There are things in life that just seem certain. Something you expect. Something you anxiously await. For me, Notre Dame vs. Michigan is one of those things.
Saturday night will mark the end to one of the best and most memorable rivalries in college football; one that started in 1887.
With its end looming I can’t help reflecting. I think of the incredible finishes, the banter between the coaches and players (RB Mike Hart guaranteeing victory, Schembechler “To hell with Notre Dame”) and of course traditions like touching the “GO BLUE” banner or “Play Like a Champion” sign. There are so many great moments that it is difficult to pick a favorite. To commemorate this loss I will give you my top three. (Please note that no game prior to 1987 will be included. I was 10 and singularly focused on My Little Pony)
Our power was out in Santa Rosa for the start of the game. But a storm wasn’t going to stop me so like all 12 year old girls, I grabbed my boombox and quietly listened. My brother had rushed home from college to watch the game, got a speeding ticket on the way, only to find out he would have to share his little sister’s radio. With my ear next to the speaker, I heard Raghib “Rocket” Ismail return the opening kickoff for a TD. By the 2nd half the TV came back on and I was able to see the Rocket’s second return for a touchdown. I couldn’t believe Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler kicked it to him again. I still can’t.
Bo Schembechler was a legendary coach and this was the first game in 20 years without him. When he retired he handed the reigns over to Gary Moeller. It was top ranked Notre Dame vs. #4 Michigan.
ND QB Tony Rice had graduated and it was time to begin the Rick Mirer era. In his first collegiate start Mirer threw an 18 yard TD pass to Adrian Jarrell capping the game winning drive with 1:40 remaining. The Irish rallied from a 21-24 deficit and the freshman rightfully earned the cover of Sports Illustrated titled “Golden Boy”. (As a side note, Rick Mirer was also my first college football crush)
The birth of Tommy Turnover and the emergence of Denard Robinson. If I was a Michigan fan, I would have this game playing on a loop. As a Notre Dame fan, it pains me to list this as the best game, but how could you not? It is one of the best games I have ever seen.
Michigan scored 28 points in the 4th quarter and Notre Dame regained the lead with 30 seconds to go. Like the previous two years, Michigan had an amazing finish and got the win; this time with under 4 seconds remaining. In the 2011 edition it was Roy Roundtree beating Gary Gray for the touchdown. No game tying field goal but an outright defeat. One of the most unbelievable finishes I have ever seen. Also, the throwback uniforms to celebrate the first night game at Michigan Stadium were pretty awesome.