The Notre Dame mystique continued today against Michigan.
Chuck Male, a walk-on who was rejected by the admissions office on his first attempt to attend Notre Dame, kicked a school-record four field goals in leading the Irish to a 12-10 upset before 105,111 at Michigan Stadium.
Notre Dame, which came from 22 points down to win the last Cotton Bowl, won this opening game after its defense seemed outmanned; Michigan breezed to a 10-3 lead the first two times it had the ball.
But the Irish regrouped.
"We didn't change much," said defensive end Scott Zettek.
Notre Dame allowed the Wolverines only four first downs in the second half and won the game despite never crossing the goal line. The Irish got inside the 20 only once.
Another walk-on kicker, Michigan's Bryan Virgil, had a chance to become a hero on this perfect afternoon for football. But he was not equal to the task, kicking short punts when Michigan needed long ones and having a 42-yard field goal attempt blocked on the next-to-last play of the game.
Notre Dame middle linebacker Bob Crable, who on the previous play had dropped Michigan tailback Stan Edwards for a five-yard loss, blocked Virgil's kick. Lined up five yards behind the line, Crable got a running start. Center Mike Trgovac remined low, so Crable launched himself off Trogovac's back and blocked the ball with his hip.
"If he stood up," Crable said, "I probably would have been done."
However, according to a disgusted Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler, who barred the press from his locker room after the game, Virgil's kick never had a chance anyway.
"It never would have gotten over six feet," he said.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, when Michigan needed to try a 50-yarder, Schembechler brought in freshman Ali Haji-Sheikh to try. Virgil obviously cannot kick for long distances. "Ali has a livier leg," Schembechler put it.
Virgil, a senior, made his first collegiate field goal earlier in the game, a 30-yarder that barely got to the stands a few feet behind the end zone. He had handled kickoffs in the past.
The Irish opened the game with a team beset by injuries and with inexperienced players in key positions. And Rusty Lisch, the Irish starting quarterback, went down with an ankle injury shortly after Male's fourth field goal in four attempts (from 40, 44, 22 and 39 yards) had given Notre Dame a 12-10 lead with 3:46 left in the third quarter.
Male grew up in nearby Mishawaka, Ind. When he first applied to Notre Dame, he was turned down because his grades were not high enough.
So he went to Western Michigan, where his brother had played. A walk-on there, he did not make a field goal as a freshman in five or six tries -- he can't remember exactly how many. But he got his grades up enough to be accepted at Notre Dame. So he transferred and sat out a year.
Last season, Male kicked until a leg injury sidelined him before the Southern Cal game. But he did not get a scholarship until this spring. Today, his kicks were strong; the 40-yarder he kicked into the wind had plenty of distance.
Michigan, which had been ranked fifth and sixth in the polls after a 49-7 rout of Northwestern in its opener, was plagued by poor field position throughout the second half and its bad kicking finally took its toll.
"You can't constantly not move the ball deep in your own territory and then, when you kick it out, the damn thing goes only 20 yards," Schembechler said.
Virgil averaged only 29.7 yards for seven punts and the one Schembechler likely was talking about was the 24-yarder that gave the Irish possession at Michigan's 28 late in the third period. On the fourth play after that, Male kicked what proved to be the winning score.
In the fourth quarter, when Michigan still had enough time to hold Notre Dame after the Wolverines stalled at the Irish 40, Virgil punted the ball straight up. The result: a five-yarder, and Notre Dame was not in the hole it should have been.
The Irish could not move in three downs and Dick Boushka punted only 21 yards. But Michigan had to start from its 42, instead of deep in Notre Dame's territory, with a little more than two minutes remaining.
John Wangler replaced B. J. Dickey at quarterback at this point.
"I wanted to get a fresh guy in to see what he could do," said Schembechler. In fact, he was taking his option quarterback, the heir apparent to Rich Leach, out for a pure passer.
The Wolverine, with Wangler completing three straight passes at one stage, got as far as the 20, with the ball in the middle of the field. Schembechler elected to run on third down at that point. Crable stopped Edwards, who had scored Michigan's only touchdown, for five-yard loss.
That play typified the way Notre Dame's defense played after regrouping -- the linemen hanging in and linebackers Crable, Bobby Leopold and Mike Whittington and strong safety Steve Cichy stopping the run and the pass.
"We had to get to the quarterback faster," said Whittington, "so we started by passing the fullback. We left him to someone else. We had to put more pressure on the quarterback."
Ends Zettek and Mark Czaja, both of whom figures to be starters before preseason injuries, came in on Note Dame's third defensive play and stayed in for 75 percent of the game.
"It was a complete surprise to me," said Zettek. "Heck of a way to get your first contact."
Halfback Vagas Ferguson was Notre Dame's main offensive weapon, carrying 35 times for 118 yards. The Irish, with a freshman fullback in John Sweeney, seemed intent on killing as much time as they could offensively, then let Michigan kill itself with mistakes.
The Wolverines obliged. They had two delay of game penalties and, on the final drive, an illegal procedure call, when sophomore tight end Norm Betts brought in a play and ran back to the sidelines without remaining in the game. That is a no-no.