Goodness gracious, who won this game, anyway?
Surely it was the team that piled up 455 yards and 27 first downs, converted 8 of 12 third-down situations, completed 21 of 33 passes, averaged 6.3 yards per play and never had to punt. Sorry.
You mean it was the team that punted four times, began one offensive drive on its own seven-yard line and finished it on its own five, averaged 2.4 yards per running play in the second half, gave up as many rushing touchdowns in the first half (two) as it did in the entire 1985 season and generally played defense more ineptly than it had since the ark was built—when Bo looked up and saw that, yeah, all bad things are wont to fall from the sky?
Indeed, it was that team. Michigan sneaked past Notre Dame 24-23 in South Bend last Saturday and then blew out of town before anybody could change the score. Luck of the Irish? Hah. Notre Dame suffered two lost fumbles, an interception in the end zone, a kickoff it could not field, a dropped touchdown pass, a missed extra point, an apparent go-ahead touchdown reception in the fourth quarter that was ruled incomplete and a last-second field goal attempt that was tipped and barely missed winning the game. If any one of those misfortunes had gone the other way, new coach Lou Holtz would probably have a Notre Dame winning percentage 119 points higher than Knute Rockne's.
It was as if Touchdown Jesus, the 132-foot-high stone mosaic that looms above the north end zone, beloved by South Bend faithful—clerics and laymen alike—had raised his arms, this time strictly for Bo Schembechler, with the message, "I gave you one. No more mewling about not winning here since '78. Now beat it."
"You think I feel sorry for these guys?" sniffed the allegedly mellowed Schembechler while combing his hair in the coaches' locker room. "After what happened in 1980? Come on!" What happened in 1980 was Notre Dame's Harry Oliver kicking a 51-yard field goal at the gun to beat Michigan 29-27.
As Bo scurried off to the Michigan bus wearing a big grin, Notre Dame quarterback Steve Beuerlein still stood near his locker, unshowered and dazed. "This game could very easily have been a blowout for us," he sighed.
And he was right. Except for the interception he threw, Beuerlein played well enough to lead an Irish rout. His throwing arm, repaired by surgery in 1985, was strong, and his leadership of Notre Dame's new wishbone attack was almost flawless.
Michigan, of course, came into the game loaded with goods and ranked No. 3—"your basic championship contender," noted Holtz—while the Fighting Irish were opening a season unranked by the AP for the first time in 22 years. It is hard to say how the teams should be ranked now. Several things are clear, however. One is that Notre Dame's lowly preseason esteem was simply a leftover from the dismal Gerry Faust years (1981-85, 30-26-1) and not based on a fair assessment of this year's squad.
Another is that Notre Dame finally has itself a real college coach who can draw up real college plays. "We could predict how they'd line up, but not what they'd run," said Schembechler. Said Notre Dame's Tim Brown, who led the team with 65 yards rushing on 12 carries, "No more Pinkett right, Pinkett left, Pinkett up the middle, punt." Allen Pinkett, since graduated, was Faust's idea of offense last (5-6) season.