We sung the Notre Dame fight song all the way home... —Former BYU kicker David Lauder
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — If Notre Dame and BYU’s defenses play up to their billing, Saturday’s game in Notre Dame Stadium could come down to which team can make field goals.
In this regard, nobody knows how important those kicks can be than David Lauder, the Cougar kicker who booted field goals of 48 and 49 yards in a swirling wind here in 1994 to lead BYU to its one and only win over the Fighting Irish in South Bend, Ind. BYU defeated Notre Dame in Provo in 2004.
In 1994, BYU’s Jamaal Willis did run for a pair of touchdowns, his last score came before a two-point conversion pass from John Walsh to Hema Heimuli, but few if any accolades were thrown Lauder’s way in the aftermath of that historic 21-14 win.
Today, Lauder lives about 150 miles from Notre Dame’s campus in Toledo, Ohio, where he’s an award-winning salesman for Chrysler after retiring as an NFL kicker with the Panthers and Falcons. He and his wife Julia have two children.
“The thing I remember most about that win was how happy and excited we were and how much we enjoyed that victory,” Lauder said. He remembers how BYU’s coaches huddled around LaVell Edwards and he swears the legendary coach cried tears of joy over the victory that day.
“We sung the Notre Dame fight song all the way home,” Lauder said.
According to Lauder, members of the kick squad tore grass from the field in Notre Dame Stadium, put it in folded pieces of paper and many have saved it to this day.
Lauder remembers while warming up, he noticed how his kicks fluttered in the wind and moved as much as five feet and how he took note of that. A kicker who featured a high launch angle, Lauder rarely had kicks blocked in his career as a left-footed All-American at Ricks College, then at BYU.
On his first field goal in the first half, a 48-yarder, he remembers hitting the ball with his foot higher up on his foot than normal and he worried it would catch the wind and fall short. “I stood on my toes to look over the line to see if it went over the uprights. It made it by about a foot,” he said.
Kickers, said Lauder, live off confidence. When they make PATs and field goals, it builds on itself and the next time, it is easier and easier to do the job. That he’d made that first kick made him even more confident when he made his 49-yarder in the second half, a kick that cleared the crossbar by five or six feet on the end of the field where you can see “Touchdown Jesus” towering over the campus directly down the tunnel by the Knute Rockne Gate.
Notre Dame had led BYU 14-13 in the fourth quarter on a Ron Powlus to Derrick Mayes TD pass, and Lauder’s field goals had kept the Cougars close enough within striking distance for the Willis touchdown clincher.
Lauder continues to follow the Cougars and flies the school logo flag outside his house in Toledo. “I’m the only one around with one but there are plenty of Ohio State and Michigan flags. People see the ‘Y’ flag and think I went to Yale.”
Today, if BYU’s defense holds up against a Notre Dame team that plays right into its strength — stopping the run — the game will come down to mistakes and turnovers. If not, kicker Justin Sorensen might get the call to pull another Lauder here in South Bend.
This week’s picks:
Oregon State 24, Utah 21: Beavers will bring more wood to the dam. Cody Vaz has it going and we’ll see if the Utes can cover Brandin Cooks.
Stanford 28, Cal 21: Rebound game after loss to Notre Dame, Stanford resets the pecking order in the Bay area.
Arizona 17, Washington 14: Wildcat’s will hold off Steve Sarkisian’s Huskies.
USC 38, Colorado 10: Trojans too powerful for the Buffaloes on both sides of the line.
Georgia Tech 17, Boston College 10: Next week’s BYU opponent chalks up a win in lead up to hosting Cougars in Atlanta.
Alabama 33, Tennessee 14: There is only one SEC titan on the field in this matchup.
Utah State 31, New Mexico State 21: Gary Andersen’s team to feed off big win over San Jose State.
Notre Dame 14, BYU 10: Defensive battle will go down to turnovers and the kicking game might just decide the victor.
Last week 6-1, Overall 35-15 (.700)
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.