Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2020

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

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54 NOV. 27, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED A natural inquiry fol- lowing Notre Dame's 47-40 double-overtime conquest of No. 1 Clemson Nov. 7 was, where does it rank among the greatest games in Fighting Irish foot- ball annals? My most comfortable reply is it is now the benchmark for the 21st century, or the greatest among Generation Z that began its life journey around the mid-1990s. That's because unlike from every decade from 1900- 09 through 1990-99, there wasn't a one-for-the-ages triumph from 2000-19 that became immortalized and passed down in lore through the generations. • It began in 1909 with the first epic upset, an 11-3 victory at Michi- gan, the first in nine tries. • Representation for the 1910-19 decade was the stunning 1913 win at Army that began Notre Dame's ascent into the limelight and formed the template of national scheduling as an independent. • In the 1920s, the first consensus national title under Knute Rockne in the 1925 Rose Bowl versus Stanford (27-10) was the genesis of coast-to- coast appeal as "America's Team," including the rivalry with USC that commenced in 1926. (One could also include "One For The Gipper" against Army in 1928 that eternally remains part of Americana.) • The 1930s included the 18-13 thriller at Ohio State that was voted the greatest college football game in the sport's first 100 years from 1869- 1969. • Take your pick from the 1940s dynasty: Beating the teams that fin- ished Nos. 2, 3, 4, 9, 11 and 13 in 1943; the original "Game Of The Century" tie versus Army in 1946 that helped result in another national title; or the 1949 thriller at SMU that capped an unprecedented four straight years without defeat. • In the 1950s, it was snapping Oklahoma's NCAA-record 47-game winning streak in 1957, the year after losing 40-0 to them at home. • The resurrection in the 1960s featured the famous 10-10 tie at un- beaten Michigan State followed by the 51-0 dismantling of Pac-8 champ USC to clinch the national title. • The 1970s started the new bowl- game era for Notre Dame — and four times they defeated 10-0 or 11-0 No. 1 teams, highlighted by the 1973 national title versus Alabama in the Sugar (24-23) and the 1977 champi- onship versus Texas in the Cotton (38-10). • Like the 1960s, the late 1980s be- came a renaissance era that featured the 1988 national title and the 31- 30 euphoria versus No. 1 Miami at home. • In the 1990s, it was the No. 1 ver- sus No. 2 showdown in 1993 versus Florida State, the victory against the top-ranked Seminoles. Unfortunately, there really hadn't been one such transcendent vic- tory from 2000 through 2019. A lot of quality wins, but nothing monu- mental. Only one time from 2000-09 — the "lost decade" — did the Irish topple a team that even finished in the top 10 (No. 9 Michigan in 2002). In the Brian Kelly era that began in 2010, the 30-13 win at Oklahoma in 2012 as a double-digit underdog stood out, but the Sooners ended up losing three games, including 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl, thus creating a "meh" factor. The future ultimately determines the degree of greatness in such a victory from the re- sults that ensue. For example, when one thinks of toppling 10-0 and No. 1 Florida State in 1993, there is initial rapture — and then the wet blanket because of falling to Boston College the next week and thereby losing the national title. I still recall the wistful look on head coach Lou Holtz's face the next morning when he mournfully stated, "There is no greater reason for remorse than a missed opportunity." A lot depends on what the Irish achieve from here. Notre Dame beat No. 1 Pitt with Dan Marino at Pitt in November 1982 — but then lost its last three, which mitigated it. Plus, Pitt also finished with three losses. In my 50 years of following the Irish, my two regular-season bench- marks are 1988 Miami and 1973 USC for two reasons. One, those two foes were the mea- suring stick, the boogeyman with long unbeaten streaks and reigning champs who had terrorized Notre Dame for years. The Irish hadn't defeated USC in the six years from 1967-72 and the Trojans entered with a 23-game un- beaten streak. Miami had outscored Notre Dame 133-20 in the four games from 1983-87 and won 36 straight regular-season games — just like Clemson when it played this Nov. 7. Both of those wins in 1973 and 1988 also helped propel the Irish to na- tional titles — which then with the passage of time heightened those tri- umphs even more. In 2020, Clemson and Alabama are the college football boogeymen, so to vanquish either promotes a "if they can beat them, they can beat any- body" vibe. Time will tell. But any win over No. 1 will have a place in the pan- theon. ✦ Defining All-Time Win Also Comes With Time THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Notre Dame's win over No. 1 Clemson Nov. 7 stands as the program's great- est triumph since at least the win in 1993 over Florida State in a No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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