September 16, 1989 - Rocket lifts off in the Big House

As you've probably become accustomed to recently, another highlight came against Michigan. Even today, it seems every year there's some highlight that makes the game memorable. This game however, brought only one highlight...twice.

RocketDespite Notre Dame winning the national championship in 1988, Michigan received the preseason #1 ranking, receiving three more first place votes than #2 Notre Dame. In the first week of the season, #2 Notre Dame beat unranked Virginia 36-13 while Michigan was idle. When the next AP Poll came out, Notre Dame had overtaken Michigan for the top spot. Early in the season, it was #1 Notre Dame (1-0) playing at #2 Michigan (0-0).

Leading up to the game it was dreary and rainy, naturally the field was soggy and not the best conditions. Tony Rice did not put up all-star numbers, but he didn't need to. The offense was cautious, methodical and effective. On the day Rice would complete one of two passes. The lone completion was a six yard pass for a touchdown to fullback Anthony Johnson that gave the Irish a 7-0 lead. With twenty six seconds to go before halftime, Michigan would score their first touchdown. After the extra point clanged off the left goal post, Notre Dame went into the locker room with a 7-6 lead.

Michigan would kick off to start the second half and sophomore Raghib 'Rocket' Ismail would receive the kick at the 12 yard line. On a play called Middle, Ismail raced through an opening in the middle of the defense and continued down the right sideline 88 yards for a touchdown. Notre Dame opened the game up leading 14-6 off of the first kickoff Michigan allowed to be returned for a touchdown since 1957. Craig Hentrich would tack on another three points on a 30 yard field goal and at the end of the third Notre Dame led 17-6.

Rocket MichiganMichigan would respond by going 61 yards down the field for a touchdown but when the two point conversion failed the scoreboard showed ND 17 UM 12. Lou Holtz told the return team to expect a squib kick. But as the ball sailed through the air, it continued all the way out to where Rocket caught it on the 8 yard line. After making one guy miss, Ismail would run the entire 92 yards for his second touchdown off a kickoff in the game. It was the first time Michigan allowed two kickoff returns for a touchdown. Notre Dame now led 24-12. With 4:08 left in the game, Michigan would score another touchdown trailing by five points. But Notre Dame would convert a 4th-and-1 with two minutes left in the game and never gave the ball back. When the final whistle blew, #1 Notre Dame would record their nation leading 14th consecutive win while ending Michigan's ten game win streak. The video of both kickoff returns is below.

The Rocket would continue to have a stellar college career and more highlights. We'll see him again and recap his post Notre Dame career at that point.

Keywords: football, raghib rocket ismail, michigan, tony rice, lou holtz, one versus two

Posted On: 2011-09-16 03:15:00 by IrishTrpt07


      Were you there? Have more to add? Leave a comment and let us know!

   Posted By: Thomas at 2016-02-27 11:10:33[#1]
It was a wonderful evnnieg indeed! Many thanks, Sharon, for your sponsorship of this important event. It is because of people like you that these special children can learn and grow in the wonderful environment that is The Notre Dame School of Dallas.
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