Smith Game


Greg and Cameron Smith:
NU-ND Game Reflections

Greg Smith (WCAS ’90) returns to South Bend after a 19 year hiatus with his son Cameron to watch the Cardiac 'Cats pull off another major upset

The Smith Story – Revisited

The day was important to me on so many levels.    I had been in the stands in September 1995 when the 'Cats stunned the college football world by beating host Notre Dame 17-15 to start a Cinderella season.   My life had changed so much in 19 years, from bachelorhood to fatherhood, but one thing remained constant: my passion for the 'Cats.   This was also a chance to bring my younger son, Cameron, to a Northwestern football game.  Cameron had just wrapped up another successful football season as a guard and defensive tackle on his 6th grade team in Ridgewood, NJ.   I had taken his older brother, Coleston, to a Northwestern game six years earlier on what turned out to be a perfect day. [Click here to see the 2008 NU Sports story of Coleston’s visit to NU].  And to top it off, the date of the game had been emblazoned in my mind ever since it was scheduled: November 15, my birthday.

November 15, 2014

10:00 a.m.

On our flight to Midway from Newark we met another father-son 'Cat fan duo from South Orange, NJ who were also on their way to South Bend.  We were all hopeful – could the 'Cats win?  

We pulled out our Northwestern car flag and put it into the window jam of our rental car.    Along the way on Interstate 80 we would hear an occasional toot of a friendly horn from 'Cats fans on the way to the game, give each other mutual thumbs ups, and mouth the words “Go 'Cats!”

1:00 p.m.

While arriving at the Notre Dame campus, we were met with a surprising visitor: snow!     It was cold – really cold.   We opened the trunk of our car and put on layer after layer of clothes plus two pairs of socks.  Made me realize that although we had packed tons of Northwestern garb – I could always use more – like a purple 'Cats winter coat.  I envied fellow fans who had one (here is my plug to my wife for a holiday gift). It was nice to see Northwestern well represented in South Bend.

We made our way around Saint Joseph’s Lake via the wooded paths of the campus and eventually visited the Basilica and Grotto, where Notre Dame fans light candles.  Through it all, Notre Dame fans were very friendly, in fact downright hospitable and beyond just Midwestern nice.  A flashback hit me from 19 years earlier – what a class act Notre Dane fans were then.  In 1995, after the 'Cats stunning upset of the Irish, ND fans would say, “Congratulations!” and “Good luck for a great season.”
3:30 p.m.

Cameron in the snow in South Bend

Game time.    It was cold (about 25 degrees F), but our spirits were warm.    And then Notre Dame QB Everett Golson darted downfield with a 61 yard run in the first minute of play.  This could be a long day.   Would this be like the Iowa game earlier this year?  

But we kept the faith.  The 'Cats stayed poised and Trevor Siemian marched the 'Cats down the field with Matt Alviti clinching the touchdown with a 2 yard run and we had tied it all up.  Later in the quarter, Siemian hit Garrett Dickerson for a first down pass, but unfortunately Dickerson fumbled the ball and a Notre Dame defender picked it up to run it back into the end zone, bringing me to another flashback of the 1995 season when Brian Musso fumbled after a caught pass, which was returned by USC for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl – a deflating moment.   But Nick Van Hoose changed the momentum back seconds later by blocking the point after attempt and returning it for a 2 point conversion.   That’s when it really started to sink in:  this is going to be a bizarre game.

Cameron and Greg during the game

7:30 p.m.

4th quarter.  After Will Fuller on Notre Dame caught his third TD pass with 10:34 left, the 'Cats were down by 11 and in a spot where they had to respond.   They drove down to the ND 26 yard line, but had to settle for a field goal attempt, which was blocked.   Another deflating moment.   My good friend, an NU football season ticket holder sitting next to us, decided it was time to go home with his 10 year old daughter.  A few others followed.    We decided to stay.  Maybe the 'Cats could fight back.

 The 'Cats’ defense held the Irish on their subsequent drive.    And then Trevor Siemian truly led the 'Cats to the end zone with a combination of 3 runs and 4 complete passes.  Now we needed the 2 point conversion to get within a field goal.  After a pass interference call, Warren Long broke “right through that line” to get the 'Cats within 3 points of Notre Dame with 4:10 left.

Again the 'Cats defense had to step it up to give the offense a chance to get the ball back.  Coach Fitz called time outs strategically to stop the clock.    After a pass interference call, the game seemed like it was over, but on the next play the 'Cats stripped the ball from ND’s full back and we recovered.  There was hope. 

After the win

The 'Cats marched down the field quickly with several Siemian-Kyle Prater connections along the way.    Then our eyes focused on Jack Mitchell across the field…his 45 yard field was good!!!    Cameron and I hugged and then we ended up hugging NU fans that we did not even know. 

8:00 p.m.

The 'Cats huddled on the field before the overtime coin toss.  We had momentum ... and unfinished business.  After ND missed their field goal, the 'Cats could not get a first down, but gave Jack Mitchell enough range for a possible game winner.   We held our breath… the field goal was GOOD!   Cameron and I were screaming “WE WON!  WE WON!”  We made our way down near the field to hear the band play the fight song and Alma Mater and the players joined in.    The good vibe was palpable.   The Dickerson brothers, Cameron and Garrett (who both attended Bergen Catholic in our neighboring town), stayed around the longest to let it all soak in.  

The moments were magical. Cameron and I did not want to leave. And in fact we were the last two fans to leave the stands.   The ushers had to kick us out.   We wanted to savor the moment as long as possible…

Notre Dame Stadium, emptied of fans, the memories having been made

The scoreboard and the expressions tell the story
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