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David Gordon derails championship run in ’93

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, November 8, 2012

When David Gordon got back to Chestnut Hill, Mass., at 1 a.m. on Nov. 21, 1993, he saw something he had never seen before – a mob waiting to greet the Boston College football team.

When he got back to his townhouse, he found something entirely different.

“Some of the students actually dragged the goalposts from [Alumni Stadium] to my backyard where I live, waiting for me to come,” Gordon said in a phone interview with The Observer. “It was just a mob of people who just dragged the goalposts about 3,000 feet from the stadium to the back of the yard. My coach wasn’t too happy about that because we had to get new goalposts.”

Just hours earlier, Gordon dashed Notre Dame’s national championship hopes and destroyed its perfect season with a 41-yard game-winning field goal that gave the Eagles a 41-39 win over the then-No. 1 Irish at Notre Dame Stadium.

The year before, Notre Dame pounded Boston College 54-7. Gordon said the Eagles used the bitter taste as motivation.

“They really ran up the score on us [in 1992],” Gordon said. “It’s a big game for us because of the rivalry. We kind of dedicate our offseason to prepare for that one game.”

In 1993, Notre Dame entered the game at 10-0 and No. 1 in the country after a 31-24 win over then-No. 1 Florida State in a game dubbed the “Game of the Century.”

The Eagles, meanwhile, came into South Bend riding a seven-game winning streak.
Boston College held a 38-17 lead with 11 minutes in the game before the Irish scored 22 unanswered points to grab a one-point advantage with a little more than a minute remaining.

“I knew in the fourth quarter, I knew Notre Dame was going to come back,” Gordon said. “You kind of get that sense of momentum, our defense was starting to get a little tired but our offense really was moving the ball well.”

Boston College quarterback Glenn Foley led the Eagles down the field in six plays, setting up a 41-yard attempt, the longest of Gordon’s career, with just five ticks left on the clock.

“A lot of my teammates did end up talking to me [during the drive],” Gordon said. “They didn’t say a whole lot to me but they came up to me and said ‘We know you can make this kick. Don’t get too nervous. You deserve to be out here. You’ve worked hard for this opportunity.’ It was all just encouraging words they gave me. They knew I was going in there to win the game.”

Before Gordon got the chance to nail the field goal and Notre Dame’s coffin, the lefty kicker received a pep talk from an unlikely source – Eagles coach Tom Coughlin, now a head coach with the New York Giants.

“That was interesting. That was really the first time in the game [that he talked to me]. He really had never said anything to me at any time,” Gordon said. “He said ‘I know you can make the kick, just make good contact with the ball.’ Just all positive talk and I think it really helped me calm down because I was really, really nervous.”

The Eagles lined up just inside the left hash mark facing the tunnel and Touchdown Jesus, a landmark Gordon said he was aiming for.

“The sun was setting when I made the kick and back then, they didn’t have permanent lights and the lighting was not great. The one thing I could see was the gold on Touchdown Jesus which really helped me,” Gordon said.

The kick veered right initially before swerving back to the left and finishing square in the middle of the goalposts with no time remaining. The kick silenced nearly 60,000 spectators at Notre Dame Stadium and stunned a previously undefeated Irish team.

“I knew I hit it really good. I knew I had the distance,” Gordon said. “I rushed a little bit and the ball had a little bit of a play in it where it kind of went from right to left.

When you hear a thud, you know it was blocked. When I heard it wasn’t blocked, I knew I hit it well enough to make the kick.”

Amidst heartbroken Notre Dame players, the Eagles stormed the field and celebrated – and it all centered around Gordon. Within 10 seconds of the game ending,

Gordon was buried beneath a pile of jubilant teammates.

“I regret that one,” Gordon said. “Everything was moving so quickly and I was just so focused on making the kick. I’m not one of those guys that runs around and makes a big celebration. It was a scary situation because I had a hard time breathing. I thought I was going to suffocate because I was on the bottom of the pile … If I could do it all over again, I would have ran to the sidelines.”

Gordon survived the mish mash of maroon and gold bodies but would he have survived had he missed the kick?

“It probably would have impacted my life significantly,” Gordon said. “If I ever have a bad day or any bad thoughts, I think about that game and all my bad thoughts and feelings go away. It’s such a turning point in my life. It’s such a special moment that I’ll never forget it.”

The kick opened the door for Florida State to sneak back to No. 1 and Notre Dame was denied its second national title in six years in a controversial finish to the season. It has not won a championship since 1988 and has not been ranked in the top spot since that game.

“To me, I just thought it was a game,” Gordon said. “I didn’t really see the impact until I started getting all these letters and calls and interviews. I knew it was a big game but I didn’t really know the impact of costing the national championship. As time went on, I really started to appreciate what that game meant.”

The win marked the first time the Eagles beat the Irish after losing the previous four; Boston College won again the next year. Notre Dame leads the overall series 12-9 but the Eagles are 2-0 against top-5 Irish squads, including a 14-7 win at Notre Dame Stadium in 2002 when the Irish were 8-0 and coming off an emotional win over Florida State.

Some have credited Gordon with creating a rivalry between the two Catholic schools but he shrugged off the notion.

“One person does not really make or break a game,” Gordon said. “I helped contribute in winning the game for us. As far as me personally impacting [the rivalry], I don’t believe that was the case. There were so many other plays in that game that if we didn’t make, it wouldn’t have even mattered at the end.”
Gordon still has not returned to Notre Dame since that game but said he runs into Notre Dame fans all the time.

“They can’t stand me and they’re really upset,” Gordon said. “They’re like, ‘How could you do that?’ and they’re very upset because they’re very passionate about their football. I just say ‘Sorry but this was our day that day.’ That’s all I tell them.”

Gordon played in NFL Europe and tried out for some NFL teams before retiring from football. He now runs a home building business in Avon, Conn. with his wife, Connie. The couple has three kids.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu