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Football hits 1993’s record

Tori Roeck | Friday, November 9, 2012

 9-0.

To those Notre Dame alumni who were here during the 1993 football season, this record feels familiar. On Nov. 13, 1993, a 9-0 Fighting Irish team ranked No. 2 in the country defeated No. 1 ranked Florida State at home, 31-24, in the “Game of the Century,” and the No. 1 sign atop Grace Hall lit up the next day.

“I’ll never forget after we won the game when that No. 1 lit up,” 1994 alum Steve Camilleri said. “It wasn’t there for very long, but to have that No. 1 light up when you’re a student at Notre Dame, especially during your senior year – It’s really special.”

One week later, Boston College dashed the 10-0 Irish’s hopes for an undefeated season on a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of the game, and the No. 1 light went out.

“[At the Boston College game] there was a sense of exhaustion I think all around in the student body, in the fans and in the team, because the Florida State game had been such an effort and such an undertaking for everyone,” 1994 alum and University photographer Matt Cashore said. “I think everyone was just a little flat.”

As this year’s 9-0 team travels to Chestnut Hill, Mass., to reprise the “Holy War” on Saturday, Camilleri said he expects a different result.

“This Notre Dame team that we’re putting on the field Saturday night in Boston is not going to lose to this Boston College team,” Camilleri said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

Despite hopes for a win over Boston College this year, Camilleri said he sees a lot of parallels between his senior football season and this one.

“I’ve been in the stands at all the home games this year. I was at the game in Chicago when we played Miami, and I just felt a lot like I did back in 1993,” he said. “There’s just a real excitement and an energy that’s as heightened as it’s ever been since 1993.”

While previous Notre Dame teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s had been consistently ranked in the top 10, Cashore said students expected the 1993 season to be a “wait and see year.” Quarterback Rick Mirer had just graduated, and promising freshman quarterback Ron Powlus had broken his collarbone before the season began.

But senior quarterback Kevin McDougal shone in the second game of the season with a 27-23 win against Michigan, a game Notre Dame was expected to lose, and Cashore said that changed the momentum of the season.

“They didn’t expect much out of Kevin McDougal, and the Michigan game was his chance to show what he could do and the team’s chance to show that they were going to exceed expectations,” Cashore said.

Many fans also began this season skeptical of the team’s ability and uncertain over who would be taking the snaps. This time sophomore quarterback Everett Golson stepped up to show he could lead the offense, Camilleri said.

“The way the team bounced back last weekend against Pittsburgh, they found a way to win,” he said. “Everett Golson found a way to win.”

Confident in Golson’s leadership, many fans started looking forward to a national championship as this year’s undefeated record continues, just as in 1993.

“Everyone was going ahead booking plane reservations for whatever the bowl game would be for the national championship … and suddenly snapped awake in the fourth quarter [of the Boston College game],” Cashore said.

While the loss to Boston College didn’t completely squash the 1993 team’s chances for a national championship, Florida State ended up winning, despite a loss to the Irish earlier in the season.

“We felt like we deserved to be the national champion because we beat the team that became the national champion,” Camilleri said. “We were disappointed, but we weren’t disappointed in our team. We were disappointed in how our team got voted. I think some of us still think we were the national champion that year.”

Cashore said most students’ reaction to the national championship snub was to say, “We’ll be back.”

“There was a sense that … this is a place that will always be in contention for a national championship,” Cashore said. “We certainly didn’t have the sense of, ‘Well, that was the last chance for 20 years to do that.’ … No one foresaw the bad string of almost 20 years that happened.”

While the pressure is on for the 2012 team to reclaim the national championship title that was just out of reach for their 1993 counterparts, Camilleri, executive director of the South Bend Center for the Homeless, said win or lose, the two Notre Dame football teams are united by their players’ unique concern for the community.

“I’ve been fortunate to get to know some of the players because they volunteer at the Center for the Homeless. … They are just an incredible group,” Camilleri said. “Much like the team I knew in ’93 who were friends of mine, this team is very deeply involved in helping out their surrounding community, and that is one of the best comparisons we can make.”

Contact Tori Roeck at vroeck@nd.edu