FG with :02 left spoils Notre Dame comeback, 26-24 In the end, it's . . . Michigan!

September 11, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The story line seemed to weave its way toward the typical ending yesterday at Notre Dame Stadium. Another late comeback for the third-ranked Fighting Irish. Another legend launched in the person of wunderkind quarterback Ron Powlus.

But sixth-ranked Michigan, which had seen this kind of madcap finish played out before its very eyes a couple of times in recent years, ripped up a familiar script and all but trashed Notre Dame's national championship hopes in the process.

In a wild ending that stunned a sellout crowd of 59,075 fans who moments before were celebrating the go-ahead touchdown by Notre Dame wide-out Derrick Mayes, the Wolverines beat the Irish, 26-24, on a 42-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Remy Hamilton with two seconds remaining.

"It seems like Notre Dame does this to us all the time," said Michigan quarterback Todd Collins, who engineered the winning drive that began at his team's 16-yard line with 46 seconds remaining. "First they have a 70-yard runback [actually 55 by Mike Miller to Michigan's 37] to set up their touchdown. When we came back on the field after they scored, I told the guys, 'Let's do a little bit of this to them.' We kind of beat them at their own game."

It was eerily reminiscent of last year's two-point upset victory here by Boston College, which was won on a 41-yard field goal as time ran out after Notre Dame had come from behind with a touchdown pass to Lake Dawson. The defeat ultimately cost then-No. 1 Notre Dame a chance at the national championship.

This time, a 7-yard touchdown pass from Powlus to a leaping Mayes at the back of the end zone with 52 seconds left tied the game at 23, and Stefan Schroffner's extra point put the Irish ahead. But the feeling on the Notre Dame sideline wasn't one of confidence. The memories of last year's loss to BC played on the minds of many players, most notably Mayes.

"It was almost like I was preparing myself for it," said Mayes, who had sprained his right ankle coming down after the catch and had to be helped off the field. "It was deja vu for me."

Collins began the drive by scrambling 15 yards before going out of bounds with 38 seconds left. The senior quarterback then connected on three straight passes: a 26-yarder to tight end Jay Riemersma to the Notre Dame 43 with 31 seconds remaining; a 9-yarder to wide-out Seth Smith that preceded Michigan's final timeout with 14 seconds left; another 9-yarder to Smith as Collins was about to be dragged down by Notre Dame linebacker Bert Berry with seven seconds to go.

It came down to Hamilton.

"A year ago, he wouldn't have made this kick," said Michigan coach Gary Moeller.

Moeller didn't choose between Hamilton and fellow sophomore Bryan Williams until Friday night. "But we went with him because he had a stronger leg."

It paid off, with a 32-yarder that tied the game at 10 with five minutes left in the first half, a 35-yarder to give Michigan (2-0) a 20-17 lead with 39 seconds left in the third quarter following the first of Lee Becton's two fumbles and finally another 32-yarder that followed a fumbled snap by Powlus to put the Wolverines ahead, 23-17, with 2:15 left in the game.

Even his only miss, a 29-yard attempt on Michigan's first possession, turned out well for the Wolverines. It was blocked by Notre Dame's Bobby Taylor, recovered by Michigan's Che' Foster for a first down, and ultimately turned into the game's first touchdown, a 9-yard run by tailback Tim Biakabutuka. "The ball didn't bounce our way today," said Notre Dame linebacker Jeremy Nau.

Nau caused Collins to fumble with a little more than two minutes left in the game, setting up the go-ahead score by Mayes. But as Collins (21 of 29 for 224 yards, 1 touchdown) kept driving the Wolverines down field, as the clock didn't seem to move fast enough, Nau and his teammates had the same feeling as Mayes did when Hamilton came on for the kick. With the crowd's roars filling the ancient stadium and filtering down to the field, the Irish called timeout as the 30-second clock was running down.

The move by Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz wasn't designed to make Hamilton nervous, but to count the number of players his team had out there. "We thought we had 12 men on the field," said Holtz.

Said Hamilton, "I give a lot of credit to my teammates. They did most of the hard work. All I had to do was hit it, and I did."

Asked about Notre Dame's timeout, Hamilton said, "I think it helped us. Thanks, Lou."

Hamilton calmly stepped us and kicked it cleanly, not like the left-footed line drive by BC's David Gordon that barely made it through. Notre Dame had only a couple of ticks left for another miracle. It didn't happen. Tight end Pete Chryplewicz was tackled at the Michigan 48 to end the game.

The victory was only the second in five tries (including one tie) against the Irish for Gary Moeller since taking over in 1990, and the first for Michigan here since 1986. Conversely, it was only Holtz's third defeat to the Wolverines in his nine seasons at Notre Dame. While the win enhanced Michigan's chances at a national championship, it might have derailed the 1-1 Irish until next year.

"I look at this game as very satisfying," said the often-maligned Moeller, whose team has a week off before playing Colorado in Ann Arbor. "We played a great football program and a great team. This is a beautiful game for us to win. But it's our job to keep our focus. I know we've got a long way to go."

Said Powlus, who finished 15 of 27 for 187 yards and two touchdowns: "We were confident that we were going to win, even before we took the lead. But deep down you know that anything can happen. The worst happened."

Something that usually doesn't happen when Michigan plays Notre Dame.

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