walsh turned up the jets and put increase 14 points versus a proud Notre Dame defense in just 2 minutes and also 30 seconds. The score to be 21-21 at the half, and serious, no morose, fans wandered the concourse in ~ halftime. Jaws were clenched. The game was living approximately the buildup. And then some.

Nervous, yet excited fans filed ago into the stands. Us belonged ~ above the same ar with the mighty Canes. But they sure belonged ~ above the field with Notre Dame.

Midway v the third quarter, Johgnson allow impatience and also hubris gain the finest of him. V a fourth and also three at his very own 46, Johnson saw an old standby, the fake punt. Yet you don’t outwit Lou Holtz on unique teams, and also indeed, the team did “save Jimmy Johnson because that me.” Miami fans love come yak around the Cleveland Gary play, but this was the fulcrum the the second half. The fake punt. That Notre Dame stuffed.

Seizing the moment, top top the next play, Rice went long to Watters come the 3 garden line. Then, top top the following play beat Eilers, the mystery weapon, dove in indigenous the three. Punched that in. Irish 28-Canes 21. Holtz, five years later, would use this “unexpected weapon” ploy in a big game sending little-used Adrian Jarrell approximately right end on a thirty garden reverse against Florida State.

Later in the third quarter, Jeff Alm dropped right into a lane and intercepted a pass, and the irish marched down close sufficient for a Reggie Ho field goal together the third quarter waned because that a 31-21 lead.

With about 2 minutes gone in the fourth, Carlos Huerta kicked a fild goal from 23 yards and it to be Notre Dame 31-Miami 24.

Miami drove and with 6 minutes left, to be knocking on the door, and also Walsh tossed come Cleveland Gary who shed the ball and also it to be ruled a fumble with Notre Dame recovering at its 1.

With a small over 3 minutes left, Stams banged Walsh again, forcing a fumble i beg your pardon Zorich recovered. However Rice, under duress indigenous future Cane coach Randy Shannon, coughed increase the sphere inside the 20.

Time had seemed to stop. The video game clock seemed as gooey and gelatinous together Dali’s famous clock.

With 45 secs left, as he had for Miami’s first score, Walsh hit Andre Brown because that an 11 garden touchdown Notre Dame 31, Miami 30.

Moment of truth. 2 allude conversion. It seemed that destiny compelled this moment. 59,075 on their feet. George Williams pressured Steve Walsh, and also Pat Terrell conveniently batted the round away from Leonard Conley.

The irish ran it the end after the onside kick to be recovered by south Bend Adams’ Anthony Johnson.

The irish fans to be delirious. The streak was over. Johnson and also the Canes had been defeated. They remained in the parties and also the bars, and also a how amazing number looked up in ~ the TV display that night to see Kirk Gibson’s marvelous residence run against Rollie Fingers and also the A’s Scully offered “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened” One quote, twin application.

The Irish continued to job-related through the schedule with a month to go before the third head that the three headed monster on the consistent season schedule, (USC, in the Coliseum, adhering to Michigan and also Miami)

Air pressure came in to south Bend and the offense, relishing the possibility to play versus a defense much less stellar than the Canes, rolling easily and won 41-13.

The letdown came the complying with week against Navy in rickety old Memorial stadium in Baltimore. In a desultory, however WINNING performance, the irish squeaked by, 22-7, validating Holtz’ mantra “I’m fear to death of the college of Navy.” That very evening, unbeaten UCLA dropped to Washington State, clearing the logjam because that the USC-Notre Dame video game Thanksgiving weekend in Los Angeles.

Rice come in the following week, and the Irish collection two special team records. One make Holtz chortle with glee, the other made the gag. Rocket Ismail lugged two kickoffs earlier for a touchdown, tyng a Notre Dame record set by Paul Castner in 1922 against mighty Kalamazoo. The ireland were in gear, and also led 31-6 in ~ the half, finishing through a 54-11 win.

The ireland rushing attack for the year was balanced, and the season finish totals would present Rice with 700 yards, Brooks through 667 and Green v 646. Johnson, Culver and also Banks would all sirloin for much more than 100 yards.

In the 4th quarter after an additional Irish touchdown, Rice clogged the extra point, and also Billy rock took it into the Notre Dameend zone because that 2 points, the an initial such defensive conversion for 2 in NCAA history. Holtz was much less than excited through enteringthe record book in this way.

Penn State was an elderly Day, and also the Nits put up the normal fight, gift outgained 502-179, yet being begrudging top top the scoreboard.Rice score in the first quarter, Mark environment-friendly in the seond, and also a last second field score by penn State make the halftime score Notre Dame 14-Penn State 3. In the third quarter Rice tossed a 67 yarder to Ismail, and the last margin was 21-3.

The ireland were 10-0, and so were the USC Trojans, Pac-X champion , rose Bowl bound, who had ridden Rodney Peete’s arm to outscore enemies 346-135. Never prior to in the grand and glorious history of Rock’s creation, football’s biggest intersectional rivalry, had actually the foes in the USC-ND video game been ranked #1 and #2. Now, in 1988, castle were.


“Die Hard” was the peak movie in 1988 and Los Angelenos assumed the Coliseum to be Nakitomi Plaza, that Larry Smith to be Bruce Willis’ john McClain and that Lou Holtz would wind up like Hans Gruber..

“Objective” Keith Jackson was calling the game.

Lou, in a move evocative that his player suyspensions before the Arakansas OU video game in the the 78 Orange Bowl, sent Ricky Watters and also Tony Brooks after they to be late for a meeting. Lou’s way or the highway!

Early in the game, with the ireland backed increase in their own end zone, Rice went earlier deep right into the finish zone and uncorked a beatury come Ismail, putting the ireland out of harms way. “Objective” Keith Jackson gained apoplectic and insisted that Rice was out of the finish zone. “Hatred renders you blind, Keith!” and he maintained insisting ~ above it!!

With the video game less 보다 5 minutes old, Holtz referred to as a bread and butter play, the option to the left. The vaunted USC sirloin defense got captured napping, with mark Carrier confronting two players, mark Green and Rice. Carrier, caught between Scylla and also Charybdis, decided Mark Green and also Rice sauntered in 65 yards for the 7-0 lead. Later on in the quarter the ireland marched to the USC score line and Mark environment-friendly punched it in because that the 14-0 lead. The just mammal in Trojan colors pleased at this time was Traveler, who hadn’t yet broken a sweat.

Lat in the second quarter the Trojans punched in their very first score ~ above a brief run through Scott Lockwood. The scoreboard adjusted to Notre Dame 14-USC 7 as Traveler executed the haughty steed prance.

The Trojans swiftly obtained the ball ago and the crowd roared for your hero Peete come tie the game. Rodney Peete-meet Stan Smagala. St., Laurence Stan do a perfect read, intercepted the ball, and then snaked his means through the befuddled Trojan offense for a 64 yard TD. Stan was aided through a decleating block by open minded Stams on Peete. 20-7 Notre Dame at the half.

In the 2nd half, defenses prevailed and also the Notre Dame defense held the mighty Trojans to simply a 3rd quarter field goal.Early in the 4th quarter, v the Irish now wearing down the Trojans, senior Mark environment-friendly dashed in from the 1 garden line, and also it to be 27-10 Irish. The glum Trojan faithful exited and also headed to Julie’s come drown their national championship sorrow.

The ireland were unbeaten. The ireland were #1!

Notre Dame matches West Virginia-Fiesta Bowl

West Virginia had had a magical unbeaten season under Don Nehlen. Through cannon-armed and also swift-footed significant Harris, recruited indigenous Pittsburgh, operation behind a huge, veteran offensive line, the Mountaineers had put up 472 point out in 11 games, over 42 a game. They had actually hung 59 ~ above Boston College and 51 on typically stingy penn State. The Irish had actually struggled through Darnell Dickerson. Harris was a level above.

Lou Holtz was born in Follansbee, West Virginia. He knew the state, that knew the culture, that knew a little about the option. That knew just how Nehlen and the Mountaineers would certainly come in ~ him. Lou would be ready and would ensure that his team would be. The irish had dominated Michigan, Miami and USC. A let down was not in the cards.

Stams nailed significant Harris early, steering him right into the ground. Harris injured his shoulder. The ireland were methodical and also inevitable. They began slowly, driving for a 45 yard ar goal by Billy Hackett. Later in the an initial quarter, the Irish got a 1 yard plunge from secure Anthony Johnson, but, as often happened in ’88, the extra point was missed. Notre Dame 9-WVU 0 at the quarter break.

The Irish preserved grinding, and moved down for a 5 yard running TD by Rodney Culver. 16-0. The Mountaineers acquired their an initial score, yet a only 29 yard ar goal. Alvarez’ defense to be swarming and was swifter come the sidline 보다 the Mounties. Then Rice threw a beautiful crossing sample to Rocket Ismail because that a 29 yard TD pass and also a 23-3 lead. Baumann of the Mountaineers included a field goal before halftime and also the Fiesta bowl scoreboard read: Notre Dame 23-West Virginia 6.

The ireland just had to hang on in the 2nd half. Ho addedd a field goal for a 26-6 margin, however the Mounties fought earlier and Harris fight Grantis Bell because that a TD pass and a 26-13 irish lead. The concern was still, technically, in doubt, yet the irish responded and also early in the 4th quarter Rice found Frank Jacobs alone in the end zone because that a TD pass. Rice ran in the two point conversions and also it was a clinching 34-13. WVU score late for the 34-21 final.

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The irish were national Champions of 1988. Holtz’ long odyssey from West Virginia come Kent State come Ohio State to William and also Mary come NC State come the jet to Arkansas come Minnesota had actually wound increase in south Bend, and the national Championship Trophy for 1988 wound up over there too.

25 year ago. This season, in part fashion, Notre Dame will certainly celebrate the silver Anniversary of this team. We should too!