Thursday, September 20, 2012

Who Are You and Why Do We Care: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Let's get the video out of the way... 

Is there a rivalry here?
You bet. In 1887, players from Michigan went to Notre Dame to teach the students how to play the game of football. Michigan played against Notre Dame in November of 1887, and won in a blow out. The Wolverines won seven straight games before Notre Dame recorded their first victory in 1909 by the score of 11-3. The series has been incredibly even since then. Since 1909, there have only been two occasions where one of the teams beat the other more than two times in a row. Notre Dame won four games from 1987-1990, and Michigan is currently in a three game win streak. If Michigan wins this year, it will be the first time since the early 1900s that a four game win streak has occurred. Notre Dame ranks in Michigan's top three rivals, along with Michigan State and Ohio State. 

What has happened the last three years?!
2009 was Rich Rodriguez's second season at Michigan. After the incredibly disappointing 2008 season, and one victory against Western Michigan, the Wolverines looked to make a statement against #18 Notre Dame. Michigan scored two touchdowns in the first quarter; one by Brandon Minor and the other on a kick return touchdown by Darryl Stonum (this was also Michigan's last kick return touchdown). Notre Dame responded with touchdowns from Jimmy Clausen to Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. The first half ended Notre Dame 20 - Michigan 17. The only touchdown in the third quarter was from Tate Forcier to Kevin Koger, and a minute into the fourth quarter, Tate ran 31 yards to put the Wolverines up 31-20. Sadly, the eleven point lead would evaporate after another Golden Tate touchdown and an Armando Allen run put the Fighting Irish in the lead with five minutes to go. Forcier was not finished, and with 11 seconds left in the game, he threw a five yard pass to Greg Mathews for the touchdown, and the 38-34 victory. 

In 2010, Michigan traveled to South Bend for the first road game of the season. In Denard Robinson's first road start, the game was all about him. I will not be able to list these stats better than Adam Rittenberg did yesterday on the Big Ten Blog
In 2010, he set Michigan, Big Ten and Notre Dame records in rallying the Wolverines to a 28-24 victory in South Bend. Making his first career road start, Robinson shattered his own team total offense mark with 502 yards; set team records for total plays (68) and single-game road rushing (258 yards); recorded the fifth-highest rushing effort in Michigan history; set the Big Ten quarterback rushing record; recorded the longest run in Notre Dame Stadium history (an 87-yard scoring dash in the the second quarter) and the second-longest ever against the Irish (88 yards by Michigan State's Dick Panin in 1951); and set the single-game total offense record by a Notre Dame opponent. 
Other than Denard, the other story of the game was Notre Dame's Quaterback situation.  Dayne Crist started the game, but got injured. He was replaced by Tommy Rees, who immediately threw an interception before being replaced by Nate Montana (as in Joe Montana's son), who threw a pick of his own. Crist came back in for the second half and was a drastic improvement. For the second year in a row, a last minute drive was necessary after Kyle Rudolph rumbled down the field for a 95 yard touchdown that put the Fighting Irish up 24-21. Robinson lead the Wolverines down the field and ran for a 2 yard touchdown with 27 seconds left in the game to seal the game 28-24.

(Beware of Jay-Z in the background)

All of you should know about last season. Notre Dame came to Ann Arbor for the first ever night game at Michigan Stadium. The Under The Lights Game featured interesting "throwback" uniforms, face palm guy, and surprising gameplay. Since you all know what happened, I'll keep the recap short, and you can watch the video. After three quarters of not moving the ball offensively, Michigan was losing 24-7 going into the fourth quarter. That is when the Michigan offense remembered they were allowed to move the ball down the field, and put points on the board. A one yard fumble recovery touchdown by Denard to start the fourth quarter, followed by a Jeremy Gallon touchdown reception put the Wolverines within striking distance. A Robinson interception with a few minutes left made many believe the game was over. Michigan got the ball back and Denard threw a beautiful screen to Vincent Smith who ran for a touchdown with 1:12 left in the game. Of course, the game was not over. Tommy Rees lead the Irish down the field, and threw a pass to Theo Riddick to put Notre Dame in the lead 31-28 with 30 seconds remaining. Jeremy Gallon put on Harry Potter's invisibility cloak to get wide open and get the Wolverines within striking distance. With 9 seconds left, Brady Hoke and Al Borges decided to go for the win not the tie. Denard threw a jump ball to Roy Roundtree in the endzone, who came down with the ball with 2 seconds remaining. Michigan won the game 35-31. 

(Look at these fans, the game is over. They're still here!)

What do they look like?
Notre Dame's official colors are Gold and Navy Blue, although sometimes Green makes an appearance. They have two logos. Their primary logo is composed of a block N and D. Their secondary logo is the fighting Irishman.

Their main home uniforms are blue jerseys with white jerseys worn over gold pants. The away uniforms are white jerseys with blue numbers worn over same gold pants

While Navy Blue is their main color, Green is heavily associated with the Irish. They have worn many varieties of green uniforms over the years. This includes last year's green based uniforms worn against Michigan. Full explanation of the green uniforms here

The Fighting Irish are nicknamed the Golden Domers for good reason: their gold helmets. While the team has worn multiple alternate uniforms over the years, the one thing that has stayed relatively the same is the gold helmet. Well, until this year. I still have no idea where they came up with this monstrosity: 

Speaking of those terrible helmets, there is a terrible uniform that goes with it (Not these though). The Irish will wear these against Miami (YTM) later this season. 

After last seasons' game featured both Notre Dame and Michigan wearing alternate uniforms (look at all the stripes!!!), this season should be a return to normalcy

Do they have good coaches?
In 1918, Knute Rockne was hired as Notre Dame's head football coach. Knute would go on to one of the best coaching tenures in all of college football. From 1918 to 1930, he lead the Irish to a record of 105-12-5 winning three national championships along the way. He has the highest winning percentage of any coach in football history. Sadly, in 1931- at the young age of 43 - Rockne died in a plane crash.

Frank Leahy was hired in 1941, after playing for Rockne at Notre Dame years earlier. He coached Notre Dame for 11 seasons, and attained a record of 87-11-9. This record gives him the second highest winning percentage of all time, behind only Rockne. He lead the Fighting Irish to 39 straight games without a loss and four national championships.

After a 2-7 record in 1963, Ara Parseghian was hired. He attained another incredibly impressive win percentage at .836 with a record of 95-17-4 and captured two national championships.

Lou Holtz became the head coach of the Fighting Irish in 1986. Although his first season finished under .500, he went on to an impressive 100-30-2 record as Notre Dame head coach. Holtz lead the Irish to nine consecutive New Year's Day bowl games, five top ten finishes, and a national championship.

Lou Holtz's resignation in 1996 lead to a string of four different coaches. Bob Davie was at the helm from 1997 to 2001. Davie's Irish didn't make it to a bowl game in either 1999 or 2001, and lost the three bowl games they attended. In 1999, Notre Dame was placed on probation by the NCAA for the first time in team history. In 2001, Davie was fired and replaced by Tyrone Willingham. Willingham was the first black head coach in Notre Dame history. After just three seasons, and a 21-15 record, Willingham was fired.

Following 14 years as an assistant to Bill Belichick for the Giants and Patriots, Charlie Weis was hired to be Notre Dame's head coach. Weis was given five whole seasons to prove that he was worth the $2 Million a year the Irish were paying him. His first two seasons were very successful, with back to back BCS Bowl bids (and losses). In 2007, things took a turn for the worse as the previously 10-3 team went 3-9. That was followed by a 7-6 season and a 6-6 season. Finally, after the 2009 season, he was fired and replaced by Brian Kelly.

Kelly was known as a man who could turn a program around. He started at Division II, Grand Valley State, and turned them into a perennial championship team. He was then offered the head coaching job at Central Michigan University. In three seasons, the Chippewas went from a 4-7 team at the bottom of the MAC to 9-4 MAC champions. Before the bowl game in 2006, Kelly was named Cincinnati's head coach. Under Kelly, the Bearcats never had more than three losses, and in 2009, Cincinnati went 12-0 and earned a birth to the Sugar Bowl to face Florida. The Bearcats got smashed by Urban Meyer's Gators, but that was after Kelly left to be Notre Dame's head coach.

Since Kelly took over at Notre Dame, he lead the Irish to back to back 8-5 seasons. This season they are currently 3-0, so we will see what happens.

Where do they play football?
Notre Dame Stadium is the home of the Fighting Irish football team and Touchdown Jesus. The stadium was built in 1930, and looks incredibly like a miniature Michigan Stadium. The stadium originally held 59,075 people, and now holds 80,795. The first night game in Notre Dame Stadium history was held in 1982, and the first night game with permanent lights was held last season against USC. The most noticeable thing about Notre Dame Stadium is Touchdown Jesus. The mosaic is 134 feet high and 68 feet wide, and shows Jesus with his arms up signifying a touchdown.

Do they have a goofy mascot?
From 1930 to 1963, Notre Dame's mascot was an Irish Terrier. The first terrier was named Brick Top Shuan-Rhu. Later the dogs took the name Clashmore Mike.  Starting in 1965, the Notre Dame Leprechaun became the official mascot of the university. The first man dressed up as a Leprechaun with Clashmore Mike at a game against Oklahoma in 1963.

The university holds tryouts to become The Leprechaun. The potential leprechauns must compete in mental and physical challenges before leading a five minute mock pep rally, answering Notre Dame trivia, dancing an Irish Jig, and doing 50 pushups. They also must have the ability to grow a chinstrap beard and have "a special love for the tradition and spirit of Notre Dame in their hearts."

Prediction Time. Based on everything but football: Michigan 31 - Notre Dame 28

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, I gotta nitpick here. I'm not a domer by any means, but I at least know Notre Dame stadium is by no means the home of Touchdown Jesus. The Hesburgh library is, and it just so happens that one of endzones of Notre Dame stadium looks out on said library.