[Ed. Originally posted November 2012. Reposting today in honor of Elvis Grbac's birthday, and because it was a fun post that I'm guessing some of you missed last year. So much credit is given to Desmond on the play, and there's no question the Legend deserves that, but how about that pump and that ball Grbac lofted out there for Howard under those conditions? Invest some time to listen to these clips - I think you enjoy it:]
I mentioned earlier this week that Ira and I recently sat with Coach Moeller, who will be honored Saturday at Michigan Stadium, in studio at WTKA. This was my favorite part and it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. We methodically stepped through the headset audio from The Catch (recall that the athletic department released it last year in the UTL ND game program).
As a bonus – I’ve included a second clip of the man on the other side of the field. Writer John Kryk interviewed Lou Holtz for his book Natural Enemies, the definitive tome on the U-M-ND rivalry, and he was kind enough to share this clip from his archives. It’s Holtz discussing the defensive play call and their strategy. It’s a little scratchy but I sent it over to Ira who cleaned it up a bit.
The Moeller clip is over 17 minutes long so give it a chance to load up and we cover just about everything that is said on the recording and more. Holtz is just over a minute (that’s Kryk asking the questions).
Listening to the clips basically you learn that Notre Dame called the right defense to stop this, and more importantly, they successfully disguised the formation enough to get Grbac to believe ND would leave just a single defender on Desmond Howard (I love how Coach Lou calls him his full name) and thus call the pass. If Elvis knew ND intended to swing the safety over to put double coverage on Howard, he would have checked to the 29 toss to Ricky Powers (or possibly the Caesar off tackle) to move the chains. As Holtz said, they basically conceded the first down if Michigan ran the pigskin and you can see on the clip they would have struggled stopping the toss.
One thing I think Holtz denies or didn’t recall (or he’s just stubborn)—on the replay (see the endzone view later in the clip below) it does look like the Grbac pump does made the safety take a step in before adjusting and heading to the end zone to try to break up the play. That change may have provided Desmond just enough of a window to make the play.
Either way, the bottom line here the Irish were in the right coverage but the execution of the pass and catch trumped the Notre Dame defense.
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