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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football VS Michigan, 1993

Dispelling All Doubts: Kevin McDougal rushed the Irish past the Wolverines for a 27-23 victory in front of a record, crowd at Michigan Stadium

Notre Dame v Michigan
ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 11: Michael Miller #6 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs with the ball during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on September 11, 1993 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Photo by Damien Strohmeyer/Getty Images

Happy Thursday! Since this week Notre Dame plays Central Michigan, and there are no previous meetings between the two teams, I am going to look back at the Notre Dame VS Michigan game in 1993.

Notre Dame and Michigan have played each other 43 times with Notre Dame winning 17, Michigan winning 25, and one tie. The largest margin of victory for Notre Dame was 31-0 in 2014, and the largest margin of victory for Michigan was 38-0 in 2003. Notre Dame’s longest win streak is 4 (1987-1990), and Michigan’s longest win streak is 8 (1887-1908).

This week I am going to share an excerpt from the 1993 Football Review, written by Rich Christenson.

Dispelling All Doubts

“They’ll never be able to do it.” Statements like these echoed in the ears of the Notre Dame football players weeks before the clash with the University of Michigan. Radio, TV broadcasts, newspaper and magazine articles, predicted “Without Rick Mirer, Jerome Bettis and Reggie Brooks, the Irish will never be able to pull off an upset,” and “With the highly touted freshman quarterback recruit Ron Powlus injured and controversy surrounding the recent release of Under The Tarnished Dome, Notre Dame will be lucky not to get trounced.”

Sports Illustrated wrote, “Even the strongest Irish team couldn’t expect to defeat all of this year’s foes. And this is far from the strongest Irish team.”

The Notre Dame football team heard all the skepticism. It heard but did not listen. Instead the Irish decided to do something about it: prove their critics wrong.

Michigan came into the match up as the favorites, with a regular season unbeaten streak of 20 games and the home field advantage. After last year’s fifth straight Big Ten championship, the Wolverines set their sights higher this year, aiming for the national title. Though Notre Dame may have been underestimated because of a shaky performance against Northwestern, Coach Lou Holtz and the rest of the Fighting Irish were not ready to surrender.

“After one bad day they wrote us off. We had something to prove,” said senior offensive tackle Aaron Taylor.

So the Irish began the day ready to convert the doubters. After Junior flanker Mike Miller returned the opening kickoff 17 yards, Notre Dame started its march down the field. Oblivious to the record crowd of 106,851 fans, the Irish set about proving their merit. Six plays and 83 yards later, senior quarterback Kevin McDougal scrambled into the end zone for an Irish touchdown.

“I did not expect to go that far,” stated a humble McDougal. ‘’The receivers did a great job blocking.”

But could Notre Dame hold back the Michigan offense anchored by Tyrone Wheatley? When 6’4”, 299 pound Aaron Taylor describes another player (Wheatley) as “big, strong, and really fast,” one tends to believe him. And on the opening drive, Wheatley carried the ball on six of Michigan’s first 13 plays. The Wolverines moved 66 yards to get within field goal range, where Michigan booted itself onto the scoreboard with three points.

Just as the shell-shocked Michigan crowd began to reenter the game, the Irish silenced them once again. McDougal again took charge, hitting senior split end Clint Johnson for a 43 yard gain. Three plays later, McDougal found Michigan’s “sixth great lake”- senior flanker Lake Dawson — for a spectacular 32 yard grab. The Irish drive culminated in a 24 yard field goal by fifth-year senior kicker Kevin Pendergast to give Notre Dame a 10-3 lead.

In the second quarter Miller stepped forward with something of his own to prove. With 12 minutes left in the first half, he received a Michigan punt on the Irish 29 yard line from senior kicker Chris Stapleton. Miller then ran 56 yards straight upfield for another Irish touchdown. Pendergast made the extra point, giving Notre Dame a 17 to 3 lead. Since Ricky Watters’ 81 yard punt return in Notre Dame’s 1988 victory over Michigan, no one had returned a punt for a touchdown against the Wolverines until Miller.

Michigan struck again late in the first half. Led in the air by senior quarterback Todd Collins and on the ground by Wheatley, the Wolverines marched 89 yards in nine plays as Wheatley pounded in a one yard touchdown run to bring the score to 17-10. With only 1:13 left in the first half, the Irish could have opted to sit on their one touchdown lead and head for the locker room, but Notre Dame still had something to prove.

Starting on the Irish 35 yard line, McDougal orchestrated the two minute drill, completing passes to both Dawson and sophomore split end Derrick Mayes. With 13 seconds left, McDougal dropped back, and finding no receivers open, proceeded to scramble to the left for 11 yards and a Notre Dame touchdown. Traveling 65 yards in seven plays, the Irish went into half time with a 24-10 lead over the third-ranked Wolverines

Keep reading this excerpt here.

Next week Notre Dame faces a Big 10 foe in Ohio State, and I’ll be looking back at a meeting between the two teams. Got a suggestion? Let me know!

Next week, I’ll also be at Notre Dame signing my new children’s book (Clover Goes to Notre Dame) at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, on Friday, September 22nd, from 1:30-3pm. Please stop by and say hello!

Cheers & GO IRISH!