The 1992 game between Michigan and Notre Dame isn’t reviewed as often as many other games in the series, probably because neither team was able to win, so the game didn’t really add to the glorious tradition of either team. The game ended in a 17-17 tie at South Bend, and both teams to view the game with bittersweet memories.
Early on, it looked as though Notre Dame would pull away. Reggie Brooks ran 20 yards and scored what’s referred to as the “unconscious touchdown” after colliding with Michigan defensive back Coleman Wallace. With Notre Dame leading, 7-0 and threatening, Michigan’s Martin Davis recovered a fumble on a reverse, and the momentum suddenly changed as Michigan went to its two-minute drill, with quarterback Elvis Grbac connecting with tight end Tony McGee and wide receiver Derrick Alexander, arguably two of the most underappreciated players in Michigan history. With a little more than a minute to go, Grbac found Tyrone Wheatley out of the backfield, and Wheatley broke a tackle and skirted 28 yards down the sideline for the tying touchdown. In the third quarter, Michigan made another opportunity for itself when Corwin Brown knocked the ball loose from Jerome Bettis and linebacker Steve Morrison call the ball in midair and returned it near midfield. The drive extended stretched into the fourth quarter, and when Grbac completed a touchdown pass to Alexander in the corner of the end zone, the Wolverines suddenly had a 10-point lead.
The deficit didn’t seem to faze the Irish, who went right back to Bettis, a bulldozer who just happened to hail from Detroit. Following a pass interference penalty on then-freshman cornerback Ty Law, Bettis pounded the ball over the goal line to cut Michigan’s lead to three points. Later, Craig Hentrich made a field goal to tie the score at 17, ending all the scoring, but not the drama.
With Michigan threatening, Notre Dame pressured Grbac, who threw an interception into the waiting arms of Notre Dame defensive back Jeff Burris, giving the Irish the ball with 1:07 left in the game. However, Notre Dame had only one timeout left, while Michigan still had all three. That might have played a part in Irish coach Lou Holtz’s decision to run the ball on back-to-back plays, before quarterback Rick Mirer finally heaved a long pass that was incomplete, leaving only seven seconds on the clock. On the final play of the game, Mirer threw a long pass down the middle of the field that was easily broken up by Brown, ending the game in bizarre fashion.
I was unable to watch the game because of work obligations that day, but I listened to the radio broadcast, and when Michigan was driving with less than two minutes to go, the color commentator on the Notre Dame radio broadcast said that Michigan was “in the catbird’s seat.” Sadly, Grbac’s interception wasted that opportunity. Almost as sad was the fact that I couldn’t get a Michigan radio broadcast in New York City.
From the Notre Dame perspective, fans were thoroughly angry with Holtz, a coach who was revered by the Notre Dame faithful.
At the end of the season, Michigan had finished undefeated, but with three ties to Notre Dame, Illinois and archrival Ohio State. However, the Wolverines won the Rose Bowl, 38-31 over Washington, giving them a final record of 9-0-3. It’s fair to say that team hasn’t received enough recognition over the years. After the 1992 season, Moeller resigned, but he left Lloyd Carr a roster stocked with talent. As we all know, Carr eventually became a living legend in his own right, leading Michigan to a perfect season and a share of the National Championship in the 1997 season. Notre Dame finished the 1992 season with a 10-1-1 record, losing only a midseason game to Stanford. Both teams enjoyed good seasons in 1992, but one team wished that rivalry game in early September had a different ending.
Thanks to NBC and youtube poster Wolverine Devotee. As always, I do not own any rights to this game.