This past Wednesday marked one of those anniversaries that causes us to shake our head and say aloud, “Has it really been that long?” The answer in this case: Yes, it has. Twenty years to be exact.
On Nov. 14, 1992, Goshen native Rick Mirer was the starting quarterback for the University of Notre Dame football team. He was a senior and had been the starter since the beginning of his sophomore year. The eighth-ranked Fighting Irish were battling No. 22 Penn State on senior day at Notre Dame Stadium.
The two teams slugged it out during a furious first-half snow storm and the Nittany Lions, coached by the late Joe Paterno, took a 16-9 lead late in the fourth quarter. Mirer, who broke numerous state passing records while at Goshen High School, had 4:16 to lead the Irish nearly the length of the slick field to a touchdown. The methodical march toward victory reached a fourth down-and-goal situation with just 25 seconds remaining. Irish coach Lou Holtz called time out to go over Notre Dame’s last chance. The ball was snapped, Mirer dropped back and connected for a touchdown pass to running back Jerome Bettis over the middle.
There was no overtime in college back then and Holtz decided to forego the extra-point kick attempt and try for a two-point conversion. The ball was again placed on the 3-yard line. Mirer took the snap, was pressured to his right and eventually threw a strike to running back Reggie Brooks in the corner of the end zone for the winning points. As the crowd in the end zone mobbed Brooks, the normally reserved Mirer threw his arms into the air and smiled perhaps the biggest smile of his life.
Notre Dame faithful know that game simply as “The Snow Bowl.” Notre Dame went on to beat USC in Los Angeles and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The Irish ended up No. 5 in the country, but it was Mirer’s pass to Brooks that would go on to define that season and, in many ways, Mirer’s career in South Bend. It was the perfect senior day moment.
With the “Snow Bowl” permanently etched in Notre Dame lore, Mirer went on to be a first-round NFL draft pick. He won the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 1993 and was the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks for four seasons. He would spend eight more seasons in the league, mostly as a backup quarterback for several different teams.