Rocket's Return That Wasn't (1991 Orange Bowl)

In 1990, Notre Dame finished the regular season with a 9-2 mark, earning a matchup with #1 Colorado in the 1991 Orange Bowl. With under a minute left, the Buffaloes punted to Fighting Irish flanker Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. Catching the ball around the Notre Dame 10 yard line, Ismail broke a couple of tackles and raced his way to the end zone for what looked to be a game-winning touchdown. Seconds later however, the score was wiped off the board by a clipping penalty. In a recent interview with Fighting Irish Digital Media, Ismail talked back through the infamous play, a moment that he says was very valuable in his life. For this ‘Strong and True’ moment, the accompanying images are from the University of Notre Dame Archives.

'91 Orange Bowl program cover

The 1991 Orange Bowl featured #5 Notre Dame (9-2) against #1 Colorado (10-1-1).

Rocket return

Raghib “Rocket” Ismail returning what appeared to be the go-ahead touchdown with under a minute left in the game.

Rocket end zone

Rocket Ismail (#25) and Ricky Watters (#12) look back from the end zone, noticing a penalty flag on the punt that Ismail ran back for a touchdown.

Zorich bench

ESPN cameras filming Irish defensive lineman Chris Zorich on the bench following the difficult 10-9 loss to Colorado.