Fans that venture to South Bend, Indiana and only watch the game are not real college football fans. Notre Dame is the capital of college football tradition. Walking the campus and visiting the symbols that represent this program are practically part of the ticket price. Prior to the game, we viewed the Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus, the Grotto, a band concert on campus, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It was at this chapel where the team gathers for prayer before going to battle on the gridiron. Our timing was impeccable because the team exited the basilica as we arrived. Led by head coach Bob Davie, the Fighting Irish walked through a tunnel of fans on their way to Notre Dame Stadium.
The entire experience was hair raising. Storms of fans, most wearing Irish jerseys and some wearing golden dome hats, cover the campus green around the stadium. Bagpipers and kilt wearers contribute to the atmosphere and everyone participates in pregame tailgating and reminiscing. Upon entering the stadium, I had to hold my breath. It reminded me of the scene in the movie, Rudy, where Ned Beatty’s character entered Notre Dame Stadium for the first time. His eyes doubled in size and its not necessarily the stadium itself, but rather the history and tradition that is sensed. There is a spirit that can be detected and it hit me when I laid eyes on the old structure. Our seats were seven rows from the field offering some fantastic up close views.
The Air Force falcon performed some pregame flying tricks and the trainer brought the bird right near us. Notre Dame wide receiver Javin Hunter caught a tipped passed for a touchdown that was so close that each touch of the ball could be heard. It was Irish wide receiver Joey Getherall that starred in today’s show. He reeled in two long touchdown passes for 28 and 68 yards helping Notre Dame to take a 28-10 lead over the Falcons at the inception of the fourth quarter.
However, military academies are used to fighting in adverse conditions. Air Force came all the way back and tied the score on a late Dave Adams field goal. The Falcons got the ball back and with three seconds left, set up for a chip shot winning field goal. The kick would have been good if it weren’t for Glenn Earl’s acrobatic leap into the air blocking the ball’s trajectory and sending it to a spinning stop in the endzone. Any sleeping echoes were woken by this astounding play as the crowd raised cheers of relief that this contest was entering extra sessions.
In overtime, Air Force managed another Adams field goal lifting the Falcon’s advantage by three points. When Notre Dame got the ball, each yard gained raised the decibel level in the stadium. After a tense timeout, the Irish called a reverse to Joey Getherall who had an alleyway welcoming him into the endzone and ending yet another historic moment in Notre Dame Stadium. The dramatics of this game stay with me and the boisterousness of the crowd after the last score still has my ears ringing. Both the Irish and the Falcons finished respectable seasons and added another memorable moment to college football lore.