The Holy War: Greatest Moments
Nov. 8, 2012
Compiled and written by BC football historian and former sports information director Reid Oslin
As the only two Catholic schools still playing major college football, Boston College and Notre Dame have a rivalry - dating back to the 1975 season - that has provided more than its share of "divine" moments and "sorrowful mysteries" for fans of both institutions. Here are a few of those special memories:
1975- Billed as "The Bicentennial Game" in New England, the Boston College-Notre Dame game, played at Foxboro's Schaefer Stadium on Sept. 15, was sold out nearly two years prior to kickoff. The game was BC's first national television appearance and was played in ABC-TV's "Monday Night Football" time slot - complete with the Goodyear Blimp. Alas, BC played a conservative offensive game and wound up on the short end of a 17-3 score. "The biggest game in Massachusetts since Bunker Hill, a quarterback [Mike Kruczek] who completed 68 percent of his passes last year and he gets a game plan that would have had Woody Hayes smiling," quipped New York Post columnist Paul Zimmerman.
1983- Boston College and Notre Dame met in the Liberty Bowl in frozen Memphis, Tenn. Game conditions were so bad - 11 degrees at game time with a dropping temperature throughout the night - that both teams struggled with special teams play. BC scored three touchdowns and missed all three extra point attempts on the icy turf; Notre Dame scored three times and managed a single extra point. Irish won, 19-18. Notre Dame SID Roger Valdeserri noted, "Imagine, all of those Catholics, and we could manage only one conversion."
1987- The Eagles made their first trip to South Bend. The Eastern Airlines pilot flying the BC team diverted from his approach to the South Bend Airport and gave his passengers a true "birds-eye view" of the Notre Dame's famed Golden Dome and stadium. ND's Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown did not follow up on the hospitality, helping the Irish score a competitive, 32-25 victory over the visitors.
1992- Boston College was undefeated (7-0-1) and ranked ninth nationally going into this game on Nov. 7, but they weren't unblemished coming out. Coach Lou Holtz and his Irish put a 54-7 pasting on the Eagles, and added humiliation to the defeat with a fake punt attempt in the third quarter while the Domers held a 37-0 lead. BC coach Tom Coughlin would use that shellacking to motivate his team to even the score the following year. At halftime of the '92 BC-ND game, scenes from the movie "Rudy" were filmed at Notre Dame Stadium, with two teams representing Georgia Tech and Notre Dame squads from the 1970s taking the field during intermission to run through several takes of action footage for the film.
1993- Kicker David Gordon etched his name in Boston College football lore with a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give BC a thrilling, 41-39 victory over the No. 1-ranked Irish and snatch a possible national championship from Holtz and his crew. Coughlin, who had waited an entire year for his revenge after the previous year's debacle, ran into the locker room to celebrate at game's end, only to get there and realize that his team was still out on the field basking in one of the Eagles' grandest football moments. Often overlooked in the statistics of that game was the performance of BC tight end Pete Mitchell, who caught 10 passes on the day - nine of them for first downs (the other was for a 9-yard gain on a first down play.)
1994- Boston College's first victory in the newly-renovated Alumni Stadium was a 30-11 smashing of the Irish in which the Eagles' offensive and defensive lines clearly dominated the bewildered Irish. BC fans stormed the field to tear down the goalposts after the final whistle, only to find that BC had installed a new set of stanchions in 125-ton concrete blocks as part of the construction and the new posts would not budged.
2001-2008- Boston College reeled off eight consecutive victories over Notre Dame - the longest winning streak in the "Vatican Series." The winner of each game brought home a Waterford Crystal "Frank Leahy Bowl" to denote the achievement. Leahy coached at both schools.
2002 - The Irish, ranked No. 4 in the national polls, took the field against BC wearing their traditional green jerseys. They didn't need to dress formally for the occasion, as Eagle linebacker Josh Ott spoiled their party with a 71-yard interception return for a score, 15 tackles and a fumble recovery. BC won, 14-7. Another potential ND perfect season was spoiled. Sorry, lads.
2004 - BC's Paul Peterson - perhaps the only Mormon to play quarterback for either Catholic school - had an immense second half, completing 19-of-23 passes, including a 30-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Tony Gonzalezwith just 54 seconds remaining. When Ryan Ohlinger kicked the extra point, the Eagles had a 24-23 victory. The winning points were scored in the endzone nearest ND's famed "Touchdown Jesus" mural.
2008 - Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen had all of the pre-game hype, but apparently BC's defense never read the clippings. It intercepted the brash Irish passer four times at Alumni Stadium en route to a 17-0 victory, the only shutout in the series.