30-Year CFB Anniversary: Late TD, 2-Point Conversion Lift Notre Dame Past Penn State in the Snow, 17-16

It certainly gets cold in November in South Bend, Ind., but when one thinks about Notre Dame football history and snow, one contest stands alone. It came on this day 30 years ago.

With the ground at Notre Dame Stadium and the opponent wearing white, the Fighting Irish won a thriller. A late touchdown and 2-point conversion ultimately lifted Notre Dame to a thrilling 17-16 win over Penn State in a top-25 showdown.

Setting the Stage

At 7-1-1, Notre Dame was ranked No. 8 as it arrived in South Bend for Senior Day on Nov. 14, 1992. The Fighting Irish were riding a 4-game winning streak and coming off a 54-7 rout of then No. 9 Boston College the week prior.

After a 5-0 start, No. 22 Penn State was limping into Notre Dame Stadium. The Nittany Lions had dropped three of four and were 6-3, but the Fighting Irish took their best shot in a contest later known as the “Snow Bowl.”

Notre Dame Prevails

Specialist Craig Hentrich was the only Notre Dame player to score as the clock ticked under a minute on Senior Day. With less than five minutes left, Brian O’Neal had scored to give Penn State a 16-9 lead.

With just 25 seconds remaining, the Fighting Irish faced 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard-line. Jerome Bettis and Reggie Brooks were known for their running ability, but on the two most important snaps, they turned out to be quarterback Rick Mirer’s best friends.

On fourth down, Mirer lofted one to Bettis, who made the touchdown catch that the Fighting Irish had to have. Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz kept his offense on the field.

On the game’s decisive snap, Mirer rolled to his right before firing another one in the end zone. A diving Brooks made the catch and got a foot down for the winning conversion with just 20 seconds remaining.

Prior to the fourth quarter, Penn State’s Richie Anderson had scored the game’s only touchdown. Hentrich made three field goals for Notre Dame.

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In Hindsight

Notre Dame would close the year with wins over USC and then undefeated Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. At 10-1-1, the Fighting Irish finished fourth in the final polls.

Penn State bounced back with a win over Pittsburgh, but was routed by Stanford in the Blockbuster Bowl. The Nittany Lions finished with five losses and unranked for the first time since 1988. Three of those losses came by three points or less, including the heartbreaker in South Bend that came on this day three decades ago.

Featured image via YouTube/NBC broadcast

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.