Fighting Irish TV will add one past NBC game to its Vault collection each week, starting this month. The Vault already contains 92 regular season games between 1992 and this past season, which means there’s 104 games left to release to fans who have downloaded the free app (Google Play, Amazon, AppleTV).
In this second article, I’ll rank games 78-53 — moving from least desired to most desired.
Here’s Part 1 (games 104 to 79).
Let’s begin Part 2:
78. No. 13 Tennessee 35, No. 5 Notre Dame 34 (1991)
Think 2016 Virginia Tech, but this time both teams are very good. The Irish lead 21-0 and then 31-7 shortly before half. And then the wheels just absolutely fall off. The Vols block a Craig Hentrich kick and return it 85 yards for a score before half. Tennessee begins converting fourth downs. They transform a pass interference penalty into a score. They pick off Rick Mirer. They take the lead, only to see Mirer put the Irish back into field goal position. Rob Leonard, who has replaced an injured Hentrich, misses a 27-yard chip shot. (It’s partially deflected.) Game over. Vols win.
77. Pittsburgh 36, Notre Dame 33 (4OT) (2008)
“It was two somewhat better-than-average teams engaged in an entertaining taffy pull,” Brian Hamilton wrote for the following day’s Chicago Tribune. The Irish stake out to a 17-3 lead, but then go absolutely dark in the third quarter. LeSean McCoy, meanwhile, explodes for 118 yards and a score post-halftime. Pitt’s kicker makes five field goals; Brandon Walker makes four, missing the kick that would have forced a fifth overtime. Jimmy Clausen overthrows Michael Floyd in the end zone in the second overtime that would have won the game.
76. No. 6 USC 34, No. 25 Notre Dame 27 (2009)
Trojans receivers averaged 20 yards per catch, as the Irish defense surrenders 501 total yards to a freshman-led offense. The Irish score the game’s final 13 points. Clausen and company have three shots from the Trojans’ four-yard line to tie the game, but they are blanked.
75. Northwestern 17, No. 9 Notre Dame 15 (1995)
The win by the Wildcats — 27 point underdogs — was considered one of the most stunning upsets in college football history at the time the game was played, but it aged well. Northwestern won the Big Ten that year and went to the Rose Bowl, finishing just above Notre Dame in final the Associated Press poll. Miscues that doomed the Irish that day include fumbles by Randy Kinder and Robert Farmer and a bad center-holder exchange on an extra point.
74. No. 7 Tennessee 28, Notre Dame 18 (2001)
The first Clausen win in Notre Dame Stadium comes six years prior to Jimmy’s arrival on campus. Older brother Casey is a respectable 17-for-29 for 228 yards and a touchdown. This game includes an 81-yard scoop and score for Tennessee and a 31-yard pick-six for the Irish, who briefly lead after half. Ultimately, two lost fumbles and an interception prevent the upset.
73. No. 4 Ohio State 29, No. 5 Notre Dame 16 (1996)
The Irish score their fourth-fewest points under Lou Holtz as the Buckeyes defense harasses Ron Powlus all day. The quarterback finishes 13-for-30 for 154 yards and a touchdown, but is also picked off twice and sacked four times. K.C. Johnson, writing for the South Bend Tribune following the game, said Ohio State’s pressure “put Powlus on his back so often, he saw the blimp circling Notre Dame Stadium as much as his receivers.”
Fun fact: Luminaries at the pregame pep rally were Rocky Bleier, fighter pilot Scott O’Grady and...Jenny McCarthy.
72. Notre Dame 28, Duke 7 (2007)
Two 1-9 teams play for pride, and the first half suggests two pretty evenly matched teams. The Irish capitalize on two Duke fumbles to score twice in the final 1:17 before half, a lead they would never relinquish. Notre Dame managed just 69 rushing yards in the first two quarters, but the Irish run for 151 in the third and fourth stanzas. Duke, losers of 41 of their last 45 games, manages just 232 total yards. If you must watch this game, skip to Tom Zbikowski’s quarterback reps late in the fourth quarter.
71. Notre Dame 34, Navy 16 (2001)
Even diehard Notre Dame fans would be hard pressed to remember a game between an eventual 5-6 team and one that would finish the season winless. Navy actually keeps this one competitive into the fourth quarter, but stalls out on the goal line and settles for a field goal to make it 24-16 instead of 24-20.
Navy has more passing yards — 123 — than Notre Dame (118) and the Irish attempt just 12 passes with Carlyle Holiday under center.
70. No. 5 Notre Dame 38, Navy 0 (1991)
Notre Dame’s 700th win is a typical Navy slog. The Midshipmen possess the ball for 35 minutes, outrush the Irish and have exactly nothing to show for it. Navy tries an eight man defensive front, so Rick Mirer throws all over them. He is 17-for-23 for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Navy isn’t competitive — the team was 1-11 that year — and the freezing cold temperatures convinced many fans seeking warmth to exit at halftime.
69. Notre Dame 23, Purdue 12 (2010)
If this game is remembered for anything, it’s likely for one of two reasons. It was Brian Kelly’s first game as Notre Dame head coach. And it was also the game that Taylor Swift — whose younger brother Austin went to Notre Dame — attended, causing a bit of a campus stir.
Notre Dame took a 20-3 lead over a very bad Purdue team and never looked back.
68. No. 23 Notre Dame 45, Washington State 14 (2009)
Before Notre Dame retroactively added this game to its Shamrock Series lore, the neutral side matchup at the Alamodome had a name: The San Antonio Showdown.
It didn’t live up to its name. The Irish led 30-7 over the Cougars at halftime — punctuated by Golden Tate outmuscling three WSU defenders for a Hail Mary before the buzzer. The Cougars finished the season 1-11. Dayne Crist throws a long bomb to John Goodman, which must have had Irish fans salivating about the five star quarterback of the future. But he also ripped his ACL in this game, prompting the first and only Evan Sharpley appearance of 2009.
67. Notre Dame 45, Maryland 21 (2011)
Maryland’s campus was less than 15 miles from FedEx Field, yet Notre Dame claimed this one as their first “Shamrock Series” game (later revised to be their third). It’s a trick that the university would pull on Boston College four years later.
Tommy Rees is 30-for-38 for 296 yards and two scores. Jonas Gray runs for 136 yards and two TDs. Lo Wood has a pick-six. There’s one total punt in the game. The Terrapins are as bad as their “Pride” uniforms; they’ll finish 2-10 on the year.
66. Notre Dame 33, BYU 14 (2003)
Julius Jones goes out in style, scoring three times — including his final ever carry at Notre Dame Stadium. D.J. Fitzpatrick has four field goals, a career best. Seven scoring drives all last fewer than three minutes. The Cougars, who finish the year 4-8, are held without a first down between the second quarter and the first series of the fourth quarter. Twelve punts in this game between both teams. Woof!
65. Notre Dame 34, West Virginia 24 (2001)
I hope you like running the damn ball, because that’s what the Irish did in this game. Sixty-nine rushes rack up 345 total yards, with quarterback Carlyle Holiday being the Irish’s greatest threat (19 attempts, 130 yards). The Irish possessed the ball for nearly 38 minutes.
I wore a red Abercrombie sweater. The rain came down so hard that my undershirt was irrevocably pink afterward.— Jude (@ndjrs) March 17, 2020
I was sitting next to @oaknd1 and we both admitted we didn't leave when it started pouring because we thought the other would want to stay.
But we won! #NDFB https://t.co/v8guCv7XQ8
There was sort of a second story around this game: Cooper Rego, who was accused of sexual assault by a female student, had been banned from campus. Rego had transferred to West Virginia, but Notre Dame officials allegedly threatened to arrest him if he returned with his team. Rego is the cousin of Irish tailback Ryan Grant.
64. Notre Dame 21, San Diego State 13 (2008)
I re-watched this game recently because I had no memory of it. And I pretty quickly figured out why. If not for Sergio Brown blocking a punt right before half, Notre Dame would have endured a scoreless first two quarters. Michael Floyd gets his first career TD from Jimmy Clausen. The Aztecs, who would finish the season 2-10, are leading this game until midway through the fourth quarter. Chuck Long, San Diego State’s coach, said postgame “it’s hard to say who’s better” when asked to compare Notre Dame with Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. The FCS Mustangs had beaten San Diego State the week prior.
Besides Floyd, it’s the Irish debuts of Kyle Rudolph, Ethan Johnson, Darius Fleming and Braxston Cave. There’s also two weird goal line fumbles in this game.
63. No. 22 Notre Dame 52, Miami (Ohio) 17 (2017)
The 900th win in the program’s history.
The Irish score 28 points in the first quarter, led by Josh Adams’ eight rushes for 159 yards. Adams delivers a devastating stiff arm on cornerback Deondre Daniels en route to the second score. He leaves after the first quarter due to injury, but not before passing George Gipp, Randy Kinder and Phil Carter on the Irish’s all-time rushing list.
A good game to watch if you want to see Ian Book, Montgomery VanGorder, Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes.
62. No. 8 Notre Dame 42, Rutgers 0 (2002)
Carlyle Holiday’s career day, going 13-for-25 for 270 yards and four touchdowns. This game was actually scoreless after the first quarter. The Irish broke it wide open with three quick strikes in the third quarter (Holiday 63 yards to Arnaz Battle; Holiday 37 yards to Omar Jenkins and a 28-yard run by Ryan Grant following a failed Rutgers fake punt). Shane Walton also added a pick six. Tim O’Neill, a 5-foot-6 walk on and eventual author, is the Irish’s second leading rusher.
The Irish improved to 10-1. Rutgers finishes at 1-11.
61. No. 24 Notre Dame 41, Vanderbilt 0 (1995)
Bob Davie gets a win on Lou Holtz’s behalf, as the latter is convalescing at home after spinal surgery. Jarvis Edison has a scoop and score after a Commodores player muffs the kickoff return to make the game 24-0. It’s over before half. Vanderbilt is awful — 38 yards passing and another 56 rushing on the day...and three fumbles! The Irish have 200 or more in both categories. Notre Dame controls the ball for almost 40 minutes. Davie gets a Gatorade bath and is carried off the field. (Sorry, Rudy.)
60. Notre Dame 44, Army 6 (2016)
This was a pretty decent Army team, and the 3-6 Irish absolutely housed them from the opening kickoff. That was returned 92 yards by C.J. Sanders. Before the first quarter ended, Notre Dame was leading 21-0. The Irish scored on their six first half possessions. It was 38-6 at half. Durham Smythe had two touchdowns — two!
Perhaps it’s worth watching to enjoy the Sanders return or to watch Kevin “K.J.” Stepherson nab a 37-yard strike from DeShone Kizer. Or perhaps you liked the special “Shamrock Series” uniforms.
59. Notre Dame 27, Army 3 (2010)
Notre Dame wears green jerseys for the first time in the Brian Kelly era in a game that will later be added to the “Shamrock Series” lore. The Irish defense yielded 61 yards on Army’s opening drive...and 25 for the rest of the half. The Black Knights gain just 174 yards for the game. Notre Dame doesn’t allow an opponent touchdown for a second consecutive week.
Darrin Walls has a pick six. Robert Hughes and Tyler Eifert score touchdowns as well.
58. Notre Dame 39, Nevada 10 (2016)
The Irish beat Brian Polian’s Wolf Pack before the tailspin truly began. Polian uses three quarterbacks on the first drive, but that produces no points. In fact, neither team scores in the first quarter. The Irish explode for 25 points thanks to C.J. Sanders (good punt return and subsequent TD catch) and Jarron Jones (interception on the 4-yard line).
The Irish recorded their first safety since 2003, caused by Nevada’s kick returner leaving the end zone and then coming back to take a knee on a kickoff return. The Pack finish the season 5-7. Polian is fired, and returns to Notre Dame to coach special teams.
57. No. 11 Notre Dame 30, Purdue 14 (2014)
The Boilermakers, who would end this year’s campaign at 3-9, could have led at halftime if it weren’t for an inopportune Akeem Hunt fumble. Instead, it was Everett Golson scampering 15 yards on a busted pass play to put the Irish ahead, 17-14. The Irish had their own bad fumble in the first half — Ben Koyack coughed it up around Notre Dame’s own 30, which led to an easy Boilermakers conversion. The Irish defense held Purdue to 56 yards rushing.
I very much enjoyed these “Shamrock Series” uniforms, for what that’s worth.
56. Notre Dame 28, Stanford 21 (2008)
It’s always satisfying to beat the top whiny baby duo of all time: Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw. Harbaugh whines after this game that Stanford players should have been allowed to return an Armando Allen muffed punt for a touchdown. Too bad college rules don’t allow that, Jim.
Jimmy Clausen is great, completing 29-of-40 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns. The dagger is to Michael Floyd just before halftime that puts the game out of reach.
Oh, and Harbaugh refuses to shake Clausen’s hand after the game. Well, whiny baby coach says he didn’t see the Irish quarterback. (We know the truth.)
55. Notre Dame 38, Purdue 21 (2008)
A battle of quarterbacks: Jimmy Clausen goes 20-for-35 for 275 yards and three touchdowns while Purdue’s Curtis Painter is 29-for-55 for 359 yards and two scores. (Desmond Tardy is the primary beneficiary, hauling in 10 catches for 175 yards.) The Irish add 201 yards rushing, mostly on the back of Armando Allen (who also finds the end zone once.) Robert Blanton had a pick six.
54. No. 14 Notre Dame 28, Temple 6 (2013)
Brian Kelly wins his 200th, the fifth quickest coach to reach that milestone behind JoePa, Tom Osborne, Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes.
My favorite thing about this game — a contest I attended in person — was the scoring.
The first touchdown is from Tommy Rees to DaVaris Daniels for 32 yards.
The second touchdown is from Tommy Rees to DaVaris Daniels for 32 yards.
Rees was bombing it a lot. There was also the 51-yard completion to T.J. Jones and the 66-yarder to Troy Niklas right before half that made it 21-6 before intermission. Five hundred forty three yards of total offense. No fumbles. No interceptions. (Kelly teams at ND improved to 11-0 when they protect the football.)
53. Notre Dame 44, Western Michigan 20 (2010)
Dayne Crist hooked up with Michael Floyd for an 80-yard touchdown a mere 12 seconds into the game, the fastest Irish score to open a game since Pete Bercich against Northwestern in 1993.
In fact, Notre Dame’s scoring drives on the day take 12 seconds, 8 seconds, 52 seconds, 2:14, 38 seconds and 5 minutes, 32 seconds.
Crist is a smooth 18-for-28 for 255 yards and three touchdowns; the flow of the game allows Nate Montana and Tommy Rees to get snaps under center too. Even John Goodman completes a pass — 32 yards to Michael Floyd and a touchdown.
“One of the things that you hope is that it’s a good game,” Broncos Head Coach Bill Cubit said postgame. “And No. 2, you hope the check doesn’t bounce.”