Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 1, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 53 of 55

54 OCT. 1, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T o a graduating class at Notre Dame, there are at least three ig- nominious 0-for-4 series marks in the school's football history. That is where you play a school with far less history and tradition than what you have, and then inex- plicably come up on the short end four straight seasons during your un- dergraduate years. Michigan State (1955-63) and USC (2002-09), both had 8-0 marks against the Irish, but those were powerhouse schools at the time while Notre Dame was mostly in a down cycle. The schools we are looking at seldom had been a top-25 program previously. • The first occurred from 1959-62 versus Northwestern. Until 1959, Notre Dame had a 23-3-2 all-time record versus the Wildcats, but the class of '63 stunningly went 0 for 4 against them. Fortunately, what made it worth it is the Notre Dame administration was able to attract and hire Northwest- ern's dynamic young head coach, Ara Parseghian, in December 1963. (To this day, Parseghian and Nick Saban are the only two coaches since the 20th century with a 4-0 all-time re- cord against the Fighting Irish.) • The second happened from 1982-85 against the Air Force Acad- emy. From the start of the series in 1964 through 1981, the Irish were 11-0 versus the Falcons with a 23.6-point average margin of victory. Ulti- mately, nothing reflected the frustra- tion of the Gerry Faust era (1981-85) more than those four straight losses to Air Force, flat-out unacceptable. A return to normalcy occurred with head coach Lou Holtz from 1986-95 when the Irish were 8-0 against the Falcons (average victory margin of 22 points) — but as soon as Holtz lost at home to Air Force in 1996, he knew it was time to step down. • Finally, there was Boston College in 2001-04. The Irish had owned a 9-3 all-time mark against the Eagles, who were deemed the "little brother" (or Fredo, in The Godfather lingo) in the rivalry, despite the colossal upset of 10-0 and No. 1 Notre Dame in 1993, costing it a national title. Boston College began the winning streak in Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie's final season (2001), and when successor Tyrone Willingham lost three consecutive heartbreak- ers (2002-04) to them by a total of 10 points, he was quickly jettisoned. Notre Dame and the Eagles did not play again until 2007, and the BC win- ning streak actually reached six games before the Irish finally won in 2009. And that brings us to the Stan- ford Cardinal, which has won three straight versus the Irish, is 7-2 overall against them since 2009 (taking Bos- ton College's place as an irritating nemesis) and can become the newest 0-for-4 stigma to a graduating class (2019) at Notre Dame. One upon a time the Cardinal was a mediocre operation where a 6-5 outcome was a cause for celebration. Willingham's 44-36-1 record there from 1995-2001 was so impressive that it became comparable to Parseghian's 36-35-1 mark at Northwestern from 1956-63, part of why both were deemed worthy of the Notre Dame job. Then, from 2002-08 Stanford was 25-55 (.313 winning percentage), in- cluding 0-7 versus Notre Dame. Ten years later, the Stanford Car- dinal, with Jim Harbaugh laying the foundation from 2007-10 and then David Shaw expanding upon it since 2011, has become a bane to Notre Dame football. It is one of the few schools on the Irish schedule that can boast more about its academic prowess and how success in the classroom and on the gridiron don't have to be mutually exclusive (two others, Northwestern and Duke, also won in their most re- cent trips to Notre Dame in 2014 and 2016, respectively). At the same time, Stanford devel- oped a blue-collar identity of con- sistent physicality — the identity Notre Dame has had in spurts under ninth-year head coach Brian Kelly but never quite fully established over the long run. Growing up in the 1970s, I remem- ber how the battle cry at Notre Dame versus USC during national title sea- sons in 1973 and 1977 was how it could not go 0 for 4 against the Trojans in 1973 (it was 0 for 3 from 1970-72) and 1977 (0 for 3 from 1974-76). The same in the 1980s with Penn State, winning in 1984 and 1988 (an- other national title year) after losing three in a row to the Nittany Lions. For that matter, the same with Michigan in 2012 — a 12-0 regular season for the Fighting Irish — after losing three straight 11th-hour deci- sions from 2009-11 to the Wolverines. An entire Notre Dame senior class graduating with an 0-4 record against Stanford would be unacceptable. This is a series where the pendulum must swing back to Notre Dame's favor if the Irish are truly to become a bona fide top-10 program. Enter- ing last weekend at Oregon, Shaw had compiled an extraordinary 76-22 (.776 winning percentage) ledger. With the game at home and the revenge motive strong (think USC game last year), the Irish need to stifle that potential black mark versus the Cardinal red, lest it sing the blues and be green with more football envy. ✦ Avoiding The 0-For-4 Stigma Versus Stanford THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at David Shaw and Stanford have developed a blue- collar identity of consistent physicality that has helped the Cardinal win the last three meetings — and seven of the last nine — versus Notre Dame. PHOTO COURTESY STANFORDPHOTO.COM

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