Mike Hold took a knee and watched the clock tick.
Five. Four. Three, Two, One. All zeroes.
Other numbers on the scoreboard told the joyful story: South Carolina 36, Notre Dame 32.
There have been bigger victories in the Gamecocks’ football history, but this one — on the road against Notre Dame and its lore that includes the Four Horseman, Rockne, the Gipper and Touchdown Jesus — ranks among the most meaningful.
The date, Oct. 20, 1984, provides a clue. The Gamecocks’ triumph at Notre Dame Stadium on a rainy Saturday provided proof that the season called “Black Magic” would roll merrily along.
Thirty-eight years later, the teams finally meet again, this time in the Gator Bowl on Friday afternoon in Jacksonville.
The Fighting Irish “haven’t beaten us in 39 years,” quipped Tommy Moody, an authority on Carolina athletics.
“We’ll be looking to add another year to the streak,” added Hold, one of the Carolina quarterbacks that day and one of the myriad of heroes that memorable afternoon in 1984. “I’m looking forward to playing them again.”
And, yes — two generations later — Hold will be there among the Carolina contingent with hopes that the Gamecocks can put another exclamation point on their season at Notre Dame’s expense.
Setting the scene
The Gamecocks went to South Bend with a 5-0 record and ranked 11th in the polls. Still, the great escape against The Citadel in the season opener left some doubters.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, stood at 3-3 and would not be mistaken for the powerhouses of the Rockne, Leahy and Parseghian. But it’s still Notre Dame.
Hold on Carolina’s outlook: “We believed in ourselves, even if (national pundits) did not. We were 5-0 and not getting the respect we thought we deserved. Even though we had beaten Georgia (and Duke, Pitt and Kansas State), people kept going back to The Citadel game (won 31-24 on a late USC score and Otis Morris’ interception). We knew a win would vault us in the national picture and we were very focused.
“They didn’t have ‘stars’ for recruits back then, but Notre Dame had a ton of players who would have been four- or five-stars today — guys like Mike Golic, Tim Brown, Steve Beuerlein, Mark Bavaro and Allen Pinkett.”
Hold on his personal outlook: “I grew up on the West Coast and they didn’t have all the games on television like they do now. A big one I always saw on TV was Notre Dame-Southern Cal, so this game at Notre Dame was huge for me. I knew all about (Notre Dame’s) history.”
After Carolina grabbed a 7-0 lead, Notre Dame, which had drilled the Gamecocks 30-6 in 1983 in Columbia, countered with two touchdowns. USC pulled even, then the Irish took a 17-14 halftime advantage.
The home team stretched its advantage to 26-14 after three quarters, but Carolina reeled off 22 straight points for a 36-26 lead. Back came the Irish to cut the deficit to four. They had the ball in the final two minutes before an Earl Johnson interception sealed the Gamecocks’ victory.
Hold on the game: “Misty and cold, but it didn’t rain hard. We planned to run a lot and I didn’t throw but nine passes. Allen (Mitchell) threw six. But we had a good running game (256 yards). It got sloppy with all the turnovers (USC lost three fumbles and had two passes intercepted. Notre Dame lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions.)
“We ran the veer (offense) and had great depth. We played two quarterbacks, six running backs, two tight ends, five or six receivers. We had fresh players all the time. And the offensive line was great. They were great that day and great all seasons. We relied on the run that day.”
Hold after USC fell behind 26-14: “We turned the ball over three straight possessions (to start the second half), but we never felt we were out of it. The weird thing, we came back a lot that season. We didn’t panic and stayed true to the game plan. We knew we could move the ball. We had so much to play for.
“That was our M.O. all year. I hate to bring up the Navy game (USC’s only regular-season loss), but we thought we could come back in that game until the final few minutes.”
Hold on the 22-point spree that included his 33-yard TD run: “We just cut out the mistakes (on drives of 73, 75 and 17 yards), and our defense kept coming up with big plays (such as Rick Rabune’s fumble recovery to set up the final touchdown.)
“On my (second) touchdown, we had a drop-back pass called, but they were in man defense (in the secondary) and the middle of the field was just wide open. I took off (after evading a sack) and Eric Poole gave me a great block about the 15. I cut off that and scored.”
Hold on the final few minutes after USC opened a 36-26 lead: “We felt OK, but again, the cool thing about that team is we never gave up and never got complacent. Once we got the lead, we weren’t going to give it back.
“They scored (to cut USC’s lead to 36-32) and we got a break after a (dead-ball) procedure penalty nullified a snap out of the endzone (on a punt).
“They got the ball back about midfield, but like always, somebody made a play. Earl Johnson had perfect coverage and intercepted (Beuerlein’s) long pass and we could run out the clock.”
Hold looks back and ahead: “People have asked me about my favorite game that season and expect me to say ‘Clemson’ (another come-from-behind win 22-21). But because of what I knew from the Notre Dame-Southern Cal series, I saw ‘Notre Dame.’ When I signed to play at Carolina, I saw Notre Dame on the schedule and I couldn’t wait. The thing is, we’re still talking about that game 38 years later.
“Winning that game earned us some respect, and we kept going. We were the first Carolina team to win nine games, then the first to win 10 games and, we were the first Carolina team to be ranked second in the country. We had a great bunch of guys who did some great things.”
Hold on the 2022 Gator Bowl and beyond: “Both teams have lost some players (to the NFL Draft or the transfer portal), but I like the Gamecocks. Notre Dame is missing the (starting) quarterback, and that’s huge.
“The thing about the Carolina team, they want to play (and win a bowl) and that’s a huge advantage. This Carolina team has been prepared every game. The two seasons under Coach (Shane) Beamer have been remarkable and are a steppingstone to future.”
2022 GATOR BOWL
- Who: No. 19 South Carolina (8-4) vs. No. 21 Notre Dame (8-4)
- Where: TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
- When: Friday, Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m.
- TV: ESPN
- Stream: via ESPN app/ESPN.com
- Line: Notre Dame by 2.5
USC-Notre Dame 1984 box score
USC – Mitchell 1 run (Hagler kick)
ND – Pinkett 4 run (Carney kick)
ND – Bavaro 5 pass from Beuerlein (Carney kick)
USC – Hagood 2 run (Hagler kick)
ND – Carney 48 FG
ND – Carney 47 FG
ND – Beuerlein 6 pass from Pinkett (run failed)
USC – Hold 1 run (Hagood run)
USC – Hold 33 run (Hagler kick)
USC – Lewis 4 run (Hagler kick)
ND – Pinkett 1 run (pass failed)