Saturday, September 11, 2010

To Hell with Notre Dame!

On the eve of the Notre Dame game, some random memories from the series:

I saw my first Michigan - Notre Dame series in person in 1979, a year after the series returned from a 36 year hiatus. My only memory of that game is Notre Dame lineman Bob Crable standing on the back of a Michigan offensive lineman to block what would have been the game winning kick. I'm sure the fact that this was blatantly illegal at the time didn't matter one bit to the Notre Dame team or fans, who probably feel that only God's rules are worthy of following.

Since that time I have witnessed 8 Michigan wins and 7 losses. Four of those loses came when I was an undergrad, with two trips to South Bend which may qualify as two of the most heart wrenching losses I ever seen. In 1988, I was standing on the field, behind the back of the endzone, waiting to run onto the field as Mike Gillette lined up to kick the game winning 42 yard field goal. We watched the kick to see if it had enough distance and raced into the back of the endzone heading for the Michigan team. We were at the goal line before we realized he had missed wide to the other side of the goal post. In 1990, we were walking through the parking lot after a come from ahead loss in Gary Moeller's first game as head coach when a particularly clever Notre Dame fan shouted to all the Michigan fans who were within earshot, "See you later Miss Again!" After four straight losses to Lou Holtz's teams, that one was particularly painful.

So of course, the 1991 game, with the famous catch pictured above came as a huge relief. Despite Desmond's Heisman launching catch, the game itself was quite mundane. We simply squeezed the life out of Notre Dame, possessing the ball for almost 45 minutes. This was just one of a number of games where Michigan has just outclassed Notre Dame. 1981 and 1985 were pretty comfortable wins, and the 2003 and 2007 matching 38-0 wins were two of the more delightful days I've spent at the corner of Stadium and Main. That 2007 Notre Dame team was probably the worst rivalry team I've ever seen Michigan play, and that's saying a lot since I witnesses the Bobby Williams and Muddy Waters coaching eras up in East Lansing. In fact it seems like in this rivalry, Michigan wins more of the lopsided games, whereas Notre Dame wins the close ones.

Of course there are exceptions to the that rule, and those games are my favorite Notre Dame- Michigan memories. The three straight defensive stops in 1997, the frantic closing minutes of the 1999 game, with time running out on the Irish just 40 yards away from the endzone, and Tate Forcier's heroics last year are all-time classics that I never pass up a chance to watch when they show up on BTN or ESPN Classic.