Michigan-Notre Dame Football– Looking Back – 1980


There were a lot of historic moments in 1980 before Michigan traveled to Notre Dame for a September football game. In February, the United States won a Gold Medal in ice hockey when a team of largely unknown amateur hockey players stunned the Soviet Red Army team in one of the greatest upsets in sports history. That was the good news. The big news story of 1980 was the Iran Hostage Crisis, which dominated conversations in every coffee shop in the country.

On the football field, Michigan and Notre Dame played a classic game that featured a number of lead changes in the final minutes, something this rivalry is known for. John Wangler took over at quarterback in the second quarter with Michigan trailing 14-0, and threw a pair of touchdown passes in 1:19 to tie the score by halftime. Momentum put on a winged helmet and a number 1 jersey at the beginning of the third quarter, as Anthony Carter returned the second-half kickoff 67 yards, giving Michigan the ball at the Notre Dame 32. Stanley Edwards scored from two yards out to give Michigan the lead. Notre Dame then scored a pair of touchdowns to take a 26-21 lead with a little more than three minutes to go. On Michigan’s final drive, Butch Woolfolk carried for 36 yards to the Notre Dame 4-yard line, and then tipped a pass that was caught Michigan’s Craig Dunaway for a touchdown, giving the Wolverines a 1-point lead with 41 seconds left. 

On the game’s final drive, Notre Dame freshman quarterback Blair Kiel threw a long pass down the sideline that resulted in a controversial pass interference call against Michigan defensive back Marion Body, putting the ball at the Michigan 48. On the next play, Michigan defensive back Jeff Reeves came ever so close to ending the game with an interception. Two passes later, Kiel connected with Tony Hunter, who inadvertently stepped out of bounds at the 34, setting up one of the fateful kicks of all time. Up to the line stepped left-footed kicked Harry Oliver, who kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expires, sending Notre Dame streaming onto the field. 

As the season went on, Michigan recovered quite nicely, reeling off nine consecutive wins, including a victory over Washington in the Rose Bowl, Notre Dame wound up losing its last two games to USC and Georgia. 

Oliver bravely fought cancer in later years and passed away in 2007 at the age of 47. But on that day in 1980, Oliver earned his spot in immortality in Notre Dame football, and in this rivalry. 

Thanks to youtube poster BlueGoldIlustrated for the footage. As always, I own no rights to this. 


About Jeff Cummins

Jeff Cummins has written about football since 1998, including nine years with The Record of Hackensack, N.J. He frequently contributes feature stories to Touchdown Illustrated, an insert in the national college football game program, published by University Sports Publications, and he has also written the official pregame stories for the game programs of the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and the BCS National Championship game. He has written the preview story for the official program for the NHL Winter Classic at MIchigan Stadium, and numerous college basketball feature stories for College Hoops Illustrated, another game program insert published by University Sports Publications. In addition, he has written stories about theater, music, physical therapy, and newsletter marketing. He’s an avid Michigan football fan and long-time New York Jets season ticket holder, and he can be reached at jeffcummins@optonline.net.