•Against Penn State a field goal was aborted and a punt and an extra point were blocked.
Faust will not bear up well in the Irish record book. In nine of 11 years under Ara Parseghian, the Irish finished in the Top 10. A Faust team has yet to finish in the Top 20. His 24 defeats have come in five years, and he still has to face LSU and Miami. Over the same span Terry Brennan lost six fewer times. He was fired just before Christmas.
Faust must know what's coming. Last season he said he would need to be "8-3 or 9-2" to merit another year's worth of paychecks. Now, at 5-4, a finish above .500 would be a moral victory. And even in the unlikely event that Notre Dame should win its last two games, a bowl is probably out of the question. "There will be no bowls," mumbled a somber Notre Dame official after the Penn State debacle. "Not after this."
This was every bit that bad, unless you happen to be a Nittany Lion, in which case it was pure bliss. Coming into the game, Penn State was No. 1 despite having won nine games by the most unconvincing of margins. Six of those wins—against Maryland, Syracuse, Alabama, Boston College, East Carolina and Rutgers—could have been lost in the last two minutes. So who would have thunk Notre Dame, which had won four straight games and had beat Penn State 44-7 last year, would be the Lions' biggest blowout of the season?
That the Irish came into Beaver Stadium as only one-point underdogs was slap enough in the Lions' face. More subtle slapping was directed toward Lion quarterback John Shaffer, who has been criticized for having an inadequate arm. Shaffer completed five consecutive passes, one of which went for the game's first TD, a perfect 21-yard strike to tailback D.J. Dozier with a ball that was not yet the weight of iron ore. "After everything got so wet," Shaffer said, "it was like throwing a basketball."
Once Notre Dame got behind, Irish quarterbacks might as well have been throwing a basketball. Steve Beuerlein and Terry Andrysiak, manning Faust's two-quarterback system, were less than the sum of their parts. Together they completed 13 of 24 passes for 133 yards and no touchdowns. Beuerlein, who was unhappy at having to share his job, threw three interceptions, including two early in the second half, which set up 10 Nittany Lions points and gave Penn State a 33-0 lead minutes into the third quarter. "I just made some stupid decisions," he said. Said Faust, "Neither of our quarterbacks played too well."
Shaffer waterlogged down, too. Following his hot start, he was back to his old self, completing just two of his next 11 passes. However, as long as the Irish were still clobbering themselves, Shaffer didn't need to be very good, and Shaffer is very good at being exactly as good as he needs to be. He's now 53-0 as a starting quarterback since the seventh grade and damned if he can remember who last beat him or how it felt. "I just know we didn't go through that season undefeated," he says.
The Nittany Lions can this season. Only 5-4-1 Pitt awaits, and then comes the Orange Bowl. Meanwhile, Notre Dame fans can start handicapping the coachly names that have fallen from the trees, led by George Welsh and Lou Holtz (3 to 1), Bobby Ross (5 to 1), Dick Vermeil and Dick Coury (8 to 1), Joe Restic and Rick Carter (20 to 1), Terry Donahue (25 to 1), Jack Bicknell and Howard Schnellenberger (30 to 1), Ara Parseghian (50 to 1), Bill Walsh (99 to 1) and Gipper Reagan, provided he can get out of the last two years of his current contract (200 to 1).
Rumors, rumors. That gives Faust an idea. "I'll start my own rumor," he says. "You ready to start passing it along?"