Having said that, I have talked to several players from the '88 team and to Holtz himself about that game.
Many players viewed that game as critical to the '88 championship because they felt it got them over the hump after several near-misses against excellent teams in '86 -- Michigan, LSU, Penn State. In the minds of some of those players, the '86 USC game is when they learned how to win.
And I've written as much in articles, essentially presenting the players' viewpoint about that.
But when I think of "signature wins" or wins that define a head coach's tenure, I don't think of that game. A coach's tenure is defined at Notre Dame by championships and near-championships. If I may substitute my own phrase, I'd call them defining wins and for Holtz, the ones that come immediately to mind for me include Miami '88, FSU '93, USC '88, Michigan '88, West Virginia '88 and even Michigan '93.
Perhaps for a guy like Gerry Faust a "defining win" would be his 6-4-1 team defeating #1 Pitt in 1982. But that pretty much defines Faust's entire tenure -- spoiling somebody else's championship dreams while you're barely above .500. Sounds like BC to me.
Heaven help us if today's win -- as welcome and enjoyable as it was -- ends up being one of Kelly's defining wins at Notre Dame.