We’ve got one more look back to 1995 before we re-focus on Saturday’s game at Notre Dame. Today, we welcome perhaps the player who made the most memorable play in the famous upset win over the Irish on 9/2/95 -Dave Beazley. Dave’s touchdown catch in the first quarter to put NU up 7-0 is the one play most often mentioned as he caught the Steve Schnur pass and promptly ended up in the Notre Dame band (more on that below). Beazley is now a successful entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of a retail-focused social influence company called Strong Bark, as well as a proprietor of a Chicago-based business incubator. Just last month he tied the knot in Hawai’i and despite all the craziness of his new company and his recent wedding, he was kind enough to reconnect with us and share some reflections on 1995 and perspective on 2014. A little known fact about Dave is that he holds the all-time NU record for yard per catch average in a season with a silly 35.6 ypc average.
LTP: I’ve gotta go there on the drum. It’s one of the more memorable TD catches in NU history as you caught the fade and went head over heels in to the Notre Dame band. Share with us the vivid details of that play, especially after the catch?
DB: The opportunity to score on that play followed a Notre Dame fumble by Randy Kinder and subsequent recovery by our OTHER great linebacker Danny Sutter. Darnell Autry put us into scoring position with two great runs and tremendous blocking by our Offensive Line.
It was third and goal on the seven when we called a pass play. I was in the slot being covered by future NFL star Allen Rossum. He was playing slightly inside my alignment, indicating man-to-man coverage. The crowd was cheering loudly as their defense had a chance for a critical stop. As soon as the ball was snapped, I sprinted straight into the endzone, planted my right leg and bolted for the corner.
Darnell made a key block on the play, chopping the legs out of a blitzing linebacker, giving Steve Schnur just enough time to throw a perfect pass over my left shoulder. If a pass could ever be described as pretty, this was the one. The sun was perfectly overhead as I stretched out my arms and snatched the ball, still running at full speed.
I chopped my feet in bounds just as Allen Rossum pushed me and all my momentum into the Notre Dame marching band, and specifically into the drum set. It was the perfect literal crescendo to our first offensive drive of the game, helping set the tone for the next three quarters.
Immediately after the catch, I had to untangle myself from multiple instruments and somehow push myself off of the snare drum, which ended up inauspiciously underneath me. This was even more difficult to do with one hand as I was unconsciously unwilling to relinquish the ball from my other hand. After a few seconds I could hear my teammates screaming and running towards me. I finally awkwardly pushed myself up to participate in the celebration.
LTP: It’s hard for young fans to remember life before the NU spread, but this was a pro set. What do you remember most about that Notre Dame game plan as an offense? When did you really know, “we’ve got a shot to win this thing.”
DB: With Ron Powlus, the most hyped high school QB of all time at the helm for Notre Dame, super star Derrick Mays at receiver and standout Randy Kinder in the backfield, our overall game plan was to keep their offense off the field. We knew we could do that with a healthy dose of Darnell Autry and precision passing from Steve Schnur.
We knew we had a shot to win the first week in training camp. With three full recruiting classes from Barnett and some outstanding upper classmen from the old regime, we knew we had a chance to do something special as a team.
Practicing every day against what would become the nation’s best defense, our offense had no choice but to step up our play and get better. We did, and we entered that game with the confidence of a champion.
LTP: Gary Barnett was a master motivator, obviously. Share with us the approach he had to this game and what stuck out to you that you still remember to this day.
DB: The entire theme of our training camp was “Belief Without Evidence.” With so many losing seasons in our past, Barnett pulled out a Christian mantra, possibly putting us on track for divine intervention. In other words, we needed to have FAITH. Faith in ourselves, faith in our teammates, faith in our coaches.
By the end of camp, WE BELIEVED. And by the end of the game, we didn’t need Faith anymore, we had empirical data to support our vision.
I would be remiss however, if I didn’t mention Barnett’s final prophetic words to us before we left the locker room and ran into the stadium for our final contest against Notre Dame. He said: “When we win, DO NOT CARRY ME OFF THE FIELD.” We honored his words and didn’t.
LTP: We won’t talk about the following week (a loss to Miami (OH)), but explain just how nuts things were from a national perspective after that win.
DB: Every sports section of every newspaper across the country featured “The Miracle.” Every broadcast that evening had every highlight. ESPN had us as the lead story throughout the day. Every starter was getting requests for interviews to talk about the win. We did our best to keep our composure, but all that attention was new to us. Usually networks and publications sent their second or third tier sports reporters to come and talk to us, and suddenly we were getting sports anchors and headliners both locally and nationally.
We even had requests for general interest talk shows. It was a lot of fun, but also a huge distraction. It definitely played a part in the loss we suffered against Miami of Ohio the following week. But what most people don’t know is that it was actually that loss that finally forged our team. The sick feeling we all felt after giving up a 28-point lead was something we never, ever wanted to feel again. And we didn’t. We learned that winning was hard no matter if your opponent was a top 10 ranked team, or in the case of Miami of Ohio, a scrappy, well-coached MAC team with tremendous determination.
LTP: Your teammate, Pat Fitzgerald, is obviously going through a very rough time over the past two seasons. Fans are quick to point to Fitz and your team as one that brought the passion every down and every week. What’s your take on the state of things right now, particularly as an offense?
DB: First of all, Fitz has done an incredible job over the years and certainly should be judged based on his full body of work and not a snapshot in time like this season, or last season. He is the winningest coach in NU history and best ambassador for the program there could be.
Fitz is no stranger to adversity. All of us experienced some rough years at NU before we turned things around. In times like these there are leaders and then there are those who lead. Fitz has led by example certainly as a player and now as coach. With his preparation and dedication to put his players in a position to win every game they play in, I think it is on his players to perform.
Players win, pure and simple. And although I don’t advocate for excuses, key injuries play a major part of every season. And at a place like NU, depth is an issue. With such high academic standards, our pool of high school players to recruit from is so much smaller than almost every other major college football program.
All that being said, we have seen glimpses, fleeting moments of what this team can do with great back-to-back wins against Penn State and Wisconsin. We have yet to see this teams’ full potential. I hope we do on Saturday. It will take everything they have to beat a great Notre Dame team.
On offense, I would like to see Mick McCall go back to the short, 3-step drop passing attack since it is obvious our offensive line is having difficultly holding their blocks for the 3.5-4 seconds any QB needs for longer developing receiver routes. And I would love to see a healthy dose of emerging super start freshman RB Justin Jackson to keep the clock moving and ND’s high powered offense off the field. If ND is forced to put an extra defender in the box to stop Jackson and our other prolific running backs, it could open up some perimeter routes for our receivers.
LTP: Taking the bigger picture perspective, it’s been 19 years since that famous turning point game. Northwestern has definitely reached another level in terms of competitiveness since 1995, but is clearly not in the same stratosphere of the ’95 and ’96 program. What do you see it taking for NU to get to that upper tier level consistently for the next 20 seasons?
DB: Winning is hard in all the major FBS conferences and especially the Big 10. Bruising defenses and punishing running games every week just wear teams down over the course of a season. Add to that increasing parity in this conference and a Big 10 championship game, and you have a gigantic challenge for a 9- or 10- win season, along with an invitation to the new playoff system.
With such high academic standards, we will never be Ohio State. But we can become Stanford. For me personally, watching Fitz and five consecutive teams go to bowl games was amazing. I feel strongly that these past two seasons were the anomaly and the norm is us winning more games and constantly competing for the Big 10 Championship every year.
To get back there, the character that Fitz recruits first and foremost needs to step up. These are all great athletes, but it takes more than that to win. Although we had phenomenal players during our back-to-back championship run, we certainly didn’t have better athletes than Michigan or Penn State. But we had more heart. And if anyone can extract that from a player, it’s Fitz.
LTP: How in touch with the program are you these days?
DB: I try to give back to the program in every way I can, participating in mentor programs and special networking events with current players; but as an entrepreneur, time is precious. I truly wish I could do more and fully intend to in the coming years.
LTP: Tell us about what you’ve been up to, including the launch of your new company.
DB: To give some context to my current venture, I have had three previously successful startups. One was a publishing company that I started right out of Medill’s Magazine Publishing project, one was a Real Estate finance company, and the third was in the digital technology space.
All of that experience was a precursor to my current start-up called Strongbark.com, A Shopper’s Best Friend in the online social shopping space. We just launched in BETA and have tons of users shopping on our platform and giving us valuable feedback as we continue to refine the application.
We currently have more than 3,000 merchants and 90,000 offers available daily. Users start their experience browsing relevant recommendation from their trusted friends along with curated category deals from our staff and trending hot offers from major retailers. Soon we will have millions of products, which we will couple with our best deals and our universal shopping cart, allowing users to find the product or service they want, get reviews on that product or service, get a discount promotion code for that product or service for the best price, and finally share it with friends all from a single, elegantly designed application, which allows no ads, no spam and will never sell user data.
We also have a loyalty points program that users earn for shopping, saving and sharing on our site. And finally our mobile application will be ready in the first quarter of 2015.
For readers of LakeThePosts, I want to extend a special Status Code, which will give every registered user increased purchasing power when they are trading their loyalty points for cash or digital downloads. Use my name “David” when you register and it asks for your status code after your email and password.
LTP: Atta boy, Dave! Spoken like a true entrepreneur. We’re glad to help spread the word to the LTP community. Thanks for your time and diving in on some awesome memories.
Thanks again Jay for letting me guest blog this week. Go ‘Cats!
David “Big Money” Beazley
The old NU WR 86
Northwestern University 1992-96.
NU Grad School 97-98.