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Classics of Notre Dame Football Lore on DVD

Brian Doxtader | Friday, December 1, 2006

Pat Terrell batting down Steve Walsh’s two-point attempt. Joe Montana hitting Kris Haines for a touchdown as time expires. Two point conversion, Mirer to Brooks in the back of the endzone. Shawn Wooden knocking down Charlie Ward’s desperation heave.

All these moments have become part of Notre Dame football lore, though most of them haven’t been seen by fans in the context of their full games. Yet all of these great moments are collected in A&E’s new eight-disc set, “University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Collector’s Edition (College Football’s Greatest Games).” The mammoth and exhaustive set collects seven and a half of Notre Dame’s greatest victories from 1966 to 1993, each presented in its entirety (with one exception).

The games included on the set are:

* The Green Jersey Game (1977 regular season vs. USC)

* The 1978 Cotton Bowl vs. Texas

* The “Chicken Soup Game” (1979 Cotton Bowl vs. Houston)

* The “Catholics vs. Convicts Game” (1988 regular season vs. Miami)

* 1989 Fiesta Bowl vs. West Virginia

* The “Snow Bowl” (1992 regular season vs. Penn State)

* The “Game of the Century” (1993 regular season vs. Florida State)

* The second half of the “Game of the Century” (1966 regular season vs. Michigan State)

A glance at the rosters of these games indicates just how powerful Notre Dame was between 1977 and 1993. Joe Montana, Rocket Ismail, Tony Rice, Bob Golic, Ken MacAfee, Aaron Taylor, Chris Zorich, Michael Stonebreaker, Reggie Brooks, Rick Mirer and Jerome Bettis all make appearances.

While there admittedly some great games missing from this set (the 1973 Sugar Bowl against Alabama, the 1980 game against Michigan, the 1992 “Cheerios Bowl” against Florida), the contests on this set are indeed among the most classic and legendary in Notre Dame – and therefore, college football – history.

The most entertaining game on the entire set may be the Snow Bowl against Penn State, which marked the end of the 1992 regular season. In a swirling snowstorm, the Irish, led by Rick Mirer, Reggie Brooks and Jerome Bettis, fought a young Kerry Collins-led Penn State in a defensive struggle. Trailing 16-9 late in the fourth, Mirer led the Irish down the field before finding Bettis in the endzone. Holtz then elected to take a risk – go for two points and the win. Mirer took the snap and dropped back almost 15 yards before finding Reggie Brooks in the back corner of the endzone for the unlikely win.

There are at least two games on the set which reach almost epic proportions – the 1988 “Catholics vs. Convicts” against Miami (arguably the greatest game in Irish history) and the 1993 “Game of the Century” against Florida State. In both contests, Notre Dame held off late rallies by batting down passes by the respective opposing quarterbackers (Steve Walsh in 1988 and eventual Heisman winner Charlie Ward in 1993). Watching Holtz and his coordinators (defensive coordinator Barry Alvarez in 1988 and Rick Minter in 1993) match wits against Jimmy Johnson and Bobby Bowden is a special treat. Additionally, it’s marvelously funny to see Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno coaching during their heyday more than a decade ago when the young coaches were in their mere 60s.

Oddly enough, a lot of memorable plays (particularly from the Holtz years) didn’t actually come from any of these games. No Tim Brown returns, no big Bettis runs, no electrifying Rocket returns. Yet the games presented were arguably more complete, and also showed how underrated Tony Rice was as Notre Dame’s last Championship quarterback.

Most of the presentations were taken from their cable broadcasts, though Bob Costas’ classic introduction to the Game of the Century is noticeably missing. Also, unsurprisingly, Keith Jackson and Brent Musberger – announcers on some of the games – were no less annoying then than they are now.

The most intriguing game on the set is the 1966 matchup between Notre Dame and Michigan State. Though the picture quality isn’t the greatest and it only contains the second half of the game, it still stands as one of the most bizarre and frustrating ties in football history. The Irish were without their starting quarterback and tailback and fought back to tie the game at 10-10, with Parseghian’s conservative choice to sit on the ball (and thus, the tie) going down as a memorable and controversial decision.

The box set itself is fantastic. Each of the games is shown in its entirety and the quality of the presentations is generally very high, though the 1977 Green Jersey Game has a considerable portion of the game which is far fuzzier. The set is sparse on special features but with eight complete games, it doesn’t really need any. Notre Dame’s football tradition, as presented, speaks for itself.

For Irish fans, this set is a blessing. While the Notre Dame faithful hope and expect Charlie Weis to bring the Irish back to the top of the football world, with this set they can look back at some of the program’s glory days and wake up the echoes in the comfort of their home.