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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS Syracuse, 2005

Crushing Orange on Senior Day

NCAA Football - Syracuse vs Notre Dame - November 19, 2005
Notre Dame running back Travis Thomas (26) is caught from behind by a Syracuse defender at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana on November 19, 2005.
Photo by Matthew Mitchell/WireImage

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish head on the road this week to face the Syracuse Orange football team. The two teams have played a total of 10 times with Notre Dame winning seven and Syracuse winning three. The largest margin of victory for Notre Dame is 36-3, in 2018. And the largest margin of victory for Syracuse is 38-12, in 2003. The longest win streak for Notre Dame is four, 2014-2020. The longest win streak for Syracuse is two, 1963-2003.

Notre Dame has 933-334-42 (.729) all time wins, and Syracuse has 736-565-49 (.563) all time wins. Notre Dame has played in 38 bowl games, with a record of 18-20-0, and Syracuse has played in 26 bowl games, with a record of 16-9-1. Notre Dame has spent 851 weeks in the AP poll, and Syracuse has spent 209 weeks in the AP poll.

This week I’m going to highlight the 2005 meeting between the two teams. The following excerpt is from the February 2006 issue of the Scholastic.

Crushing Orange on Senior Day

by Christopher Meskill

With the Irish ranked No. 6 in the nation with a 7-2 record, the Notre Dame campus was already alive with chatter of the Fiesta Bowl and a new year in Tempe, Ariz. As a result, the tension among the players and the anxiety in the student section was much expected when the Orange took an early 3-0 lead. But Head Coach Charlie Weis stressed the importance of the task at hand - defeating a 1-8 Syracuse team that was looking for a highpoint to their abysmal season - before looking towards the likely BCS berth. Weis realized what expectations were placed on his Fighting Irish and the pressure that accompanied it. His remedy for the early game woes was simply, “Relax, just gain your composure.” ‘With quarterback Brady Quinn at ease, the game unfolded as would be expected - the Irish came out strong in the second quarter and never looked back, winning convincingly, 34-10.

As the final home game of the season, the Notre Dame-Syracuse game was the last time the seniors would play at Notre Dame Stadium. During the postgame press conference, lineman Dan Stevenson addressed the win. “We are all proud of each other,” he said. “Syracuse came out and played a great game, but fortunately we were able to send our seniors out the right way.”

While wide receivers Maurice Stovall and Matt Shelton were the most successful seniors on the day, the most celebrated play was the 16-yard pass by backup quarterback Marty Mooney to wide receiver Michael O’Hara, a fellow walk-on. Even Weis identified the pass as his favorite play of the game. Kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick also had a respectable day, hitting two of four field-goal attempts.

Although it was the senior game, the underclassmen mostly were responsible for the victory. Sophomore running back Darius Walker had a big game, rushing for 123 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, while Quinn, a junior, turned in his usual solid performance of 270 yards passing and two touchdowns.

Both of Quinn’s touchdowns came in the second quarter, marking the turning point in the game. Stovall was the recipient of the first touchdown pass from 25 yards out, while wide receiver Jeff Samardzija pulled in a 28~yard pass for the second touchdown, putting the Irish up 14-3 heading into the second half.

The Irish gained momentum in the second half, when cornerback Leo Ferrine intercepted Orange quarterback Perry Patterson on the most unlikely of plays. The ball dangled in the air after hitting off a diving receiver’s fingers. In the short time that the ball remained airborne, Ferrine came in, scooped it up and returned it for a 16-yard touchdown to give the Irish a 21-3 lead.

With the game well in hand, Fitzpatrick hit a pair of field goals at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter to give the Irish an additional six points. Later in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame and Syracuse exchanged meaningless touchdowns on two long drives, eating up over nine minutes of clock.

At the end of the game, Weis pulled his starters and gave his seniors a chance to play one last time in front of their classmates. Players like Mooney and O’Hara got a chance to register their first time in blue and gold. Defensive back Rich Whitney also saw some playing time, breaking up passes by Patterson, and running back Jeff Jenkins got four carries on the final drive.

As the clock ran out at Notre Dame Stadium, the seniors’ time as members of the Fighting Irish drew to a close. The team jogged around the stadium to the cheering of their faithful fans. They also sang the Notre Dame alma mater with their arms around their fellow teammates on the field with the rest of the student section. And for one last time, the seniors raised their golden helmets to their fellow students in the stands.

From the Press Box

Notre Dame’s senior players made a victory lap after the Syracuse game, which culminated their tumultuous careers at Notre Dame of having three head coaches and losing tough games under their tenure. “It was nothing that I had ever seen done in the past but I thought it was a good idea,” senior lineman Dan Stevenson said. “Running an extra lap on the football field is not a lineman’s fantasy, but it was a great way to go out.” Also notable in the Syracuse game was when senior walk-on Marty Mooney completed his first and only pass for 16 yards to fellow walk-on Michael O’Hara. Weis called it his “favorite play of the game.”

I watched the Syracuse vs. Clemson game last weekend and both teams look pretty tough. Do you think Coach Freeman can rally the troops and pull of an upset this week? What say you?

Cheers & GO IRISH!