Post-Holtz Era Fans Too Young To Remember 1988 Game

Irish fans under the age of 30 may be too young to remember the success of the Holtz years.

If there’s one thing I’ve always been fairly protective of, it’s my earliest memories of Notre Dame football. It’s not that there’s anything special to them – in fact, it’s the exact opposite.  As an ND fan that truly came of age in the post-Holtz era, my worry has involved the sharing of some of my earlier Notre Dame memories would lead to my being ostracized by the ND community, and potentially banned from supporting the team.

The very first Notre Dame game I attended was notable for lots of reasons. I had won a candy bar selling contest at my Catholic elementary school that resulted in four tickets, enough for my entire family. I was proud of my achievement. And why shouldn’t I be excited? Notre Dame was on the verge of a national championship. After all, how hard would it be to beat Boston College after taking down the unbeatable Florida State Seminoles? That’s right – my first ND game was the 1993 Boston College game, the game that cost Notre Dame a national title, and a game that many pundits have since said ultimately ended Notre Dame’s era as a powerhouse in college football.

And I heard it from my father all the way back on our drive to our hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. “In all my years of going to Notre Dame games, I’ve never seen the Irish lose at Notre Dame Stadium! Never!”

“Take it easy on him,” my mother said, trying to intervene on my behalf.

“No! I’ve never seen them lose, and his first game they not only lost, but it cost us a national championship!” my father countered. Not being one to back down even as a child, I couldn’t help but point out the obvious: my father wouldn’t have even had tickets to the game if not for my candy bar-selling prowess. As you can tell, it was an interesting car ride home, and those arguments have spilled over and continued for another 19 years.

So how has it felt being a Notre Dame fan who doesn’t really remember Holtz? Who came of age watching Davie, Willingham, O’Leary (I’m counting him to show what I’ve had to deal with) and Weis? How do you think it feels? It’s been flippin’ terrible. There’s a generational gap amongst Notre Dame fans, with those like me who have experienced nothing but failed expectations and disappointment, and those like my parents, who have seen numerous national titles. And I’m jealous of those older Irish fans to an unhealthy degree.

A perfect symbol of the disparity between generations of Irish fans arrives this week courtesy of the Miami Hurricanes. I remember very, very little about the 1988 national championship season due to my youth, but the memories I have all involve the Miami Hurricanes. I remember the unabashed exuberance from my parents after ND defeated the #1 Miami Hurricanes 31-30 in a game the USA Today has called one of the greatest collegiate football games ever played, and I recall it lasted far beyond that Saturday. For weeks after the game my parents re-watched the contest on our newfangled VCR that had a remote control so you wouldn’t have to manually rewind (ah, the luxuries of the 1980s). And, to this day, my mother does a flawless impression of former Miami Hurricanes head coach Jimmy Johnson jumping around, shouting, “First down!” while he argued with an official that Miami running back Cleveland Gary had earned a critical first down on a 4th and 7, despite officials ruling he had fumbled the ball.

What I’m jealous of the most is the passion that resulted from the Miami Hurricane/ND series.  If you simply say the phrase “31-30”, not only will older Notre Dame fans know exactly what you’re referencing, but their eyes will light up in the process. They each have their own unique story about the infamous ’88 contest, and all have described just how intense the rivalry truly was. Growing up in Michigan, there isn’t a game I get “up” for more than when the Irish and Wolverines butt heads, but I have never witnessed a rivalry so bitter and passionate that the urge to jump into a brawl – as many older fans have related to me – like Miami and ND’s players did before the 1988 game was present. And I definitely am jealous to not have been able to experience a rivalry that ferocious in my lifetime.

As a post-Holtz era Irish fan, my connection with the Miami rivalry has had to rely on war stories from a different generation of Notre Dame fans, though I do have one personal experience. I was fortunate enough to have former Notre Dame safety and hero of the 1988 game, Pat Terrell, sign a picture of his swat that broke up the potential game-winning two point conversion for the Miami Hurricanes. He was nice enough to sign his name and write a motivational quote, telling me to never give up on my dreams. I had a second picture of his infamous play and a friend who’s a diehard Miami Hurricanes fan, and I thought my friend
would get a kick out of a Pat Terrell autograph. And, sure enough, Terrell was a great sport and agreed to the signature. But instead of a motivational quote, he placed a special message next to his signature for my Miami Hurricane friend:

“Sorry for ruining your dreams. –Pat Terrell, ’88 National Champions.”

It is, to this day, the best autograph I’ve seen anyone give anywhere, and my Miami Hurricane friend loved it. He has it hanging in his living room, even now.

The passion, intensity and hatred may not exist the way it did 24 years ago. But for a Notre Dame fan from the post-Holtz era, this Saturday night’s game at Soldier Field between the Irish and Hurricanes represents an opportunity to see my generation add to the rivalry’s legacy.

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  1. Well then….

    Someday the folks at espn are going to realize how ridiculous they sound when they spend the whole week telling everybody that team “x” has too many athletes for ND to handle. News flash boys, that ship has sailed! I hope every team left on the schedule goes into the game against ND thinking they can out-athlete us. Good luck, but I think you’ll be leaving the field rather disappointed. Ask those miami guys about how athletic this ND team is. Ask the safety who had an angle on GAIII only to be left choking on the vapor trail! Ask Johnny Adams from msu how athletic cierre wood is. If he can pick the turf out of his teeth from getting made to look like a 7th grader when wood stiff armed him. Or perhaps the navy qb and rb who got outran 77 yds by a 6-6 300lb d-lineman. Yea yea it was navy but that is still pretty ridiculous. Go ahead espn, keep disrespecting our boys and they will continue to destroy your credibility. All while Irish eyes are smiling.

    CHOP THOSE TREES!!!!!!!!

  2. This year’s game was basically just a smack down. But it was a message that ND is back to being ND, a team that will not underachieve and we hope will over achieve.

    But the contests of the 80’s bear mentioning so that folks can understand why ND is what it is. We’re not arrogant, we’re passionate. We’re not about basking in our glory, we’re about representing our faith, religious tradition, family, and heritage with pride. All of us as one. The football team embodies that. All of us as one.

    Notre Dame – Our Mother, that is Mary the Mother of God. Lou always reminded everyone of that.

    Miami of the 1980s and 1990s. A football program rife with scandals and lowered ethical standards. Gangland hoods who brought the hood to college football. College football has not been the same since. Consider Michael Irvin and his record. We always called Miami, the Drug school, Columbia Cartel North. Their gangster facade in the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State was just one example. For us, the infamaous last Gerry Faust game was another. Just like the US Army running up the score in 1945, Miami did in 1985. The US Army has not won a war outright, ( truly ), nor has Miami maintained it’s swagger since those days.

    We considered the 1988 game a true war of good versus evil. Michael Irvin recently referred to the fact that our guys were just as bad on the field as they were. We think of how our guys acted off the field, versus how their guys acted off the field. Our guys went to class and did not sell drugs. We think their guys did not go to class and did sell drugs and pack weapons.

    Beating Miami was like the US Hockey team beating the Soviets. It made you believe that good could triumph over evil. People lament Notre Dame and Michigan not playing like that is some major rivalry. I just don’t feel it, even though Michigan fans bug me in their arrogance. UfoM is a decent if academically overrated undergraduate school, but not really that special. Notre Dame’s best rivalries are against schools who cheat. Take USC. Since Mike Garrett and Pete Carroll sold out ethics for wins, ND fans really hate USC and want to triumph over their evil. Those are the games that mean something.

    The 1988 game had more collective positive energy than almost any experience since for me. You could use that experience to remind you of good things later in life. Hopefully some of you young people will have an experience cheering for Notre Dame. That’s what makes Notre Dame special.

  3. Miami may have been worn out,but Cam was impressive. He runs as hard as anyone and has a can’t be taken down easily attitude. I agree, he could play for lots of div one schools and start.

    Some of us have been selling patience with BK. The man needed time to get the right players, in position and depth and a QB that was solid. Done and done. There will still be some downs with this team, but overall this may have been ND’s best game since BK got to town. EG is going to get a lot better and when he does, look out.

  4. Kelly finally pulls head out of A#$ and give Cierre Wood the bulk of the carries. Cam was fun to watch at the end of the game but keep in mind that came against a worn out and frustrated defense. Move Riddick back to receiver and make Cierre Wood the feature back. Maybe I dont get it but Riddick really hasnt looked that good at running back.

    1. No Jeff, this game wasn’t about Kelly pulling his head out of his a$$. This was about the offensive line pulling their heads out of their a$$es since the Navy game. Atkinson had a better night than Wood. McDaniel probably would have had a 100 yards as well – had he played the whole night.

      This game came down to two things – the offensive line and defense. Call me crazy, but I’ve watched/listened to every Notre Dame game since 1995. I’ve seen a lot. But I have not seen a defense like this out of Notre Dame. I was too young when ND was in the heyday of the Holtz era.

      But make no mistake, this is a Top 10 team . . .

      1. I agree the offensive line had a huge night and long overdue. If you are insinuating that GA3 and Cam get the bulk of the carries over Cierre Wood than i strongly disagree. Dont get me wrong i believe GA3 and Cam are huge assets and should get there touches im just surprised its taken so long for Wood to get his. The defense is playing unbelievable. Time to beatdown Stanford.

    2. Wood hasn’t been in the mix because up to this point he has been in the coaches dog house repeatedly. Kelly has made that clear. Hansen in the sbt said he was in there again as recently as last weekend.

  5. Cam McDaniel would no doubt be a starter on 80%-90% of all FBS teams!

    Did Theo Riddick play yesterday? Did I miss an injury report on him?

    Loaded backfield for years to come!

    Plus a great haul of O linemen this recruiting cycle.

  6. Great game! I know I said in the article that I don’t really remember the Miami series, and I don’t, but I sure feel as though that Miami pounding was a long time coming. And it feels even better when I hear older Irish fans say they now feel vindicated after the 1985 game.

  7. Cam McDaniel running into the end zone was the best moment in Chicago sports this year. Run Cam Run. This kid can play and i cant wait for him to get more opportunities to carry the rock

  8. Finally, the Zone Read with Golson

    Just another thing for Stanford to prepare for

    ESPN College Gameday at South Bend

    Next week is going to be fun

  9. What a night. What a beautiful nite.

    2 sad revelations though. If we get by Stanturd and Oklahomer there will actually be a game where I want USCum to win (vs Oregon).

    And we may as well say goodbye to Diaco. Any team with a head coach job open would be crazy not to come calling.


  10. Probably the best game this season. The OL showed up, front 7 continue to build and good adjusting by Diaco in the 2nd half. It was good to see CW & GA-3 have good nights, but, I really like how Cam came into the game and played like a game buster in that last offensive series. Good hard running on his part. EG played well and it was nice to see him run the ball too. I initially thought he was suspended for the whole game, glad he wasn’t. Stanford is next and it will be a test. One game at a time.

    A big gold & blue tsunami continues to form and get bigger. Haven’t been this excited since the Holtz years. GOOOOOOOO IRISSHHHHHHHHHHH

  11. Best game I have witnessed since Lou….defense DID make adjustments in 2nd half, offenseive line deserves game ball, Golson was friggin awesome, accurate like a laser, and most importantly, the Irish played for 60 minutes!!!!! The defense is for real!!! – damn, they could go undefeated and I am telling anyone one that wants to listen…we are witnessing something special!
    EVERY national championship season was led by a dominant defense.
    And last but not least – how about them Irish and how about #33!!! GO IRISH!

    1. Kudos Chris,

      WOW, this is the most excited I’ve seen you in 5 years!

      Well, what’s not to like in this display of power coupled with a serious team mojo begining to develop.

      I just want to kick Stanford’s AZZ at Home. EG needs put on the same display at home.

      However, Stanford a much tougher challenge. Huge confidence builder!

      Here come the Irish!

      1. Still on top of the world this morning. Man what a game! Dominated the
        Hurricanes! I was really conceredn with the secondary first quarter but with the luck of the
        Irish and some major adjustments they ended up covering really well! Of course finally a pass rush late in the 3rd helped tremendously. Loved the power running game! Ate up time – ball control and a friggin 41-3 WIN GO IRISH!!!!

  12. Ditto!

    Can someone explain to me our punt and kick-off retrun formations and strategies? Will we ever again return a punt for any meaningful yards?

  13. I’ve had the complete opposite experience. My first season following the Irish was also Lou’s first (1986), and as I grew up just assumed the national championships and dominance would continue to flow. Sadly, it’s been a long, continuous WTF for me since Holtz left. Hopefully, this is the season it turns around.

  14. That was a great article It’s been way too long ago that I had a feeling like that when ND beat Miami. I was reminded of another game like that when during this seasons game vs. Michigan. The announcer recalled the Clements to Weber pass in the game against Alabama. This time it was Rees to Eifert. I watched that Alabama game in my basement family room as a 12 year old and jumped up and when I did that punched a little whole in the ceiling.

    How I wish I could get as emotional as I used to get. 24 years of mediocrity is way too long. As one who lived in Cincinnati I saw what Brian Kelly can do and we will be there soon. When he was hired I predicted that in 3 years ND would play for a national title. Not sure that’s going to happen but you never know because our defense is so good.

  15. this has nothing to do with this post, but it cracks me up. It is from ESPN.

    Ohio State third-string quarterback Cardale Jones made his feelings about attending classes clear Friday on Twitter.

    “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS,” he wrote.

    I particularly like “we ain’t come”

  16. Scott,

    It’s called “collective memory,” i.e., the memory of the individual shaped by the community and represented collectively back to the individual. Sports are a great site of collective and inter-generational memory. (Ask anyone old enough to remember growing up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan!)

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