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Catholics vs. Convicts

The Irish pulled out a gritty win over a bitter foe

Posted: Tuesday July 17, 2007 10:54AM; Updated: Wednesday July 18, 2007 12:16PM
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For once, the news was not good for the perennial powerhouse  Miami Hurricanes as Notre Dame ended their streak in 1988.
For once, the news was not good for the perennial powerhouse Miami Hurricanes as Notre Dame ended their streak in 1988.
Bill Smith/SI
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By Marty Burns

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Catholics vs. Convicts. Jimmy Johnson's hair. Lou Holtz's lisp. Two teams that absolutely hated each other. A glorious sunny October day in 1988 at the House That Rockne Built.

No. 1 Miami at Notre Dame.

Seldom does a sporting event live up to the hype and stir the passions like this game did. I was lucky enough to be smack in the center of the volcano; in the middle of the Notre Dame student section.

A disclaimer: I'm a Notre Dame alum. Class of '88. So, yes, I'm a little biased.

But whether you love or hate Notre Dame, you have to admit the school has spirit. And no matter your alma mater, you know how agonizing it can be to watch sand being kicked in its face by a bully. Miami's band of future NFL players and rap star-wannabes had been taking our little leprechaun's shillelagh, caning him with it for years and laughing about it all the way back to Coral Gables.

With Touchdown Jesus looking on (and no doubt providing a one-time dispensation about turning the other cheek), the Irish finally got some revenge -- and in the most delectable fashion imaginable. Miami's Steve Walsh threw for more than 400 yards, but Notre Dame forced seven turnovers -- including a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown. Then the Fighting Irish batted down a potential game-winning two-point conversion pass with 45 seconds left to topple the 'Canes 31-30 and end their regular-season 36-game winning streak.

Miami fans swear to this day that Cleveland Gary was down before he fumbled at the one-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. It wouldn't have mattered. On this day, Notre Dame was just not going to be denied. The Irish would go on to ride the momentum of this triumph all the way to the national championship.

In the student section, where a certain slightly-inebriated alum had packed himself sardine-like into the teeming mass of college kids, the atmosphere was pandemonium. Every play was life-or-death. When safety Pat Terrell knocked away Walsh's two-point conversion attempt in the end zone (after Miami had scored on a fourth-down pass to pull within a point), bodies soared in the air like at a mosh pit at a Nirvana concert.

Nirvana, indeed.

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