Save a Ring for Trevor Laws

One of my fondest memories as an ND fan is the pep rally before the Fiesta Bowl closing the 1988 season. As you probably know, undefeated and #1 ND was set to play #3 and undefeated West Virginia for the national championship. (Miami, the loser of the epic 31-30 game at ND was #2 but surely would have been vaulted by West Virginia had the Mountaineers been able to pull off the upset.)

The pep rally was rousing as one would expect for an Irish nation that was set to shake off a good deal of frustration. Coming into 1988, the Irish had compiled a record of 43-36-1 over the last seven years. By way of comparison, ND's record over the last seven years has been 48-37. While many expected a good season in 1988 because of Holtz's recruiting and the evident improvement of the team, playing for the national championship was a major shock.

But maybe it shouldn't have been. One of the speakers at the pep rally was Steve Beuerlein, a four-year starting QB recruited by Gerry Faust. Beuerlein played his senior season for Holtz in 1986. The 1986 team finished 5-6 and was the first and only team in ND history to suffer through two consecutive losing seasons.

Beuerlein, then a QB for the Raiders, received a warm welcome but perhaps not as warm as he really deserved.

That 1986 team, led by Beuerlein, had suffered an unbelievable amount of bad luck. That squad entered the game 4-6 having endured five defeats by five points or fewer. A bad call and a missed field goal added up to a 24-23 loss to Michigan. A dropped two point conversion ended a spirited 21-19 effort against LSU in Baton Rouge. The week prior the Irish had nearly upset eventual national champ Penn State before losing 24-19. It was agony.

The 1986 team's season ended on the road at USC against a 7-3 Trojan squad that would play in the Citrus Bowl. Down by three scores to the Trojans in the fourth quarter, Beuerlein absorbed one of the most vicious hits I have ever seen a QB take. As his back-up took the field, I was certain that Beuerlein was done for the day. But then the sideline cameras caught him standing up, wiping the blood out of his mouth with a towel. And back to the field he trotted.

Almost impossibly, the Irish rallied and won the game 38-37 on a John Carney field goal set up by an unforgettable punt return by next year's Heisman winner Tim Brown.

Now if anyone deserved to sit the rest of the game it was Steve Beuerlein. In an objective sense, there wasn't much on the line. No bowl game was in sight. The only issue that remained to be settled was whether the Irish would finish 4-7 or 5-6. Holtz hadn't recruited him; he didn't really obviously owe much to Lou. And while beating USC was always a big deal, Faust's teams actually had won three in a row over the Trojans from 1983 through 1985.

But Beuerlein just wasn't going to sit on that bench and watch his teammates lose. It said a lot about his will to win and Holtz's ability to hold the team together.

Trevor Laws showed his inner Beuerlein against Stanford. Three times he had to be helped off the field only to have his ankle taped and retaped and each time he limped back onto the field. If anyone ever deserved a few plays off, it was Laws. Constantly double teamed by opposing offensive lines, he has broken ND tacking record after record. Time after time he has gotten off the ground to make a play.

And really what was at stake on Saturday? Objectively, not a lot. It was the difference between a two and three-win season. But Laws just wasn't going to sit on the sidelines while his team lost. And they didn't lose.

Now, I don't want to overstate the comparison. The 1986 team was better than the 2007 team. Beating USC is a bigger deal than beating Stanford. But it's not possible to overstate the heart that Trevor Laws showed all year. And in a season full of coaching that's open to question, one thing that's not open to question is that Charlie Weis and his staff held the team together to the end, which is no small feat when you're 1-9.

I always thought that Beuerlein deserved one of those national championship rings from 1988. And if the ND players of the next few years get a big shiny one, I hope they order an extra for Trevor Laws. Top Stories