The date was Saturday, Sept. 9, 1978. I was a freshman at the University of Missouri in Columbia playing a round of golf for my dormitory on the University’s course as part of an intramural competition.
Before the day was over, thousands of crazed college students entered Farrot Field — one-third mile east of the golf course I was at — tore down the goalposts and carried them to Harpo’s Bar and Grill in downtown Columbia.
What makes this fascinating is that Mizzou football did not have a home game that Saturday. That day was the Tiger’s season opener. That day they were fodder for the reigning national champions from South Bend, Ind. — the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
While I was on the links, my parents, Don and Jeannie Warden — long-time Mizzou football season ticket holders — were on a trip with their good friends Mike and Barbara Sell and Norman and Rose Stuckenschneider.
The Sells were publishers of a small weekly newspaper in Monroe City, the Monroe City News. The three families rented a Winnebago to follow the Tigers and their new coach, Warren Powers, to South Bend.
Mike printed a ‘fake’ newspaper with a South Bend Tribune masthead. In one of the most prophetic statements known to modern history the top headline in big bold print read “Mizzou Claws N.D. 3-0.”
The national press had placed Mizzou as 17 point underdogs.
As the Tiger fans tailgated at Notre Dame Stadium before the game — with the prophecy proudly displayed — the six Tiger fans dressed in black and gold received no respect from the hometown crowd.
Notre Dame had nothing to worry about. They had future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback — possibly the greatest QB in NFL history — Joe Montana taking the snap. Montana had just led the Fighting Irish to a national championship in 1977.
They were confident. So was their coach, Dan Devine. Perhaps a little too confident.
During the game, Notre Dame put together nine good scoring opportunities. But each time, the Tiger’s defense held.
In the third quarter, Notre Dame had three opportunities for a field goal. The first two times, Devine — perhaps wanting to embarrass his former team — chose to go for it on fourth down. Both times they were stopped.
Within field goal range for the third time, the call from the sideline was to go for three points. (The coaches were starting to sweat.)
They didn’t know that the 20th-century prophet Mike Sell already knew the outcome of the game.
The ball holder bobbled the snap averting another crisis.
After that, Mizzou’s offense, lead by Phil Bradley, was able to run a set of plays that put the ball within field goal range for Mizzou. With 12:50 left on the clock, the Tiger’s kicker, Jeff Brockhaus, split the uprights and gave Mizzou the lead, 3-0.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Fighting Irish were shut out at home for the first time since 1960.
If my parents had the foresight to place a sizable bet on the game, maybe I would be spending my winters on the Riviera. But, I’ve been told that it’s against the policy of prophets to allow anyone to profit from their insight.
Over Labor Day weekend Connie and I made our first trip to South Bend, not to attend a football game, but for something more important, to visit our grandson Remy at his parent’s — Ethan and Hillary Mitchell Warden — new home.
While in that college town, we took the opportunity to attend Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame. The magnificent church is a Gothic-inspired, cross-shaped building at the center of campus. According to its website, “the stained-glass windows were first installed in 1873, giving Notre Dame the largest collection of 19th-century French stained glass in the world.”
It was indeed one of the most beautiful and inspiring places of worship I have ever attended.
As a former librarian, Connie wanted to visit Heseburgh Library, also on campus. It’s the home of “Touchdown Jesus” — a 132 feet high, 65 feet wide mural containing 81 types of stone from 16 countries depicting Jesus with his arms raised, and visible from the football stadium.
No one on campus gave a strange look when two newspapers publishers from Missouri held up a copy of the Unterrified Democrat to have their photo taken in front of the Basilica.