That Clemson Tigers brings a 7-0 record and a No. Their 1st to Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night in a top 5 showdown 6-0 Notre Dame Against Ireland. These two college football powers met only once inside Notre Dame Stadium, a Clemson 16-10 victory in 1979. The two teams have finished in the top 15 in two previous regular season meetings – both at Clemson – with Ireland’s 1977 win (Notre Dame 5, Clemson 15) on their way to the national championships, and the Tigers won in 2015 (Notre Dame 9, Clemson 11).
Notre Dame Stadium has been the location of some unforgettable matches over the years, from shocking disruptions to momentum-defining victories, but very little has brought with it the level of hype and boost that this year’s Ireland Against the Tigers encounter. Notre Dame last hosted the country’s top-ranking team in 2005 when USC came to town – further below – but had yet to welcome the No. Another 1 at Notre Dame Stadium. Here are some of the most anticipated matches at Notre Dame Stadium over the past 40 years.
1990: No. 1 Notre Dame 28, No. 4 Michigan 24
While Michigan and Notre Dame’s encounter to open the 1988 season is fondly remembered for the crowd capacity of 59,075 (pre-expansion) that disrupted play due to excessive crowd noise, their 1990 game was a top 5 thriller in its own right. The two teams certainly became very familiar with starting the season against each other, as Notre Dame saw Michigan for the first or second game of each season from 1985 to 1994.
In the 1990 edition, debut midfielder Rick Mirer Notre Dame climbed the board early thanks to a Michigan error and jumped to a 14-3 lead after the first quarter. Michigan scored the next 21 points over the next two quarters, leading 24-14 into the fourth. As tension escalated with top-ranked Notre Dame on the ropes, Mirer led the Irishman off the field and into the end zone on two of the next three drives. Michigan put up a late comeback attempt, but Reggie Brooks navigated the sideline to make a last-second interception and seal Notre Dame’s win.
1990: No. 6 Notre Dame 29, No. 2 Miami 20
If one top 10 home game in the 1990 season was enough to make the Notre Dame fan base a little anxious, having one more game a month later doesn’t help. After losing two of the last three games against the Hurricanes – with the win coming at the famous 1988 encounter – Irish opponent Lou Holtz looks to starboard in the South Beach vs South Bend battle.
Miami opened the scoring with a touchdown just three minutes into the game before the teams exchanged field goals. Rocket Ismail’s next kickoff at 94 yards to equalize to 10-10 after the first quarter. Notre Dame kicked four field goals between the second and third quarters to take a 22-17 lead, and after a Miami field goal one minute into the fourth cut Ireland’s lead in half, Mirer found Rodney Culver for a touchdown with six minutes remaining that put the game out of reach.
1996: No. 4 Ohio State 29, No. 5 Notre Dame 16
Notre Dame started the 1996 season with a seven-point win at Vanderbilt, followed by a 35-0 win over Purdue in their home opener and a 27-24 win over No. 6th Texas in Austin thanks to a last-second field goal. His second top-10 fight in recent weeks didn’t go well, as the State of Ohio was clearly in control and completely outperformed Notre Dame from start to finish.
After Notre Dame jumped early, the State of Ohio quickly capitalized on the momentum – thanks to the dominance of defender Pepe Pearson and offensive midfielder Orlando Pace – and missed 16 points to take a 22-7 lead. Notre Dame crawled closer to the field goal, and the two sides exchanged touchdowns before a defensive penalty cleared Notre Dame’s punt for a touchdown that would have cut the deficit to a touchdown. The State of Ohio saved the last few minutes to give Ireland their first defeat of the 1996 season and their first regular season defeat in 365 days.
2005: No.1 USC 34, No. 9 Notre Dame 31
Ask any Irish fan what game leaves the most haunting memories, and most will respond with Notre Dame’s 2005 defeat to USC, known to many as “Bush Push” Game. The loss was Ireland’s fourth straight against the Trojans and part of an eight straight win by Pete Carroll’s group, with both teams finishing in the top 10 in three meetings.
In the final game – providing the basis for the nickname of the game – Matt Leinart took a snap at the second-and-goal from the 1 yard line and bumped into the wall of Notre Dame’s defenders when he tried to slip for a touchdown. But Reggie Bush came in from the back and pushed Leinart forward to win a game – albeit controversial, even to this day – a touchdown. The match is Notre Dame’s most recent home game against the No. 1, which many Notre Dame fans want to progress with a win against Clemson on Saturday night.
1993: No.2 Notre Dame 31, No. 1 Florida State 24
Speaking of victories against the No. 1 team, Notre Dame’s last win was in 1993 against Florida State in one of the games dubbed “Game of the Century.” ESPN is holding its “College GameDay” event on the street for the first time before this fight, broadcast live from the Joyce Center on the Notre Dame campus.
Seminoles Bobby Bowden took a 9-0 streak to Notre Dame Stadium against Lou Holtz 9-0 Fighting Irish, who led 21-7 at halftime and led 31-17 in the fourth. Finally, Heisman Cup winning midfielder Charlie Ward steered his Florida State comeback effort, leading the Seminoles on a 49-yard scoring drive before the defense stopped Notre Dame’s subsequent possession. With less than a minute left and no time limit, Seminoles had the ball near midfield and Ward led them to the 14 yard line with three seconds remaining. His pass in the game’s final game was deflected in the end zone by Irish cornerback Shawn Wooden, and Notre Dame held on for a dramatic win, beating top-ranked Florida State.
1988: No. 4 Notre Dame 31, No. 1 Miami 30
One of the main games at Notre Dame Stadium in its long and storied history epic fight between Miami and Notre Dame Pitted against the independent college football – yes, Miami was independent at the time – the powerhouse program. With pregame war of words and close fights which is why the game is often referred to as “Catholic vs. Convict”, as well as the in-game intensity and constant shifting of momentum, this game has all the elements of big 5 marquee fighting.
Miami had seven turnovers in the game, including a first-half interception by Miami quarterback Steve Walsh to which Notre Dame defender Pat Terrell replied to score to give Ireland a 21-7 lead. But the Hurricanes came back and scored with less than a minute left in regulation to cut Ireland’s lead to 31-30 before an extra points effort. Head coach Jimmy Johnson threw all of his chips into the center of the table and went for a two-point conversion instead of opting to kick PAT that tied the game. Walsh sent a high pass into the corner of the end zone, but Terrell brushed off the pass and secured the win to keep Notre Dame’s hopes of winning the 11th national championship safe.
– Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez is an intern for Athlon during the summer of 2017 and worked for various media on campus, including as Editor in Chief Gramedia Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @ JuanJoseR02.
(Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics)