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Notre Dame Football: Some Notre Dame VS Cal History and Hype


NCAA Football: Southern California at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a few once-in-a-blue-moon matchups on this year’s schedule, and I’m continuing my dive into the history behind them. Next on my list are the California Golden Bears.

The 2022 meeting will be a product of a 2019 payout of $1.9M from the Irish to the Golden Bears. This deal involved the standard sale of up to 5,000 tickets for the game to Cal.

Notre Dame and Cal have only faced off four times; this matchup is unique in that the Irish have won every game in the series.

What’s the Backstory?

The Irish and the Golden Bears went head to head for the first time in 1959 at Berkeley. It was two fumbles from the Golden Bears that allowed the Irish to lock it in early on. The game ended 28-6, Irish.

The series went to South Bend in 1960, where the Irish beat the Golden Bears in the season opener 21-7. While the Irish game proved shaky on some of the fundamentals, sophomore Irish guard Nick DePola shifted the direction of the game in his college football debut. This excerpt from the 1960 Notre Dame Scholastic Football review explains.

Hampered by a sporadic running offense and a total lack of passing ability, the Notre Dame squad was actually out-played by the smaller, less experienced visitors in the first half, but the Irish bounced back after the intermission to put the game on ice late in the third period. By that time the dominance of the Notre Dame line was beginning to tell, and the turning point came when Irish guard Nick DePola blocked a Cal quick-kick attempt and carried the ball over the goal line for the final score of the day. DePola’s play only served to emphasize the decisiveness of the ND line play in the outcome of the contest.

In 1965, the two teams returned to Berkeley, where Ara Parseghian’s responsive Irish squad notched a 48-6 victory. Refusing to ease up on the reactivity, the Irish chalked up a cool 22 points before the first score from Cal.

The most recent meeting of the Irish and the Golden Bears was in 1967. This excerpt from the 1967 Notre Dame Scholastic Football Review, quoted on the blog earlier this year in Lisa Kelly’s look back at the 1967 season, says it all.

The world was finding out what Ara had tried to explain countless times since the previous April. California, not a bad team but not a national contender either, comes to South Bend on a bright Saturday in September and is thrashed, 41-8, and do you think anyone outside of the immediate team is happy? Didn’t they beat USC last year, 51-0? And what’s wrong with the defense, anyway — a touchdown and a two-point conversion to boot? Ara says after the game that yes, he certainly was delighted with the game, and no, you should really wait a few weeks before making the team number one. But coaches always talk that way, and when the wire-service polls come out on Tuesday, there is Notre Dame on the top of them.

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