Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2022*

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

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Page 53 of 55

54 SEPT. 10, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED F or a good portion of his career at Notre Dame from 1964-74, the late, great Ara Parseghian was of- ten chided as the coach who "can't win the big one." This occurred mainly from 1967- 72, when his teams failed to defeat arch-rival USC (although there were two ties), and lost three straight from 1967-69 to top-10 Purdue teams. In 1971, the Fighting Irish even voted to not go to a bowl because they lost to the only two teams (USC and LSU) on the schedule that finished ranked that year — i.e., "the big ones" — in the As- sociated Press poll. Lost in the vitriol were quite a few outstanding victories during that six- year stretch. In the 1968 season opener the Irish pounded No. 5 Oklahoma (45-21), a team that would finish No. 11 — but the "big one" was a loss at home to No. 1 Purdue the next week. In 1970 the triumphs included No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, plus the Irish defeated SEC champ LSU and Georgia Tech, which finished No. 7 and No. 13, respectively. But … USC was the "big one" because Notre Dame lost. In 1972 Purdue and Michigan State combined for 18 draft picks, eight of them in the first two rounds, and the Spartans even upset Ohio State. Notre Dame beat both while out- scoring them 51-14 — but neither wins were "big ones" because … well, Notre Dame is "supposed to win." There comes a point where you be- come a victim of your own success, as Parseghian did. And then there's the case of Brian Kelly. He's posted some quality victories in his seven seasons at Notre Dame, but the résumé lacks that one-for-the- ages or where-did-that-come-from triumph that is talked about for de- cades on end. No epic upset like Jesse Harper against Army in 1913, Elmer Layden at Ohio State in 1935, Terry Brennan's troops snapping Oklahoma's NCAA- record 47-game winning streak in 1957, or Gerry Faust's 1982 Irish stunning No. 1 Pitt. There's no "Green Jersey Game" like in 1977 versus USC under Dan Devine that propelled the march to the na- tional title. There's no vanquishing of the teams that finished No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 like Frank Leahy's 1943 champs, an unprecedented three wins versus No. 1 teams in bowls over a five-year pe- riod like Parseghian in 1970-74, or Lou Holtz's insane 18-3-1 mark versus top-10 teams he played from 1988-93, including a mind-boggling 10-2 versus top-five squads. Meanwhile, Kelly is only 9-19 at Notre Dame versus teams that finished in the top 25, including 2-10 against the top 10. For context, consider that Ty Will- ingham was 8-9 in his three seasons versus the final top 25 (2-5 versus top 10) with the Irish before getting fired in 2004. Yet even with Kelly's quality wins, there always seems to be a "yeah, but" element: • In 2013, the Irish handed the 13-1 Michigan State team that finished No. 3 its lone defeat. Yeah … but that was early in the sea- son when the Spartans weren't ranked, and Notre Dame was at home and the favorite. • In 2012, Kelly and Co. defeated a Stanford team at home in overtime that would finish No. 7 at the end of the year. Yeah … but that was at home, too, and Notre Dame was ranked No. 7 while Stanford was No. 17. • Okay, well how about that fantastic 30-13 win that same season at No. 8 Oklahoma, which was favored and 79-4 in its last 83 home games? Yeah … but the Sooners already had lost at home to Kansas State that year and were crushed 41-13 by Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. It wasn't one of Bob Stoops' vintage teams. • Hey, Kelly is 4-3 against hated archrival USC! Yeah … but the two times they won in the Coliseum USC's starting QB (Matt Barkley) wasn't playing, and the two times they won here USC was an inter- nal mess with interim coaches. • Don't forget Kelly beat Michigan two of three since 2012, including that 31-0 pasting in 2014. Yeah … but Brady Hoke wasn't a marquee head coach, and Michigan was 5-7 in 2014. The Sept. 9 showdown versus top-15 foe Georgia is hyped as a "big game," and if the Bulldogs triumph, Kelly will be vilified again as a coach who "can't win the big one." And if Notre Dame wins, it might be, 'Yeah … but Georgia was only 8-5 last year, lost at home to Vanderbilt, almost lost to Nicholls State, Kirby Smart is an inexperienced coach …" Better to endure the latter and move forward than deal with the former once again. ✦ Quarterback Brandon Wimbush and the Fighting Irish held a 2-point lead inside the final five min- utes of their game against Georgia in 2017, but ultimately suffered a 20-19 defeat. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA BEST OF THE FIFTH QUARTER ✦ LOU SOMOGYI ✦ SEPT. 11, 2017 Georgia Is A 'Big One' … Unless Notre Dame Wins EDITOR'S NOTE: The late, great Lou Somogyi possessed an unmatched knowledge of Notre Dame football, and it was his mission in life to share it with others. Those of us at Blue & Gold Illustrated would like to continue to provide his wisdom and unique perspective from his more than 37 years covering the Fighting Irish for this publication.

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