It was my sophomore year at Notre Dame, and we had a new quarterback at the helm, Rick Mirer. Tony Rice had graduated the year before, and it was time for Mirer to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight, and that he did. Just like it is this year, it was the home opener, and it matched up #1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS #4 Michigan Wolverines, under the lights. And not under the lights like we know it today. They BROUGHT IN temporary lights in order to be able to host a night game at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame came out all cylinders firing, and jumped ahead to an early 14-3 lead, but that was short lived. By the end of the third quarter they were trailing Michigan, by a score of 24-14, and it was time for Mirer to show the college football world exactly what he was made of; and that’s exactly what he did.
Don’t remember how the fourth quarter played out? Here’s an excerpt of the game summary from the New York Times*. “It was time to overlook the facts that Mirer had played a total of 36 minutes, 3 seconds, and had thrown 30 passes before Saturday night. ‘The plan was: Let everybody else play the game, and you just be the sophomore quarterback, said Tim Ryan, a senior offensive guard. ‘But things happened.’ Wearing No. 3, the number Joe Montana once wore for the Irish, Mirer helped produce the kind of finish that made Montana famous. He completed his last five passes, including an 18-yard touchdown to Adrian Jarrell with 1 minute 40 seconds left to play, for a 28-24 victory over the Wolverines and perhaps the beginning of his own era in the history of Notre Dame Football.”
“The first touchdown pass of Mirer’s college career ended a decisive drive on which 52 of the 76 yards came on passes. Notre Dame’s fourth consecutive victory over Michigan was also the 18th straight Irish victory at Notre Dame Stadium, and the 15th in 16 games as a No. 1 ranked team in Lou Holtz’s five seasons as coach.”
Trailing Michigan 24-14, “the urgency of the moment presented Mirer with a chance to demonstrate the sense of confidence necessary to succeed at a new level. ‘You can tell when someone has an air of confidence,’ Ryan said. “It flowed from him. It was like: We’re going to go down there and score.’”
“’When it came down to the time, we were running out of time,’ Mirer said, ‘we had to get something going.’” And that he did.
“’You just play by instinct and ability,’ Mirer said. ‘People were in the right place at the right time. We had them on their heels.’”
Two things made that game incredibly memorable for me. One, it was a guy who was actually in my classes, who lead the team onward to victory. As an 18-year-old kid, that was pretty darn cool. And two, it was my first college game under the lights, and that was amazing.
People always refer to Tony Rice as being the quarterback who was ‘calm under pressure,’ but I think Rick Mirer was very similar to Rice in that aspect. When I interviewed Rick for my first book, he talked a little bit about that ‘calm under pressure’ characteristic that he displayed during games, and how that affected his relationship with Coach Holtz, “I was never really all that stressed out in all of the close games that I was a part of, but when I’d come over to the sideline and get the one-on-one conversation with Coach Holtz he was a great strength to me. I’m not sure if he knew whether I was OK or not, but we’d always seem to have a little laugh in the middle of a tense moment. We were so close, and in those crucial game moments he never made me feel like they were bigger than life moments.” (excerpt from Echoes From the End Zone: The Men We Became)
And, for your viewing pleasure, here are some video highlights from the 1990 Notre Dame vs. Michigan game, “under the lights”:
Cheers & GO IRISH!
*Excerpts from NYT article, written by Malcolm Moran, were taken from: https://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/17/sports/college-football-irish-s-mirer-comes-of-age.html