Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 8, 2012 Issue

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

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Page 53 of 55

No. 10 Michigan State on Sept. 15 a "signature" win in his program. What that nebulous word entails is N 'Signature' Win Can Have Different Names THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI otre Dame head coach Brian Kelly officially declared Notre Dame's 20-3 victory at then- up to each individual to decide. Vic- tories can come in many "signature" forms, especially at a place such as Notre Dame. Some might just prefer to label the victory in East Lansing an "upset," as in defeating a six-point favorite on the road. Yet Notre Dame posted a 31-13 win a year earlier against the Spartans … so was it really an upset? Others might hope to eventually classify it as "defining" or "water- shed," as in a conquest you can turn to years later and say, "That's when the program made its turn toward the success it is now achieving." Still others just might categorize it as merely another "milestone" for Kelly i.e., a coach's first win at a school (Purdue 2010) … the first vic- tory over a ranked opponent (No. 15 Utah in 2010) … the first bowl con- quest (Miami in the 2010 Sun Bowl) … and at Michigan State, the first tri- umph against a top-10 ranked foe. However, what makes those sup- posedly signature victories a tad cloudy are the contexts of their time. When Notre Dame's football pro- gram is experiencing a halcyon era, it might not receive much credit for some astounding victories because the expectation is "Notre Dame is supposed to win." And when it is struggling or try- Lou Holtz recorded a school-record 21 victories against Associated Press top-10 teams. 20 or 25 greatest victories by Notre Dame, you never find the 14-13 win against Iowa Pre-Flight in 1943. It was a No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown held in Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 20 with the national title on the line. The game was a tight struggle throughout and decided by one point. Could you imagine the way that teams that were ranked in the Associ- ated Press top 10 (see "Gimme Five" on page 14). However, his victories in such showdowns became so rou- tine that many people became more critical of the losses than appreciating the wins, just as they often did with Parseghian. When you see any list of the top 10, ing to find its way back into the top 10, any victory often becomes more exalted during that period. In 1968, Ara Parseghian's Irish opened with an impressive 45-21 whipping of No. 5 Oklahoma. Do that today, and it would not be merely considered "signature" but maybe even "epic." Back then, it was deemed as a routine rout — the way it was supposed to happen. Furthermore, when that No. 2 Irish team lost the next week to No. 1 Pur- due, the conquest of Oklahoma be- came ignored because Notre Dame "couldn't win the big one." During his Irish career, Lou Holtz defeated a Notre Dame-record 21 54 OCT. 8, 2012 would be classified as an "Instant Classic" today? But that year, it was just another day in the office for head coach Frank Leahy and his lads, who vanquished six teams that finished in the final top 13. The wins became too familiar to be defined as epic, never mind signature. To me, a signature win has been PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS ton Bowls and 1973 Sugar Bowl (my personal favorite) … Miami in 1988, and Florida State in 1993 … There are generally three tiers a coach has to climb at a program like Notre Dame: 1. Recording a quality victory — generally against someone in the top 10 — and then a lot of them. That's merely a start. Gerry Faust in 1982 upset No. 10 Michigan and No. 1 Pitt, and Ty Willingham toppled No. 8 Michigan and No. 9 Tennessee in 2004. It wasn't enough in the total body of work. That's why from this corner, the 2012 win at Michigan State was qual- ity, but not necessarily signature. 2. Winning those classic aforemen- tioned "signature" games that define the program decades later while span- ning the generations. 3. Capturing "The Big One." Had defined as one that is immortalized as a classic in Notre Dame's archives and with each generation. Jesse Harper's 1913 team shocking Army 35-13 … Knute Rockne's Four Horsemen winning the program's first consensus national title in the 1925 Rose Bowl versus Pop Warner's powerful Stanford unit … the colos- sal 18-13 comeback at Ohio State in 1935 … stunning the nation in 1957 by ending Oklahoma's 47-game winning streak … the 1971, 1978 and 1979 Cot- Holtz not won "the big one" at No. 2 USC and tin the Fiesta Bowl against West Virginia in 1988, then the victory against Miami probably wouldn't be as esteemed as it is today. Had Dan Devine not won "the big one" versus No. 1 Texas in the 1978 Cotton Bowl, then the "signature" green jersey vic- tory over USC that same year would not have been venerated the way it is today as a turning point. There remain many different names to attach to a "signature." ✦ Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED

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