Mirer's last-minute rescue snows under Penn State 2-point pass lifts Notre Dame, 17-16

November 15, 1992|By Elton Alexander | Elton Alexander,Contributing Writer

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA — SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Rick Mirer ended his last game as quarterback in Notre Dame's stadium yesterday throwing hard passes in the cold and swirling gusts of snow.

After struggling all day to get his team in the end zone, Mirer delivered twice in the final 20 seconds to shoot down Penn

State, 17-16.

Mirer (12 of 23 for 164 yards and a touchdown) capped a 64-yard drive with a 3-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass to fullback Jerome Bettis that closed Penn State's hard-fought lead to 16-15. Mirer then lofted a two-point conversion pass to a diving Reggie Brooks in the corner of the end zone.

"We knew what to do," Bettis said. "Rick just said, 'if things get tight work hard to get open and I'll put the ball there.' "

Said Mirer: "It's a good way to end the game. Really, I'm glad it came down to that."

The Irish (8-1-1) hold faint hopes of winning a national title this season. A tie would have hurt those dreams, a loss would have surely ended their championship chances.

Yet Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz let it all ride with his senior quarterback in order to even Notre Dame's all-time record with Penn State at 8-8-1.

Mirer, in turn, took control of the huddle and delivered a clutch performance in the end.

Mirer completed passes of 21 and 17 yards during the final drive and scrambled three times for 23 more yards to set up first and goal at the Penn State four.

"He had this sense of urgency," Bettis said of Mirer. "He just kept tell

ing us, 'this is the last chance we're going to get.' "

Three plays gained just one yard. But on the fourth, Bettis slipped from out of the backfield for an easy touchdown.

On the conversion, Mirer, scram bling, lofted a soft pass into the corner of the end zone.

According to most, Brooks' hands come from the Roberto Duran family, rock-solid for carrying a football, but somewhat suspect when it comes to catching one.

"I don't want to mess up his [potential NFL] future, but he's not the first guy I'd want to throw to," Holtz said of his senior tailback who rushed for 78 yards on 23 carries.

Brooks conceded he does not know what option he is on the play. But when Mirer got in trouble his job was to get free.

"All day, we were driving and driving, but could just never finish what we started," Brooks said. "We talked among ourselves in the huddle. We had to finish it. It wasn't close at all. Rick put the ball where it needed to be. I caught the ball. End of game."

The loss was a tough one for Penn State (6-4), which has also lost to Miami, Boston College and BYU. The Lions, despite giving lots of offensive yardage kept Notre Dame out of the end zone until the final drive of the day. Three Craig Hentrich field goals had been all the Irish could muster.

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