Blue and Gold Illustrated

Dec 19, 2020

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

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54 DEC. 19, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED O n Dec. 1, 1973, Notre Dame 10th-year head coach Ara Parseghian cradled the game ball from his team's 44-0 victory at Miami like a father holding a new- born baby. He explained to his team how that football will forever hold a special place in his ca- reer because it will be the first one ever that will have "10-0" inscribed on it. He had come so close in both 1964 and 1970 with 9-0 starts, only to lose to USC in the regular-season finale. Even his consensus national champions in 1966 did not quite reach it with a 9-0-1 mark. Even at Notre Dame with its unrivaled tradition, it had been 24 years since a football team had reached that cherished 10-0 distinction. In his remarkable coaching career with the Fighting Irish from 1941-43 and then 1946-53, Frank Leahy saw six of his 11 teams finish unbeaten. However, only one of them — 1949 — was 10-0. Two of them finished 9-0-1 (1948 and 1953), another started 9-0 but lost in the finale (1943, but was still awarded the national title), and three of them played only nine games (8-0-1 in 1941 and 1946, and 9-0 in 1947). It was yet another reflection of how going unblemished, even with just nine games played, is such an extraordinary accomplishment. Which brings us to the present. For the 10th time in Notre Dame Fighting Irish football annals, 10-0 was achieved with the 45-21 victory against Syracuse on Dec. 5. The year after Parseghian's cher- ished 10-0, Notre Dame began play- ing 11 regular-season games annu- ally in 1974. In 2006, 12 games during the regular season became the norm. However, in "The Year of COVID-19," the schedule was pared down to 10 games this regular season. This campaign is far from con- cluded. The ACC Championship versus Clemson awaits Dec. 19, and thereafter the four-team College Football Playoff should be next on Jan. 1, either in the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl. Even a CFP title game on Jan. 11 in Miami might be on the itinerary. For now, though, 11th-year head coach Brian Kelly achieved 10-0 for the third time in his career, matching Lou Holtz's number during his 11 seasons with the Fighting Irish from 1986-96: 12-0 and the most recent na- tional title in 1988, an 11-0 start in 1989 before finishing 12-1, and a 10-0 start in 1993 prior to ending 11-1. Including his 12-0 output at Cin- cinnati in 2009 before accepting the Notre Dame position, this marks the fourth time in 12 years Kelly has reached 10-0. Those are the type of distinctions that someday will place him in the College Football Hall of Fame and be something to savor, just like Par- seghian did 47 years earlier. Here are the other nine times 10-0 was reached at Notre Dame: 1924 — Following a 9-0 regular sea- son, Knute Rockne's team defeated Pop Warner's powerhouse Stanford in the Rose Bowl (27-10) to clinch the first "consensus" national title for the program. 1930 — In what would be Rockne's final game, a 27-0 shutout of favored USC in the Coliseum clinched an- other national title with a 10-0 ledger. 1949 — A late goal-line stand in the Cotton Bowl — a regular-season game, not the bowl game itself — preserved a 27-20 win versus SMU to give Leahy his first 10-0 mark among his five unbeaten sea- sons to that point. 1973 — Parseghian's squad would go on to reach 11-0 for the first time in the program's history with the Sugar Bowl win over No 1 Alabama (24-23) to clinch the national title. 1 9 8 8 — T h e f i r s t 1 2 - 0 mark at Notre Dame was achieved under Holtz with the school's most recent na- tional championship. 1989 — The program-record 23 wins in a row was snapped at 11-0 with a setback at Mi- ami to finish No. 2. 1993 — Another No. 2 fin- ish followed a stunning loss at home to Boston College after a 10-0 start and defeating previous No. 1 Florida State the week prior. 2012 — Reaching 12-0 a second time ended with a 42-14 loss to Ala- bama in the BCS National Champi- onship Game. 2018 — A third 12-0 finish in the regular season was concluded with a 30-3 defeat to eventual national champ Clemson in the College Foot- ball Playoff semifinals. 2020 — To be determined. Of note: • The first 11-0 came in 1973 when the Irish slew the dragon — defend- ing national champ USC with its 23- game unbeaten streak — at home dur- ing the regular season. Notre Dame had not defeated the Trojans the six previous meetings from 1967-72. • The first 12-0 came in 1988 when Notre Dame again slew the dragon — defending champ Miami and its 36-game winning streak in the reg- ular season — at home during the regular season. Notre Dame had lost its four previous meetings to Miami from 1983-87 by a 133-20 count. • The first 13-0 would be fitting this year after having slain the Clem- son dragon, which also had won 36 straight regular-season games. Encore, anyone? ✦ 10-0: Still Notable After All These Years THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton and his teammates have had plenty of reasons to celebrate 10-0 this year. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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