HomeFootballThrowback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football VS Michigan, 1980

Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football VS Michigan, 1980


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As we gear up for another thrilling season of Notre Dame football, it’s time to rewind the clock and revisit the heart-stopping moments that have etched themselves into the fabric of Fighting Irish lore. From nail-biting comebacks to jaw-dropping plays, Notre Dame’s history is a tapestry woven with exhilarating victories and stunned adversaries. Join us on an electrifying journey through the annals of Notre Dame football, where we’ll relive the excitement, the drama, and the sheer madness of some of the most unforgettable wins. Buckle up, because this series is about to take you on a wild ride through the untamed realms of football history.

The excerpt provided is sourced from the game summary found in the March 1, 1981 volume of the Irish Eye, a publication showcasing a review of the 1980 Notre Dame football season.

Notre Dame VS Michigan, 1980

A Nifty Twist by Oliver

by Bill Marquard

Team captain Bob Crable stood in the midst of a sea of green and gold in the Notre Dame locker room. His raised right arm held the spoils of the Irish conquest-the game ball.

“We’re gonna give this ball to Harry. This is the ball he kicked to beat Michigan!”

Harry moved to the center of the huddle, by now used to the swarm of humanity that had been pressing closer to him for the last 10 minutes.

“I … I love all you guys,” Harry yelled through tears with an arm around Irish coach Dan Devine.

“There’s not a quitter in this room,” exclaimed Devine. “This is the all-time, all-time, all-time, all-time moment.”

At that, Notre Dame president Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., pressed his way through the victors to Harry and Dan.

“I told you at practice that you represented Notre Dame,” Hesburgh told the assembled players and coaches. “And today you’ve added a new chapter.”

It would be a day and a game for everyone to remember, especially Harry.

But Harry who?

Funny, but 15 minutes earlier the capacity crowd assembled in Notre Dame Stadium had asked that very question

“Number three-that’s Harry Oliver.”

“Oh, you mean the guy who missed that extra point in the third quarter?”

“Yeh, that’s him. There’s no way he can kick the ball 51 yards-look how small he is!”

Chances did look mighty grim for the Irish, especially after the Wolverines had erased a 26-21 Irish lead with a 10-play, 78-yard drive in the waning minutes of the game. Cautiously guarding against the improbable, the Wolverines had attempted but failed to make a two-point conversion with 41 seconds left that would have pushed their advantage to 30-26 and thwarted the effects of most any last-second Irish heroics.

Eighty yards and 41 seconds away from the Michigan goal line, Devine sent freshman Blair Kiel in to engineer Notre Dame’s last-ditch drive.

Hopes began to wane as Kiel’s first pass from the shotgun formation was a wobbler toward the outstretched arms of Tony Hunter, plus a variety of Wolverine defensive backs. But a defensive interference flag was dropped at the feet of Michigan coach Bo Schembechler and the Irish were just past midfield with 31 seconds to go.

Kiel’s next pass to Pete Holohan almost was picked off by Michigan defender Jeff Reeves, and his first pass that hit its mark was bobbled and dropped by tight end Dean Masztak.

Faced with a third-and-10 situation on the Michigan 48-yard line and a scant 20 seconds on the clock, Kiel found Phil Carter for nine yards over the middle, and stopped the clock at :04. with a five-yard toss to Hunter at the Irish sidelines.

Enter Harry. The Cincinnati Moeller High School product, whose longest field goal had been 38 yards in a junior varsity game against Wisconsin, faced a 20-mile-per-hour head wind that had carried a Kiel punt 69 yards in the other direction earlier in the day.

But as Bill Siewe snapped the ball to holder Tim Koegel, the wind stopped, the seas parted and 59,075 Notre Dame faithful glanced down from the heavens just long enough to see Oliver’s game saving, 51-yard prayer collapse over the crossbar.

“I have to thank God and Our Mother – they’re my strength,” remarked Harry with sincerity. “I just prayed that whatever happened would be the best. That was all I could ask for.”

Bob Crable: ‘I didn’t look up until I heard everyone screaming and I knew Harry had made it.’

“I did nothing but say Hail Marys,” said Crable, a classmate and teammate of Harry’s at Moeller. “From the time Michigan scored, I came off the field, sat on the bench, buried my head in my hands and prayed.

“I didn’t look up until I heard everyone screaming and I knew Harry had made it.”

Another Irish hero all but overlooked by the herd of reporters in the dressing room was John Krimm. Had it not been for Krimm’s interception and 49-yard return for a touchdown when the Irish offense appeared to stall in the third quarter, Harry’s heroics would have been meaningless.

“We were in deep half coverage, and Michigan’s receiver, Anthony Carter, read the coverage and went for the flag instead of curling,” explained Krimm. “Their quarterback didn’t pick up the change and I just stepped into the ball.

“Since the play had come from the opposite side of the field, I had daylight from me to the goal line.”

The Irish had opened up an early 14-0 advantage, thanks to impressive marches of 70 and 51 yards. Carter carried 10 times for 45 yards during the initial drive (he also went six yards for the touchdown), and a Mike Courey-to-Holohan 10-yarder accounted for the second score. Two Michigan interceptions and a switch at quarterback to John Wangler produced a pair of Wolverine scores before intermission. Krimm’s return kept the Irish in the hunt after a 67 -yard return of the second-half kickoff by Michigan’s Carter had set up the go-ahead six pointer for the Wolves.

But the spotlight on this day belonged to Harry who still stood fully dressed in the locker room some 45 minutes after the game, shifting the game ball back and forth, from hand to hand as he talked to friends, reporters and teammates. The battered Michigan Wolverine hat he wore on his head told the story.

“I knew right away that it was true and that he kicked it good,” said Devine. “Then I used a famous sign that I’ve used for a long time. It’s called, ‘In the name of the Father and the Son . . .’”

“I’ve never seen Harry kick one that far but it went through today and that’s all I care about. He’s a heck of a nice kid.

“He was a nice kid even before he kicked it!”

Harry who?

Funny, that’s the same question Michigan partisans have been asking ever since.


As I conclude this riveting journey through Notre Dame’s storied victories, I’m thrilled to announce what lies ahead. Join me next week as I rewind the clock to 1965 and revisit one of the most iconic matchups in Fighting Irish history: the unforgettable clash between Notre Dame and USC. Prepare to immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of football history as I delve into the drama, passion, and enduring legacy of this historic rivalry. Stay tuned as I continue to celebrate the timeless triumphs that define the Fighting Irish spirit in the off-season series.

Cheers & GO IRISH!

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