Catholics vs Convicts Highlights Memorable College Football Day in 1988

By davidfunk74
Oct. 15, 2016

October 15, 1988, one of the most exciting and memorable days in college football took taken place. It was on this day that one of the most hyped college football games ever was played, nail-biters took place in Los Angeles and Iowa, one team set a college football record, and Barry Sanders continued his excellence in an offensive showdown in Lincoln.

Note: Records and rankings are before the games took place.

No. 1 Miami(4-0) at No. 4 Notre Dame(5-0)

In South Bend, the No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosted the No. 1 Miami Hurricanes in a very hyped match-up billed as the "Catholics vs Convicts". Miami's public image wasn't very good due to their reputation with law-breaking from some players that was established a couple of years prior to this match-up. A few schools have altogether avoided playing Miami as a result of their perceived unsportsmanlike attitude for the off-field troubles. So that's how the match-up got it's name, and students can be seen in highlights with shirts on with the slogan on them.

But make no mistake about it, the Hurricanes were the defending national champions for a reason, and had embarrassed the Fighting Irish the year before with a 24-0 shutout in Miami. They also whipped them badly two years before with a 56-7 win, which angered Notre Dame because they felt they unnecessarily ran the score up on them in 1985.

A shoving match happened before the game, and further added to the bad blood that existed between the two schools.

The game was as good as advertised, and was decided in the final minute of the game.

The Fighting Irish jumped out to an early first half lead because of the play of QB Tony Rice, and defensive back Pat Terrell's interception of a Steve Walsh tipped pass from linebacker Frank Stams that was returned for a touchdown that put Notre Dame ahead 21-7.

But Walsh would lead Miami back in the last two minutes of the first half with two touchdown passes as the Hurricanes tied it at 21-21 at halftime.

Notre Dame took a 31-24 lead late in the game after a controversial fumble by Miami running back Cleveland Gary was recovered by Fighting Irish linebacker Michael Stonebreaker near the Irish goal line. The fumble was caused by defensive back George Streeter.  The Hurricanes thought the play should have been ruled incomplete, but to no avail.

Later, the Hurricanes also attempted a fake punt, but Steve Belles tackled the punter short of a first down.

Both teams committed fumbles late, but Walsh threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Andre Brown on a 4th down play with under a minute left to bring the score to 31-30. Miami chose to go for the win with a two-point conversion attempt, but the pass attempt was broken up by Terrell, who had a big defensive day for Notre Dame.

Miami committed seven turnovers in the game -- including three interceptions thrown by Walsh -- which helped Notre Dame to a 31-30 win over the Hurricanes. The Fighting Irish had 162 rushing yards for a team that had an assortment of injuries on the offensive line. Miami had just 62 rushing yards in the game.

Notre Dame survived a brutal schedule that year, and won their last national championship to date under head coach Lou Holtz -- capped with a Fiesta Bowl win against West Virginia. This would be Miami's only loss on the season, and they would later beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Miami's 16-game winning streak was snapped. This day belonged to Notre Dame, and it's one they'll never forget.

Kansas State(0-5) at No. 9 Oklahoma(4-1)

In Norman, Oklahoma, the Sooners took the field against an over-matched and win-less Kansas State squad. Quarterback Charles Thompson, who started because of an injury to starter Jamelle Holieway, had a huge first half in the game. Thompson had four touchdowns in the opening quarter with three of them being runs of 11, 5, and 77 yards as Oklahoma led 35-0 at the end of the period. The Sooners ground game was on pace to break their own team single-game rushing mark of 758 yards against Colorado in 1980. Oklahoma took a commanding 49-0 lead into halftime.

In the second half, Oklahoma mostly played their reserves, but the scoring didn't stop.

Backup running back Eric Mitchel rushed only six times, but gained 161 yards on the ground which included two touchdown runs of 85 and 47 yards. The Sooners got 123 rushing yards from Thompson and ten offensive touchdowns as they won the game 70-24.  A holding penalty in the first half also negated a big running play from Thompson that would've added to their rushing total for the game.

Kansas State, who came into the game with the Big Eight's top passing offense, threw for 347 yards as they scored 17 meaningless points in the final quarter.

Oklahoma rushed for a single game record of 768 yards and had 829 total yards for the game. The teams combined to have eight turnovers in the game.

The Sooners program was getting out of control off the field, and were hit with probation by season's end which prompted coach Barry Switzer to step down from his position. They would finish the season 9-3 that included a loss in the Citrus Bowl to Clemson. Kansas State went winless on the season, and Bill Snyder was hired as head coach the following year to turn a dismal program into a respectable one later on.

No. 16 Washington(4-1) at No. 3 Southern California(5-0)

Southern Cal was also looking to stay in the national title race as they faced a Huskies team, who suffered a heart-breaking loss to No. 2 UCLA in the closing minutes of the game the week before. The Trojans were coming off a convincing win against Oregon. USC led the entire game, but nearly saw their national title hopes dim before them on this day.

USC got out to a 14-0 lead as Scott Lockwood's 4-yard run started the scoring for them. Lockwood filled in for three injured teammates in this game. A costly fumble by QB Rodney Peete deep in their own territory gave Washington new life as they cashed the turnover in on a QB keeper from Cary Conklin to cut the lead to 14-7.

Peete bounced back with a touchdown pass to tight end Scott Galbraith to give the Trojans a cushion.

But Conklin and the Huskies would not go away.

Conklin threw three touchdown passes to receiver Brian Slater in the second half of this game. With the Trojans leading 28-21 late in the final quarter, Slater caught his final touchdown pass of the contest to cut the lead to a single point.

Washington chose to go for two and the win on the road. Halfback Vince Weathersby was open on the two-point conversion attempt, but Conklin underthrew the intended pass to him as the Trojans held on at home. The Huskies suffered their second straight heart-breaking loss against both Los Angeles schools.

USC finished 10-2 on the season with losses to eventual national champion Notre Dame and Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Washington finished the season with a disappointing 6-5 mark. This classic finish didn't even come close at becoming the top story in sports this day -- or in Los Angeles for that matter.

No. 10 Oklahoma State(4-0) at No. 7 Nebraska(5-1)

The nation's two highest scoring teams going into the contest faced each other in Lincoln. This match-up did not disappoint in offensive production, but the game was decided in the first half.

The Huskers had two touchdowns a piece from I-back Ken Clark and QB Steve Taylor in the 1st quarter. Nebraska also intercepted Cowboy's QB Mike Gundy in the first half of the game, and returned it for an 86-yard touchdown as Nebraska jumped out to a big 42-0 lead.

The sensational Barry Sanders finally got the Cowboys on the board, but it was too late.

He did rush for 189 yards and four touchdowns as he kept pace in the Heisman Trophy race with his great play. Sanders set many NCAA records on the season, but even his stellar performance wasn't enough to overcome Nebraska. He won the Heisman Trophy award by wide margin over Rodney Peete at season's end.

Nebraska won 63-42 which turned out to be a closer score than it really was. Clark and Taylor combined for five touchdowns and 396 rushing yards in the win for Nebraska. Gundy threw a pair of touchdown passes for the Cowboys.

Nebraska went 11-2 on the season, but had lost in the Orange Bowl to Miami. Oklahoma State's only other loss came to in-state rival Oklahoma, and they capped their season with a Holiday Bowl win over Wyoming.

No. 15 Michigan(3-2) at Iowa(3-2-1)

On this day, it was inevitable that neither team was going to win this one. Michigan came into this game after a win against arch-rival Michigan State. Iowa also came into this contest with a win against in-state rival Iowa State in the previous game.

Iowa did get out to a 17-10 lead, and were driving down the field to add to their lead in the second half.

Running back Tony Stewart fumbled on a dive play right before going into the end zone, which was recovered by Michigan. This was on a 4th down play that coach Hayden Fry chose to go for instead of kicking a field goal. Michigan then went right down the field as QB Michael Taylor connected with John Kolesar on a 24-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.

The Wolverines got the ball back late in the game with the score still tied 17-17. RB Tracy Williams then fumbled the ball on the 1-yard line as Iowa recovered with 1:21 left in the game. Iowa tried a desperation pass as time expired, and the game ended up in a 17-17 tie.

Both teams had crucial turnovers deep in their opponent's territories that prevented each one from winning the game. Michigan finished 9-2-1 and knocked off USC in the Rose Bowl. Iowa would have three ties on the season while finishing 6-4-3 as they lost to NC State in the Peach Bowl.

October 15, 1988 College Football Review

So this day saw two games that ended with failed two-point conversion attempts, one that seemingly nobody wanted to win, a record-breaking day in Norman, and an offensive showing in Lincoln that was decided early even though Barry Sanders had another great game. Now that is one heck of a day in college football. But like I said, one sports moment took center stage that topped it all in Los Angeles that night. That moment was when Kirk Gibson hit a walk-off homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  What a day in sports history!