Monday, August 22, 2011

Unquestionable Leader

Marc Edwards/Photo By Brian Bahr/Allsport
Unquestionable Leader
Excerpt from Odyssey -- Chapter VII
By Aaron M. Smith

Marc Edwards and his teammates had little time to celebrate. Revenge was on their minds.
After dismantling the USC Trojans, Notre Dame welcomed Boston College to South Bend and it didn’t necessarily plan on being a good host. The Eagles had ended Notre Dame’s title hopes two years prior and then in 1994, Boston College simply overmatched the vengeful Irish. After a highly-hyped rivalry match-up with USC, the Irish had to re-energize themselves and prepare for yet another emotional game. Coach Holtz, though, was not worried about whether his guys would be ready for another game of such magnitude.
“Sixty-percent of all the games we played at Notre Dame were against top-20 teams,” Holtz said. “We played Michigan, Michigan State, Texas, Ohio State, teams like Alabama and Florida State. We just beat USC, good for us. Now we’ve got to go out the next week and beat someone else. It just happened to be Boston College.”
All week long, the Irish players tried to downplay the talk of revenge.
“At Notre Dame, we never really talked outwardly about revenge,” Powlus said. “But that is exactly what it was. To Boston College’s credit, they did a great job against us the previous two years and we wanted to change that trend. We were a focused bunch, playing for the guys that had to suffer losses the past two years.”
The Notre Dame fans felt it was time for some old-fashioned revenge, too. In the so-called “Holy War,” Boston College had taken the last two important battles. And under a cold, dark sky, many in the stands held up local newspapers emblazoned with the headline: Payback Time.
Riding his domination from a week prior against USC, Marc showed the Eagles that they were in for a long, exhausting day.
On the first play from scrimmage, Marc took the handoff from Powlus and rumbled 19 yards. If Boston College didn’t get the message, it certainly did on Marc’s second carry. Powlus turned and gave to Marc and he blasted 28 more yards to the Boston College 22-yard line.
Marc Edwards scores again.
“We started treating Marc like we did Jerome Bettis,” Holtz said. “We’d move him to tailback a little and we’d have him line up at fullback and we’d have him come out of the backfield to catch passes. He was tough to stop.”
After another carry added one yard to his total – he had 48 yards rushing on the opening drive – Marc put his pass catching skills on display. On third-and-four from the Boston College 17-yard line, Powlus dropped back to set up a screen pass. Marc slipped out of the backfield into the middle of the field, caught the pass and sprinted untouched into the end zone, giving Notre Dame a quick and easy 7-0 advantage.
Notre Dame’s second drive ended with a Powlus fumble on a fourth-and-15 play, but Marc added 27 more yards to his rushing total – 17 coming on a burst up the middle. He may not have had style, but he was chopping down the Boston College defense.
The Eagles took a page out of Notre Dame’s playbook, going on a long, hard-fought drive of their own. Omari Walker capped the epic drive with a two-yard burst to tie the score with 11:16 remaining in the second quarter.
Marc again was the main cog in the machine-like Notre Dame offense in its fourth drive of the game. On the Irish’s third offensive possession of the game, Marc got no touches and the team punted. That wasn’t going to happen again.
Marc pounded the ball through the line of scrimmage five times for 34 yards en route to leading the Irish to a 22-yard field goal, which gave Notre Dame a 10-7 lead at the break. Having never rushed over the century mark in his college career, Marc sat near his locker at halftime with 109 yards already to his credit.
Notre Dame’s first drive of the second half was nearly a carbon copy of its first possession of the game. And just like in that first drive, Marc was the workhorse. He rushed four times, picking up 14 yards. The final two yards came on a powerful touchdown run in which Boston College defenders could only wave their arms, slapping at the ball as he blasted through their resistance. The touchdown gave Notre Dame a 17-7 advantage with 5:10 to play in the third quarter.
Boston College whittled the lead to just seven points with a 41-yard field goal with 1:34 to play in the third. They were in striking distance. The Eagles’ defense made a huge stand in the waning seconds of the third quarter, forcing the Irish into a three-and-out. Boston College took control of the ball early in the fourth quarter and the Notre Dame fans feared the worst. They had been there before.
The anxiety in the crowded stadium could be felt throughout the state of Indiana as Boston College drove down the field. But the pent-up frustration and apprehension of the crowd erupted in a volcano of cheers when Lyron Cobbins intercepted a pass at the Notre Dame 10-yard line, ending the Boston College scoring threat.
What happened next was one of the most awe-inspiring performances of Marc’s football career.
“We had a play, kind of like an off-tackle dive,” he said. “Just give me the ball, and the offensive line just went after BC with their mano a mano blocking. It was an offset of an option play.”
It was a play that Boston College had seen before. And when the day ended, they hoped to never see it again.
Marc had destroyed the Eagles during the first three quarters. Holtz was going to shut the door on this victory with more of the same.
Marc opened the drive with a punishing run up the middle for four yards. Powlus then ran for nine yards to the 23-yard line. Marc got the call again for six more yards. After a pitch to Denson that went for a couple yards, Marc blasted for 10 yards on a third-and-three play that kept the drive alive. Another Marc Edwards carry was followed by a 22-yard pass play that caught the Boston College defense looking for the run. Denson took the next play to the Boston College 28-yard line and then Marc simply took over.
Marc up the middle: three yards.
Marc up the middle: five yards and a first down.
Marc up the middle: four yards.
Holtz, still sitting in the press box while recovering from spinal surgery, pounded his fist on the table as Marc tore through the BC defense and shouted, “Again! Again!”
Marc up the middle: three yards.
Marc up the middle: two yards.
“It was just physical domination out there,” Marc said. “We just kept pounding it and pounding it. They couldn’t stop us. Our offensive line was just awesome. I didn’t feel anything. I felt like a machine out there.”
But it was fourth-and-one from the Boston College nine-yard line. A field goal would more than likely wrap up the contest, but Marc and the offense had a different idea.
The “right” thing to do would have been to kick the field goal and make it a two-score game. But Marc and a couple offensive linemen jogged over to the sideline and stopped in front of offensive coordinator Dave Roberts.
“We’re going for it. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Roberts looked at his determined offensive unit and shook his head in disbelief at his upcoming decision.
“Shit,” Roberts said, just shaking his head. “Go out there and go for it then!”
There was no doubt about who was going to get the ball. Marc took the handoff from Powlus again and leapt to the Boston College six-yard line for another first down as the clock continued to wind down on the Eagles.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Powlus said. “I can remember in the huddle thinking ‘give it to him again’ and, obviously, that was the same thought from Coach Holtz. Marc and the offensive line were totally in control. When you have a situation like that you take advantage of it.”
On first down, Marc rushed for another hard-earned yard. It was his seventh consecutive carry on a drive that had already burned more than nine minutes off of the clock. The drive eventually stalled inside the five-yard line and Notre Dame elected to kick the field goal with 2:42 to play to make it a 20-10 game. But the damage was done and the clock had all but evaporated into the cold northern Indiana sky.
On that final drive, Marc amassed 45 yards on an astonishing 12 carries in an effort that simply sickened the Boston College defense. He finished with a career-high 167 yards on 28 carries and scored the only two touchdowns of the day for the Irish. For the second week in a row and third time in four games, Marc was named the Player of the Game by NBC. In his last two games, Marc had totaled five touchdowns, a pair of two-point conversions, 249 brutal yards on the ground, and 47 more through the air.
“I was in a zone,” Marc said. “Everything felt good. I was having a lot of fun and we were just rolling.”
            Nothing seemingly could stop the Irish. They only had to stay out of their own way.
To purchase Odyssey: From Blue Collar, Ohio to Super Bowl Champion, visit the following on-line retailers.
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  1. This is very good, Aaron. I really enjoy your writing. I bought the book last summer and really enjoyed it. I love Notre Dame and the parts of the book that cover Marc's years at Notre Dame are fantastic. Good book, and great blog.

  2. Great, great memories! Go ND! Great post. I gotta buy this book. I loved Marc Edwards. We need more players like him.

  3. Thanks, Mark ... I appreciate your comments and thanks for getting the book. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Thanks for the kind words, Emmitt. Take care and enjoy the book.

  4. This is awesome. I love how the O-line and Marc Edwards told there coach that they were going for it on 4th down and theres nothing he could do about it. Good story. I'm hoping ND will be good again like this team was. Good story, Aaron.

  5. Man, reading this after watching the game today is heartbreaking. I keep thinking ND will go back to playing like the days when Marc played, back to when Lou Holtz roamed the sidelines. That mid-90s team was awesome to watch. They were legitimate title contenders year in and year out. Now? Ain't gonna happen.