Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 26, 2019*

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

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52 OCT. 26, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI I n the 32 meetings between Notre Dame and Michigan from 1978 — when the series was renewed after a 35-year hiatus — through 2018, the rivalry has been earmarked by at least four aspects. First is down-to-the-final-series or one-score results. Of those 32 contests played the previous 40 years, the out- come remained in doubt until the fi- nal series in 21 of them. Most recent was last year's 24-17 victory by Notre Dame. Even though the Fighting Irish con- trolled the game, building a 21-3 ad- vantage at one point, the Wolverines had first down at their 45-yard line with 57 seconds remaining before de- fensive tackle Jerry Tillery forced a Shea Patterson fumble that linebacker Te'von Coney recovered. Second, since 1997 the home team has prospered in this series. Michi- gan has posted a 7-1 ledger versus the Irish in The Big House, and Notre Dame is 7-2 against the Wolverines at home. The night especially seems to set the right mood, with the Irish a perfect 6-0 under the lights at home when Michigan visits, while the Wol- verines have won both such contests at home in 2011 and 2013. Third is the consistent sniping — imagined or real — which goes back more than 100 years, or when Michi- gan head coach Fielding Yost experi- enced his first defeat to Notre Dame in 1909 (11-3). He cancelled the 1910 out- ing shortly before it was to be played and implored fellow top Midwest/ Big Ten schools to do likewise against the upstart, small Catholic school. Even though the series didn't be- come an almost permanent fixture of both schools' schedules until 1978, the "Midwest Cold War" between the two that began with Yost was carried over with personal antipathy between Notre Dame's Frank Leahy and Mich- igan's Fritz Crisler in the 1940s and has continued into the 21st century. Spearheading the animus was Wol- verines head coach Bo "To Hell With Notre Dame" Schembechler. In spite of the prolonged feuds, Notre Dame and Michigan athletic administrators agreed in the summer of 2007 to extend the football series between the two schools through 2031. However, when unparalleled con- ference reconfiguration in collegiate athletics took place this decade, Notre Dame optioned out of future games with the Wolverines in 2012, shortly after announcing that it would join the Atlantic Coast Conference as a partial football member, which in- cluded playing four to six ACC foes per season. The option did require three games notice (which would be 2012-14). Former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke (2011-14) couldn't resist stat- ing in the summer of 2013 that Notre Dame was "chickening out" from the series — and when Michigan a couple of months later defeated the Irish 41- 30 in Ann Arbor, the celebration in Michigan Stadium centered on play- ing "The Chicken Dance." Notre Dame danced to a different tune the following season in a 31-0 whitewash of the Wolverines — end- ing the Wolverines' NCAA record of 365 consecutive games without get- ting blanked (since broken by the Uni- versity of Florida). The thaw was lifted temporarily when the two programs agreed to meet again in 2018-19, but there ap- pear to be limited, if any, efforts made to renew the series in the 2020s. The fourth hallmark in the series is the embattled head coach rising to the occasion when most needed, or at least in many cases. Beware The Embattled Coach The bitter Irish-Wolverines rivalry has produced more than its share of upsets through the years After dropping his first two games against Michigan in 2010 and 2011, Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish squads have won three of the last four meetings since 2012, including last year's 24-17 victory against Jim Harbaugh's squad. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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