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Book Review: Heart Stoppers And Hail Marys


As the 2001 college football season gets close to kicking off, you may want to take a break from reading all of the season preview magazines and spend some quality time getting lost in the past.

I have spent parts of this summer enjoying Heart Stoppers and Hail Marys, a book that focuses on 100 of the greatest college football finishes from 1970-1999.

This collection of fantastic finishes was assembled by Ted Mandell, a faculty member in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at Notre Dame. Mandell excels at recounting the events in a manner that allows you to feel as though you were there, putting you on the edge of your seat for the game-ending heroics.

Boston College pulled off the improbable upset of Miami on November 23, 1984. If you are thinking you do not need to hear that story again, you will be as surprised as I was at how brilliantly Mandell gives the story newfound life and leaves you feeling as though you just witnessed it live among the shocked throng at the Orange Bowl.

Another game I vividly remembered witnessing through news accounts at the time it occurred, was Nebraska’s game-saving touchdown reception by Matt Davison who caught a deflected pass off of the foot of Shawn Wiggins for a “did-you-see-that” touchdown that broke Missouri’s hearts in 1996.

The more I read, the more open I became to reading the accounts for the first time of a game played between Principia and Illinois College in 1985. I can only imagine being present for the battle between these Division 3 teams that ended their gridiron tussle with three lead changes and 20 points - all in the last 28 seconds.

“That's amazing”, I said my to myself. Then I read about another game I had no knowledge of, and became stunned all over again.

If you are like me, everytime your favorite team takes the field you imagine the scenarios of a bizarre finish that somehow provides your team with a scintillating victory - and you hope and pray that the same type of unlikely scenario does not bring you to your knees in disastrous defeat. This book takes you there - again and again.

Luckily for me there are still several stories that I have not yet read. I am looking forward to opening the pages and randomly flipping to a new episode of Heartstoppers and Hail Marys tonight. And who knows? I may even insert the companion CD that comes with the book, and listen to the actual radio account of the miraculous moments.

The book was published by Diamond Communications of South Bend, Indiana and includes a forward written by Doug Flutie.

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This review was written by Mike Mitchell, College Football's Senior Editor.


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