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During that streak Boston College's offense emerged as one of the most prolific in the nation, averaging 42 points per game. But did a 33-29 win over Syracuse or a 48-34 victory over Virginia Tech mean that the Eagles could play with a Notre Dame team that had whipped Florida State? Yes, thought Foley. "Last year we came in here and thought they were larger than life," he said. "This year it was different. It wasn't going to be enough just to play well. We wanted to win."
The Eagles came out fearlessly and outplayed the Irish on both sides of the ball. The BC offensive line gave Foley terrific protection, allowing no sacks and enabling the quarterback to sort through his options with computerlike precision. And whenever Foley saw the Irish gearing up to stop the passing game, he gave the ball to fullback Darnell Campbell, who pounded out 115 yards on 24 carries.
"We showed a few things that we hadn't shown before," Coughlin said after the game, "passing out of our running formations and running out of our passing formations. Sometimes we'd make things look like they were going one way, then go the other way." The Notre Dame defense was duly confused. "They kept us off balance," said Irish defensive tackle Jim Flanigan. "They ran in odd situations. They found a lot of seams in our defense, and it was tough to find the ball."
BC's defense, for its part, concentrated on containing the Irish running game. The Eagle D was led by outside linebacker Mike Mamula, who had two sacks and two tackles for losses, and inside linebacker Stephen Boyd, who blocked a kick and recovered a fumble. "Until the fourth quarter we had a sense of being under control," said Coughlin. "But then, by virtue of sloppy tackling and some great running by [Irish tailback Lee] Becton, it didn't appear that our defense was as courageous or as committed as it was earlier in the game."
The Irish moved the ball at will in the fourth quarter, especially after Foley's two botched snaps. "My center, Tom Nalen, and I have been together for five years," Foley said. "We've probably taken a million snaps together." So the fumbles had to be fated—the luck of the Irish holding again, right? "I've never seen a team rack up that many yards in seven minutes," Holtz said of the Irish juggernaut that turned a 38-17 deficit into a 39-38 lead.
On the BC sideline, meanwhile, Foley paced in the wintry South Bend twilight, trying to keep his hands warm. The prelude to what will be known forever in Boston as The Drive came when the Irish were tagged with a personal-foul penalty on the kickoff after their final touchdown. That gave the Eagles first-and-10 at their 25, instead of their 10, with just 1:01 to get within field goal range. But Foley was confident because, as he said later, "we'd been moving on them all day."
The game was in his hands.
The Drive began shakily with incomplete passes to Mitchell and wideout Ivan Boyd. The second throw was deflected and nearly intercepted by Irish linebacker Pete Bercich, then almost grabbed by safety Jeff Burris. Finally, on third-and-10, with 47 seconds left, Foley found Mitchell for a first down at the BC 37.
On the next play Foley threw a flare to tailback Anthony Comer in the right flat. Comer went out of bounds after a gain of six, stopping the clock at 0:27. Next, behind excellent protection, Foley stepped up and hit Mitchell at the Notre Dame 33. With 0:18 left, BC called timeout.
The noise from the Irish rooters was deafening, but, Foley would say, "I just blocked 'em out. West Virginia and the [Syracuse Carrier] Dome are tougher places to play." On the next play Burris blitzed up the middle; under pressure, Foley threw the ball away. Now, on second-and-10 with 0:12 left, BC had one play to set up a field goal. Foley took the snap and fired to Boyd on a middle screen. Boyd ran to the 24. Timeout, 0:05 left.