Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2018

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

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62 MAY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED I n athletics there will al- w ays b e memorab le games, special seasons and defining events. Then there are also the co- lossal, epic outcomes — al- most spiritual — that leave you breathless and become immortalized for genera- tions to come. One hundred years from now in 2118, this year 's N C A A To u r n a m e n t i n women's basketball will still be referenced or highlighted in Fighting Irish lore with a reflection similar to today when the seminal event on Nov. 1, 1913 had Notre Dame making a break- through in football with a stunning 35-13 victory at superpower Army (or even a 1909 victory at Michigan). Those events were something we don't have film clips of, or maybe we can't quite identify with, yet through lore passed down we know they were watershed events or an ultra-special result in the school's heritage. There are others that Notre Dame football fans grew up with in the 50 years after 1909 or 1913: One For The Gipper at Army in 1928, the mind- boggling comeback at Ohio State in 1935 (voted the greatest college foot- ball game during the sport's 100-year anniversary in 1969), or snapping Oklahoma's NCAA-record 47-game winning streak in 1957. But guess what? After each of those three games, Notre Dame lost at home the next week. The emotional eupho- ria was virtually impossible to carry over seven days later. So we high- light more the "Golden Years" from 1946-49 as the standard of sustained, unparalleled excellence in the football program's history. In my lifetime (starting in 1962), the two most epic football events to me were one-point wins over No. 1 Ala- bama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl (24-23) and No. 1 Miami (31-30) during the 1988 regular season. The first clinched a national title, and the second "slew the dragon" while on the way to an- other finish at the summit. There are many others that fall among the rapture-like moments — 1973, 1977 and 1988 versus USC, 1971 and 1979 Cotton Bowls, 1993 Florida State, etc. — but the aforementioned two were titanic in terms of impact and start-to-finish pulsating action with so much on the line, while also in an underdog role. A third colossal football event for me didn't have the close finish: the 38- 10 pasting of No. 1 Texas in the 1978 Cotton Bowl. There, the Irish needed "style points" to move from No. 5 to No. 1 — and achieved it remarkably in the Longhorns' home state. In men's basketball, there are two others: One was Jan. 19, 1974, when Notre Dame moved to No. 1 for the first time ever in a poll while snap- ping UCLA's NCAA-record 88-game winning streak and after trailing 70-59 with 3:32 left (and no shot clock or three-point line). That situation could have been set up 10,000 times — and in 9,999 the Irish would have lost. On that colossal day, it didn't (71-70). Making it more impactful was just two years earlier Notre Dame was 6-20, including losses such as 114-56 to UCLA and 94-29 at Indiana. The other was March 2015 when the Fighting Irish won the ACC Tour- nament — something I never antici- pated in my lifetime — on Tobacco Road while defeating Miami and then shocking superpowers Duke and North Carolina on consecutive nights. Just a year earlier Notre Dame was 15-17 and reel- ing internally, but 12 months later it was a champion and parlayed that into becoming the second Irish squad ever to win three consecutive games in the NCAA Tour- nament. In hockey, I believed it was quite special that the 2006-07 unit that had the best record in the sport (32-7-3) under second-year head coach Jeff Jackson — two years after it finished with the worst (5- 27-6) without him. In women's basketball, the 2001 national title un- der Muffet McGraw was an ecstatic breakthrough, but the "what tho' the odds" spirit never shone brighter than this year after los- ing two former top recruits to transfer, four others to ACL tears and enduring a plethora of broken noses, sprained ankles, blackened eyes, a 33-point de- feat … Getting to the Final Four was enough in itself to be classified as one of the better achievements in the pro- gram's history … but then to van- quish two teams that combined for a 73-1 record — 36-0 and No. 1 UConn and its dynasty, and 37-1 and No. 2 Mississippi State — after trailing by 11 and 15 points, respectively (the latter the biggest comeback victory in cham- pionship game history), was beyond just the icing. Enhancing it were a standard of the two most famous ever back-to- back game-winning baskets, by Arike Ogunbowale, at Notre Dame, but also in the NCAA Tournament overall. There is good, there is better and then there is best. Sometimes there is even The Colos- sal. We were witnesses this month with the newest Notre Dame legends immortalized. ✦ Good, Better, Best … And The Colossal THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Arike Ogunbowale's back-to-back game-winning baskets were epic not only in Notre Dame history but also NCAA Tournament annals. PHOTO BY MATT CASHORE/COURTESY NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

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