Greg and Cameron Smith:
NU-ND Game Reflections
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
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
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.”
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
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.
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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