Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2014 Edition

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

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Page 123 of 126

THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI E ver since first following the Notre Dame football program in 1970, I've often heard how the Fighting Irish are "a year away" from being a bona fide championship contender. The first time was in 1973, a year that featured only a handful of senior starters, a stellar junior class and sev- eral game-changing freshmen, includ- ing Ross Browner and Luther Bradley. But instead of waiting for that year away, 11-0 Notre Dame won the na- tional title in 1973. The "year away" in 1974 wasn't bad with a 10-2 mark, but the team was ravaged by injuries and suspensions. Prior to 1980, after a disappointing 7-4 season, the Irish were extremely inexperienced and replete with tal- ented sophomores and freshmen in the lineup, so they were categorized "a year away" too. Instead, the 1980 crew started a sur- prising 9-0-1, was ranked No. 2, upset several teams, including Alabama on the road, and played No. 1 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. The ensuing "year away" produced a 5-6 record under new head coach Gerry Faust. In 1988, Lou Holtz's third Notre Dame team was coming off three con- secutive losses, but had two straight No. 1 recruiting classes in 1987 and 1988. Consequently there would be about 15 regular sophomores and freshmen starting in 1988 — and, once again, Notre Dame would be "a year away." Indeed, the Fighting Irish were su- perb in 1989 with a 12-1 record — but they stunned the nation with a 12-0 national title the year prior. More recent vintage included the surprising "year away" No. 9 finish in 2005 (the first AP top-10 finish in 12 years), followed by the disappointing No. 17 placement in 2006 when many pundits had the Irish ranked No. 1 Good News: Notre Dame Might Be 'A Year Away' Sophomores such as running back Tarean Folston might inspire greater hope for the future than this com- ing season, but could also help the Irish surprise in 2014. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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