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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS Michigan, 1982

Reviving Those Echoes

Notre Dame QB Blair Kiel...
SEPTEMBER 18: College Football: Notre Dame QB Blair Kiel (5) in action, making pass vs Michigan, South Bend, IN 9/18/1982 (Photo by John Iacono/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
SetNumber: X27374

This week I’m going to throwback to the 1982 match-up between Notre Dame and the University of Michigan. Notre Dame and Michigan have met each other a total of 43 times. Notre Dame has won 17 times, Michigan has won 25 times, and the two teams have tied once. Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory was 31-0 in 2014, and Michigan’s largest margin of victory was 38-0 in 2003. Notre Dame’s longest win streak is four, from 1987-1990, and Michigan’s longest win streak is eight, from 1887-1908.

Notre Dame’s all-time record is 947-338-42 (.729), and Michigan’s all-time record is 1002-353-36 (.733). Notre Dame’s bowl record is 19-20-0 (.487), and Michigan’s bowl record is 21-29-0 (.420). Notre Dame has 7 Heisman winners to Michigan’s 3. Notre Dame has had 107 consensus All-Americans to Michigan’s 87. Notre Dame has had 70 first round NFL draft picks to Michigan’s 51. Notre Dame has spent 872 weeks in the AP Poll to Michigan’s 918. And Notre Dame has spent 98 weeks at AP No. 1 to Michigan’s 35.

This week I’m going to look back at the 1982 meeting between Notre Dame and Michigan. The following excerpt is from the Irish Eye: A Review of the 1982 Notre Dame Football Season. The article was written by Kelly Sullivan.

Reviving Those Echoes

It was on September 18, 1982, that Notre Dame became number one again - in the hearts of its fans, if not in the polls.

Musco Portable Lighting Company supplied the equipment that illuminated the Notre Dame Stadium field for the school’s historical, first-ever, night game at home.

But it was Irish head coach Gerry Faust who was in the spotlight after debuting at the college of his dreams with a 5-6 record.

And with a capacity crowd, plus a national-television audience of judges, staring him in the face, he refused to bat an eyelash. Notre Dame’s emotional 23-17 victory over Michigan helped its faithful followers erase the memory of 1981, avenge a loss to the team that had introduced Faust to college defeat a year ago - and put the players back on the road to respectability.

Man for man, the Irish will remember their “Saturday Night Special” as the time they were able to shake loose the burden of the previous season.

“We will never forget what happened last year,” proclaimed tri-captain Dave Duerson. “But until kickoff tonight, we were still living in it. It was a deadening feeling. Whatever happens now, at least we’ll be able to say we played a great game September 18.”

“We embarrassed ourselves and our school last year,” said quarterback Blair Kiel. “We all had 5-6 in the back of our minds. We refused to be in that situation again.”

“We all just felt this game was going to determine the direction of our season,” added senior tailback Phil Carter. “We knew we had to start off on the right track.”

Just as important, the victory belonged as much to Faust, who won a big game over a big name for the first time since his jump to the college ranks. “I thought the new season would never start,” said the second-year head man.

“No one works harder than he does,” praised senior fullback Larry Moriarty. “It’s great to finally see this.”

“Coach needed this very much,” noted Duerson. “He hasn’t been this happy since we beat LSU in the opener last year.”

What a difference that year had produced. Between his first and second seasons at Notre Dame, Faust did considerable retooling with the Irish - bringing new additions to his staff, changing assignments among the coaches and adopting a tougher policy with his players. Faust was the first to admit he had room to improve.

“I love the players like sons, but I realized I had to be tough with them. I just wasn’t that tough last year.

“We didn’t hit enough in practice. We didn’t work as hard as we should. We have unique people playing at Notre Dame, but I think I gave them too much freedom.”

The full impact of his old attitude finally hit Faust a few days before the Michigan game. He witnessed a premier showing of the film, “Wake Up the Echoes,” a 50-minute documentary of Notre Dame football. He admits being moved to tears.

“I cried as I watched the screen. After I saw the movie, I felt I really knew what Notre Dame football was all about. For the first time in a year and a half, since I took this job, the weight of it finally fell on my shoulders.”

The hallowed tradition of the University, the achievements of Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, highlights from national championship seasons of the past - Faust felt these couldn’t help but make a deep impression on his players, too.

He arranged for the team to see the movie the day of the Michigan game. When it ended, about two hours before kickoff, the Irish marched in silence over to the Stadium locker room. “I wanted the impact of the film to be with them,” explained Faust. And his ploy worked flawlessly.

“Not one word was spoken on the way over to the Stadium,” said Carter. “That movie said it all.”

“The mood of the team had been intense all week,” Duerson explained. I hadn’t seen preparation like that since the week of practice before the Alabama game in 1980.

“But that movie - it really moved us, sort of put us in touch with our purpose of upholding Notre Dame’s tradition. We realized what Notre Dame football looked like to other schools, other people - we wanted to be like those great Notre Dame teams of the past.”

“You can’t imagine how inspiring the film was,” agreed Zavagnin. “The impact was tremendous. We just wanted to bring back the tradition and excitement of Notre Dame football.”

There were so many heroes in the Michigan manhandling.

Senior Mike Johnston, a one-time walk-on who had kicked only two field goals before in his life - both in high school - connected on placements of 35, 37, and 41 yards.

Larry Moriarty, whose rushing total the previous season amounted to 94 yards in 11 games, bruised for 116 yards in 16 carries and the night’s first touchdown.

Junior quarterback Blair Kiel, much maligned in the past, was never better. He completed 15 of 22 passes- seven to tight end Tony Hunter - for 141 yards and ABC’s player of the game honor.

The defense was just as outstanding. It sacked Michigan quarterback Steve Smith eight times for minus 34 yards - and Irish defensive end Kevin Griffith had three of those drops.

Sophomore linebacker Mike Larkin hadn’t donned pads since the first day of preseason practice, when he bruised his shoulder - but he led the team with 11 tackles, two of them behind the line of scrimmage.

Senior defensive tackle Bob Clasby set the tempo of the game on the Wolverines’ opening drive when he jarred the ball from Smith on third down, setting up a Jon Autry recovery on Michigan’s 22-yard line.

Three plays later, Johnston split the goal posts to give the Irish a lead they would never surrender.

“You never know how you are going to be able to handle them until the game begins,” offensive guard Tom Thayer said. “After that first drive, we realized we could take them, we had no doubts. Our confidence built up from that.”

It never came down. While Michigan’s touted offense could net minus seven yards on its next three possessions, the Irish ground gainers were on their way to a fabulous night. Besides Moriarty’s triple-figure performance, Greg Bell amassed 95 yards, and Carter 56.

Continue reading Kelly’s story here.

Got a memorable game you’d like me to throw back to? Drop your suggestions in the comments.

Cheers & GO IRISH!