As the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team prepare to open their season and renew their rivalry with the Michigan Wolverines on September 1, we take a look at the Irish losses over the last 20 years, starting with 1997 when the rivalry was renewed after a two year hiatus. Hopefully we won’t be adding an entry to this list on September 2.
September 27, 1997 - Michigan 21, Notre Dame 14
After a loss to the Wolverines in 1994 and a two year hiatus where the teams did not play, Notre Dame and Michigan renewed their rivalry in 1997. This was the first game in the rivalry for both head coaches, Bob Davie and Lloyd Carr, having taken over after the teams last played each other. Notre Dame took a 14-7 lead into halftime only to have Michigan jump ahead in the second half 21-14. Notre Dame squandered some second half chances and couldn’t capitalize on Michigan turnovers.
After their win, Michigan went undefeated and captured a share of the National Championship and Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy, the most recent time the Wolverines have accomplished both of those feats.
September 4, 1999 - Michigan 26, Notre Dame 22
Notre Dame again held the lead in this game, 22-19, before Michigan scored late to go ahead 26-22. Michigan was penalized for excessive celebration on the go-ahead touchdown but the Irish couldn’t capitalize on the mistake. With no timeouts remaining they couldn’t get out of bounds and ran out of time before they could score.
September 13, 2003 - Michigan 38, Notre Dame 0
What is there to say about this one? Michigan notched the first shut-out in the series since 1902 and the largest margin of victory in the series history.
September 16, 2006 - Michigan 47, Notre Dame 21
Three years later and another blowout in favor of Michigan. This time the Wolverines set the record for most points scored by a single team in the rivalry at 47.
September 15, 2007 - Michigan 38, Notre Dame 0
The following year and Michigan was at it again, shutting out the Irish 38-0, mirroring the largest margin of victory in the series that they set, with the same exact score, in 2003. Both teams came into this game 0-2 but the victory set Michigan straight and they finished the season 8-4 while Notre Dame stumbled (that might be putting it mildly) to a 3-9 record.
September 12, 2009 - Michigan 38, Notre Dame 34
Notre Dame again held a late lead in this meeting, 34-31. Michigan put a dagger through Irish hearts with a touchdown pass by Tate Forcier with only 11 seconds remaining in the game. On the bright side though, this game set the record for the most combined points scored between the two team in the rivalry’s history.
September 11, 2010 - Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24
Notre Dame came back from a 21-7 deficit in this matchup to take a 24-21 lead, but Irish dreams were again crushed by a late Michigan touchdown. Denard Robinson had a dominant game under center for the Wolverines, rushing and passing for over 200 yards each, including a two yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left to give Michigan a 28-24 lead and victory.
September 10, 2011 - Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31
2011 would become Michigan’s third victory in a row, but not before Notre Dame’s hopes were crushed again. Notre Dame took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter but trailed 28-24 late. Notre Dame scored to take a 31-24 lead with only 31 seconds left, but Denard Robinson drove Michigan down the field and scored the game winning touchdown with 2 seconds left on the clock. This game will be remembered for the thrilling finish, but it was also the first night game at Michigan Stadium and set a (then) modern attendance record for college football.
September 7, 2013 - Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30
Notre Dame gave notice before the 2012 game that they wouldn’t be continuing the rivalry after 2014, Notre Dame then went undefeated through the 2012 season before losing in the National Championship game. Michigan head coach Brady Hoke then said before this matchup that Notre Dame was “chickening out” of the rivalry. All caught up? Good, because that all set quite a stage for this game.
The game was an entertaining one, but it was never going to live up to the hype that preceded it. Devin Gardner accounted for 5 touchdowns for the Wolverines and the game set another (then) modern day attendance record with over 115,000 fans. Most people will remember this game for the fact that the chicken dance was played over the speakers in Michigan Stadium after the game, in reference to Hoke’s comments about Notre Dame. This is also the game that for some inexplicable reason, Michigan decided to have Devin Gardner wear number 98 as the quarterback, but I will always remember it for this absolute gem of a halftime interview on ESPN’s broadcast.
This was also the first (non-National Championship) loss that I experienced as a student, having started at Notre Dame in 2012. I can tell you the mood in Legends that night was not good. Also for some reason I watched this game in Legends, the only time I ever did that.
So there you have it, all of Notre Dame’s losses to Michigan over the last 20 years. Here’s hoping 2018 (and 2019) is added to the win column!