It wasn’t on traffic. Probably barely broke triple digits for the day. But one of the nice things about WordPress is that is gives you a decent view of the incoming links to your site—where and how people found you. I generally don’t get much traffic from search engines. It’s even a stretch to equate “eight” with “don’t get much” (see screen shot). In web traffic terms “eight” equals “zero.” But some poor bastard found this little corner of the virtual world by searching for “Stan Smagala.”
Stan Smagala was a DB at Notre Dame in the late 80s and he was known among the students by his nickname “Toast” (that’s his photo there from the blueandgold.com archives… yeah, he had that kind of legendary career).
You’d think that would tell you all you need to know about Smagala but no, you’d be wrong. You need to know how Smagala got that name.
In 1989 Notre Dame was playing at Miami. Early in the second half, the Hurricanes held Notre Dame on 4th and goal from the 1 and took over on downs. In fact, if I recall correctly, the Irish had something like a 1st and goal from the 2 and couldn’t punch it in. Ugh.
After Miami took over, they picked up two or three first downs before a couple of massively negative plays (penalties and sacks and probably more penalties given the character of those Cane teams). So they are pinned back deep in their own territory and facing a 3rd and 44.
All the Irish have to do is not give up 44 yards on a single play and they get the ball back with field position and momentum in a game that was still very close (definitely one possession, maybe Miami’s lead was still as slim as 1 point).
Anyway, Miami QB Steve Walsh took a deep drop. Per usual Lou Holtz sent no one on the rush. And Walsh with plenty ‘o time heaved one deep down the right sideline.
Smagala had let his man get by him to make the catch and pick up, yes, 45 yards.
On third and 44.
Dude had a 43-yard cushion to give and still couldn’t guard his man. Maybe we were playing a zone. I don’t remember. I just remember Smagala getting burned on the play (hence: “Toast”).
Anyway, Miami converted, ended up with a 99-yard touchdown drive that consumed about 10 minutes of clock, and put a fork in our undefeated season and repeat National Championship aspirations.
The following year I saw Smagala in a Dallas Cowboys jersey. I’m not sure if it was just on the pre-season squad or whether he made the final 55-man roster. I can’t believe he was even drafted. Was there nobody in the Dallas draft room to say “Uh, Jimmy… Jerry… Dude gave up 45 yards on a third and 44.”
Johnson, who had been coach of the Canes until that 1989 season, had to have watched the game. Maybe Johnson is a sadistic bastard and, having missed out on the play firsthand, wanted to line Smagala up against former Hurricane wideout Michael Irvin and recreate the play on a daily basis in training camp.
In some sense, the game was a bit of justice. We—and I use “we” because I was a student at the time—had beaten Miami the previous year in South Bend when they were the better team. They were just returning the favor. In another sense, it wasn’t. It’s just football and justice doesn’t apply.
Spite and bitterness do.
It’s pushing 20 years but I haven’t forgotten 3rd and 44. I’d be willing to bet that no student in South Bend at the time has forgotten either, save maybe some of the Chemistry students who were making their own LSD. I’ll even feign being upset about it. I think the reference I made to the play in a previous post that allowed the Googler to find me contained a claim along the lines of “If I ever meet Smagala I am going to kidney punch him.”
It’s not true. I’m kind of a pacifist. I’m not punching anyone who doesn’t punch me first. But just to know there is at least one person out there who’ll type the words “Stan Smagala” into a search engine makes me almost giggly.
So for anyone who might do it in the future, there is all of the above for you to read and enjoy.
Are you a single girl and potential date wondering if he’s a registered sex offender? It doesn’t appear so; but he was a crappy defensive back who on one play single-handedly cost Notre Dame a National Championship.
A potential employer? See what I said about the Cowboys draft room.
The Cane receiver who burned him on the play? I’d be surprised if many of the Miami players from that area had learned to operate a computer, so file this one under: As Close to Impossible as Converting a Third and Forty-Four.
And if you are Stan himself egosurfing… Nope, you haven’t faded into the Bolivian of the collective student body consciousness yet.