Tag Archives: Miracle at South Bend

A Witness to Miracles

25 Aug

Football season is upon us, and, like all fans, I am anxious to see what my teams are going to do. I have been lucky enough to attend a ton of games. Many of them have faded from memory, but a lot of them stand out for their drama and excitement. Of those, I can think of three that were gridiron miracles where my team pulled victory from the jaws of defeat.

The first took place 1991. The University of Tennessee traveled to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame, and I traveled with them. I have already written about The Miracle at South Bend and will not repeat myself. Just know that the Volunteers were down 31-7 with a few seconds left in the first half. They came roaring back to win 35-34 and ruin a pretty good day by Jerome Bettis, who was just inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

The second miracle transpired in 1998. The Volunteers had made it through the first eight games without a loss and were ranked at the top of the polls. However, the Razorbacks from the University of Arkansas came to Knoxville with the same record.

Tennessee was outclassed for most of the game and were in trouble. Arkansas had the lead and the ball with a little over a minute to go. They were running out the clock, and over 100,000 people were stunned. Then, the miracle happened.

Clint Stoerner, the Arkansas quarterback, stumbled and dropped the ball.Fumble

The Tennessee defense recovered, and the offense drove the field to win 28-24. The Volunteers went on to win the rest of the games and the national championship.

January 8, 2000 was a cold day in Nashville, but the city was hot with excitement. The Tennessee Titans had a great first season and were hosting an AFC Wild Card game. Yep, the NFL playoffs were in Tennessee. The Buffalo Bills were here, too.

The game saw both offenses struggle, but Buffalo was up 16-15 after a field goal in the waning seconds. The next play would become one of the most famous in NFL history.

The Bills pooched the kickoff into the hands of Lorenzo Neal, who pitched it to Frank Wycheck. Then, he three the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson, who streaked 75 yards for the touchdown.Music City

The crowd was going wild as they realized he was going to score. Except, I was just standing there.

My seat straddled the line where Wycheck threw the ball, and I thought it was an illegal forward pass. The play would be called back, and the Titans playoffs would come to an end. However, the official was not in position to see the forward pass, and the play could not be overturned. The Music City Miracle was in the books.

It was a great play that propelled the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl, and everyone in Nashville is convinced that it was a legal play. I am still not sure. I am just glad that the official was still running to his position when Frank Wycheck threw the ball.

Those are my three football miracles. Through the years, hundreds of thousands of people have claimed to be at those games, but I can honestly say that I was a witness to the miracles.

What about you? Have you been in the stands to see miracles happen on fields of play?

Miracle at South Bend

2 Jan

While reading this blog, some of you may have realized that I am a fan of the University of Tennessee. However, I am not just a fan. I am a fanatic. As a certified fanatic, I have been lucky enough to attend numerous football games throughout the country. I don’t know how many games I have attended. The best way to describe it is to say that if there has been a game played over the past 38 years, then chances are good that I was there.

Bunches of games have been forgotten, but a few, both wins and losses, stand out. One of those is the 1991 game against Notre Dame. It has gone down in Tennessee history as the Miracle at South Bend. Tennessee fans throughout the nation remember that game and have a story that goes along with it. However, my story is a little more supernatural.

My brother and I took an RV with some people that we did business with. The trip northward was filled with food, drink, laughter and anticipation. Notre Dame, coached by Lou Holtz, came into the game with an 8-1 record, while Tennessee stood at 5-2. It was the 300th game to be played in storied Notre Dame Stadium and was Senior Day for players like Jerome Bettis.

We arrived in South Bend to find temperatures in the single digits and snow spitting from the sky. Most of our group, including my brother, wanted to hang around the RV and tailgate. I remember one of our crew wearing a short-sleeve shirt, thin khakis, loafers without socks and a windbreaker. He should have been cold, but I’m sure that he wasn’t.

I didn’t want to tailgate. I had never been to Notre Dame and wanted to walk around the historic campus. There was Touchdown Jesus.

After the last field goal attempt, he was crossing his arms.

After the last field goal attempt, he was crossing his arms.

There was the grotto.

It's a beautiful place.

It’s a beautiful place.

Of course, there was the stadium.

It was filled with people when I was there.

It was filled with people when I was there.

I walked into the stadium as soon as the gates opened and found my seat in the end zone. There was an old man sitting in the seat next to mind, but I was too busy taking in the scene to say anything to him. Finally, he spoke and said:

“What part of Tennessee are you from?”

“I live close to Nashville. Do you live close by?”

“You could say that. How do you feel about the game?”

“I don’t feel very good about it.”

He smiled slightly and said:

“Don’t worry. Your team is going to win 35-34.”

That’s the last thing we said to each other. As game time approached, more people filled the seats, and my brother showed up. Then, the game began. At least, it began for Notre Dame. They ran and ran and ran. Up and down the field they went. With the first half coming to a close, Notre Dame was up 31-7 and was lining up for a field goal. My brother said that if something dramatic didn’t happen, then he was going back to the RV.

Something dramatic happened. Craig Hentrich, who would later punt for the Tennessee Titans, had his field goal blocked and Tennessee returned it for a touchdown. Everybody went crazy, but the man next to me never moved. Throughout the game, he never stood. He never talked. He never did anything but watch.

At the half, Notre Dame led 31-14, and my brother did not go back to the RV. It’s a goog thing because the second half belonged to Tennessee. They gradually cut into the lead, and, for some reason, Holtz abandoned the run and started throwing. Tennessee crept closer and closer. Coming toward our end zone, Tennessee scored to go up 35-34. I remembered what the man had said and turn to tell him that he was a genius, but he never looked at me.

Notre Dame got the ball and went back to the run. They should have been doing it all day because they drove straight down the field. With a few seconds left, they lined up for a short field goal to win. However, Notre Dame had a problem. Hentrich had been injured on the earlier field goal, and the backup kicker had to come in.

The snap. The hold. The kick. One of our guys flew in, and the ball hit him in the hip. The ball kept going but was wide left. Tennessee fans went crazy. We were jumping, hugging, giving out high fives. Tennessee won 35-34, just like the man said we would. I turned to hug him, but he was gone. The man had vanished into thin air.

Then, my brother was pulling at me. As the Notre Dame band played, Tennessee fans were storming the field. We had to go with them. We hugged players, coaches and other players wearing orange. We mingled with the band and Notre Dame players. We grabbed grass to keep as a souvenir.

It was the greatest ever comeback against Notre Dame. It was one of the greatest wins in Tennessee history. It was a game that made me wonder. Who was that guy? How did he know what the score would be? How did he suddenly disappear? I have always heard that there are ghosts in the stadium at Notre Dame, and I am convinced that I met one of them.