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Till the echoes ring again

Ten years later, BC relives the finishing kick that stunned top-ranked Notre Dame

The memories have not faded or become worn at the edges even with the passage of time. Hardly anyone, though, can believe it's already been a decade since Boston College, with one swift kick of David Gordon's left foot, toppled No. 1 Notre Dame, 41-39, in 1993, helping to deny the Irish a shot at a 12th national title.

"Has it been 10 years already?" said Pete Mitchell, 32, BC's All-America tight end and favorite target of quarterback Glenn Foley. "Unbelievable. It just doesn't seem like it to me, at all. Seems like it was just four years ago."

Certainly no one around Chestnut Hill -- or in South Bend, Ind., for that matter -- has ever forgotten the Nov. 20 meeting when the Eagles sent shock waves across the college football landscape. When Gordon hit his 41-yard field goal on the game's final play to defeat the Irish in their season finale, the tremors were felt as far away as Tallahassee, where the Florida State Seminoles, 31-24 losers at Notre Dame the week before in The Game of the Century, were given a reprieve in their bid for an eventual national championship.

"I still remember the circumstances of the game and how we started out 0-2 that season, oddly enough, after David Gordon missed a chip shot at Northwestern that would've won the game," said Pete Kendall, 30, then a talented sophomore left tackle now with the Arizona Cardinals. "Then he comes back to make the kick at Notre Dame. I guess if he had to make one of the two, I'm glad he made the one he did."

Asked about BC's unlikely hero, Foley, 33, the wisecracking QB from Cherry Hill, N.J., said, "You know what I remember about David Gordon? Gordon couldn't even kick the ball off the ground when he first got to BC." Gordon had walked on at BC after transferring in 1992 from Vermont, where he had played soccer as a freshman. "I was like, `What's this guy doing coming out for the team? He can't play.' But I've never seen anybody work as hard as that kid."

It was sweet redemption for Gordon, who went from being the goat after missing a 40-yarder in a 22-21 loss at Northwestern to the improbable hero.

"The thing that really stayed with me all the years was how everyone really stuck behind me, even after the Northwestern game," recalled Gordon. "I was just so happy to get another opportunity to make a winning kick. It's the situation every kicker dreams about."

It proved to be the worst nightmare of every Notre Dame fan, including Gordon's brother-in-law, Kirk Bamrick of Plymouth, Conn. "He's married to my wife's sister and he's a huge Notre Dame fan," said Gordon, 31, who now resides in Avon, Conn., with his wife, Connie, and 1-year-old son, Tyler, and works for his father's property management firm in Farmington, Conn. "When he first found out I had gone to BC, he started going on and on about how we ruined their season in '93."

Gordon's brother-in-law continued with his rant, cursing BC's upset of his beloved Irish on a fluke kick, when Gordon finally confessed, "Kirk, I was the guy who made the kick."

"When I told him that," Gordon said, laughing at the recollection, "his jaw just dropped."

Revenge factor? Since that crushing loss to BC, the Fighting Irish have been unable to attain a No. 1 ranking. The closest Notre Dame came was last season when it started out 8-0, climbed to No. 4 in the polls, only to have their dreams of another championship run again ruined by another home loss to the Eagles, 14-7, last Oct. 25. Tomorrow, the nation's only two Catholic Division 1-A football programs will renew their rivalry when unranked BC (4-3) hosts unranked Notre Dame (2-4) in an ABC-televised contest at noon at Alumni Stadium.

"I've always admired Notre Dame for agreeing to create the series," said Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J., BC's former president, "because, in one sense, Notre Dame didn't have a lot to gain by playing us and in another sense, they had a fair amount to lose by playing us."

The seeds of BC's upset in '93 were sown the year before when Notre Dame thrashed the visiting Eagles, 54-7. "I think going into the game, obviously, we were bitter," Foley recalled. "More than anything, we remember the way they beat us the year before. They were faking punts and kicks and running all over us. We were really embarrassed."

Incensed over the way BC student fans rudely interrupted Notre Dame's sacrosanct Friday night pep rally with chants of "We are B-C! We are B-C!" Irish coach Lou Holtz was determined to make the Eagles pay on the field. "I was with Ricky Watters in Seattle and he talked about how guys on that team had never seen Lou Holtz so fired up before a game," Kendall said.

BC coach Tom Coughlin publicly claimed revenge was never a factor, but, privately, his players knew otherwise. "To me, when you get your butt kicked in someone else's playground like that, you don't forget," said linebacker Stephen Boyd, 31, a former seven-year NFL veteran. When BC's first series stalled near midfield, Coughlin made the bold call for a fake punt.

"We had it ready, but it had to be the right field position," Coughlin said. "It really wasn't a shot across the bow, it was strategic. I mean, here was the ball sitting at the right spot on the field, but we really had nothing to lose. We were going for the whole ball of wax that day."

Opening the playbook The game was on and Coughlin did not hold anything back. "We had three or four razzle-dazzle plays that we used, a couple of new tricks," said Foley, who shredded Notre Dame's defense, passing for 315 yards and four touchdowns. "Tom pulled them out for that game and he threw them all at 'em. It seemed everything worked perfectly, plays we had worked on for weeks. Everything we tried worked."

Said linebacker Mike Panos, 33, "The stars were aligned."

That much was evident when Boyd set up BC's first score, a 28-yard field goal by Gordon, by blocking a Notre Dame field goal attempt by Kevin Pendergast. "That was probably my only one in college," Boyd said. "Actually, it was my only one -- ever."

It wasn't until BC took a 38-17 lead in the fourth quarter on Foley's 1-yard TD toss to Mitchell that the Irish decided to join the fray. ND erupted for 22 straight points in the final 11:13 -- taking a 39-38 lead on Kevin McDougal's 4-yard TD to Lake Dawson -- to wake up the echoes and shake down the thunder from the crowd of 59,075. "It was the first time in my life I felt the mystique of someplace," Foley admitted.

Holtz, now the head coach at South Carolina, said, "We had made one of the great comebacks of all time. Had we hung on, I mean, it would've been one of the great comebacks in the history of the game."

The problem was, the Irish left too much time on the clock: 1 minute 9 seconds, plenty of time for BC to run its two-minute offense.

Anthony Comer bobbled the kickoff and was tackled at the BC 10. But the Eagles capitalized on the first of several strokes of good fortune on that winning 51-yard march when ND was hit with a 15-yard personal foul, giving BC possession at its own 25. "They called us for piling on," Holtz said, "but in essence, after we looked at the film, it was a Boston College player who piled on."

ND linebacker Pete Bercich appeared to have the game -- and a national championship berth -- briefly in his grasp when he stepped in front of a Foley pass intended for Mitchell. Bercich, though, dropped the ball, giving BC a huge reprieve. "Whenever we ran the two-minute, and we needed a play, it was the `Y-Option' to Pete Mitchell," said tight end Brian Saxton, now 31. "When you have a tight end who could get open at will, no question that Mitch was Glenn's favorite. Glenn knew Pete was going to get open because Pete would always get open."

Of the school-record 13 catches for 132 yards he had in that game, none was bigger than the last two: a 12-yarder that converted a third-and-10 at the BC 25, and a 24-yard haul he made across the middle after Foley was flushed from the pocket for a first down at the ND 33 with 19 seconds left. One play later, Foley hit Ivan Boyd for a 9-yard gain on a go screen for a third-and-1 at the ND 24 with five seconds left, enough time for Gordon to attempt a career-long 41-yard field goal.

Redemptive strike After missing at Northwestern and hoping for another chance to make a game-winning kick, Gordon got his wish, only it came in the biggest game of the season.

When Holtz tried to ice Gordon with another timeout, Coughlin summoned his kicker to the sideline. "I remember telling David, `Just hit the ball solid. Don't worry about it. Just line up and hit the thing solid,' " he said.

As Gordon readied himself for the snap, Foley tried to break the tension by turning to his kicker and cracking, "Hey, don't worry about it. It's only Notre Dame. You miss this one and you'll be walking home."

Said Gordon, "It was classic. It was really funny."

Then, in a blur, it all unfolded.

There was the snap by Tom Nalen. "A terrible snap," Foley recalled.

The hold by Foley. "The snap was a little high coming from Nails," Panos said, "but Foley made an absolutely spectacular catch and place."

And Gordon's kick. "I was on the sidelines, on one knee, holding hands with Brian Howlett and Panos and when David kicked it, it sounded like he hit all of it," Boyd said.

Kendall: "The ball definitely had some weird action on it."

Panos: "It was like a Tim Wakefield knuckleball."

Monan: "I can still remember the shape of the kick, the way it went up, and wobbled and turned in the opposite direction than you would have expected to go through the goal post."

Foley: "All I remember is that when he kicked the ball, it was 20 yards outside the right goal post, from my angle. About halfway there, it took a hard left and just dove down into the goal; it was unbelievable and the place erupted."

Gordon: "I remember hitting it like you would a wedge, kicking across my body, when I probably should have hit it like a driver."

Had Gordon done so, Foley was convinced Notre Dame would have blocked the kick. "They had two leapers with 40-inch verticals, but the ball went right around them," he said.

The ball found its target and triggered a simultaneous eruption back at Chestnut Hill where BC students tore down the goal posts at Alumni Stadium, paraded them around campus, and deposited them in a symbolic gesture in the backyard of Gordon's apartment in The Mods.

The echoes of that euphoric celebration have long since faded, but not the memories of that upset.

"Looking back, over the years, in a way it was as valuable as a national championship because the people at Boston College value that win over Notre Dame a great deal," Foley said. "They love beating Notre Dame up there. It's a great thing, a beautiful thing. There's nothing sweeter than beating Notre Dame."

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