We released part one last week, but with Georgia coming to Notre Dame Stadium this week, we are releasing the next installment to get Irish fans fired up for this weekend’s game. A win vs. UGA Saturday would definitely be a welcome addition to this list. On to part two of the countdown…
2014: #9 Notre Dame 17, #14 Stanford 14
In what will forever be known as the other Notre Dame last second win vs. Stanford at home in the rain, the Irish pulled out a 17-14 win of the Cardinal powered by a 23-yard touchdown pass from Everett Golson to Ben Koyack on fourth down with just over one minute remaining.
This game was far from well-played and was characterized by the mistakes from both teams during the first 50 minutes of the game. The conditions were brutal and both offenses struggled to establish any passing game. Special teams also had issues as both holders could barely hang on to the snap on field goal attempts.
The drama did not set in until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Irish were able to pull ahead 10-7 early in the final frame on a Kyle Brindza 45-yard field goal. However, Stanford was able to answer Notre Dame and took the lead with 3:01 remaining when the Cardinal surprised the Irish with a draw on 3rd & Goal from the 11. Remound Wright ran in the touchdown for Stanford.
ND took over and was able to drive deep in to Stanford territory. The Cardinal defense was able to stop Notre Dame and force the Irish into a 4th & 11 from the Cardinal 23-yard line. Stanford dropped eight in coverage which seemed like the percentage play considering the condensed yardage each defender would have to cover in the red zone.
Instead, there was a bust in the Cardinal defense that left Koyack wide open in the corner of the endzone and after scrambling to his left, Golson was able to find the senior for the game-winning touchdown.
2015: #9 Notre Dame 34, Virginia 27
In Notre Dame’s first game in the state of Virginia, the Irish pulled out a miracle in the final seconds as DeShone Kizer found Will Fuller for a 39-yard touchdown pass to win the game and help ND escape Charlottesville with the victory.
The Irish dominated the first quarter, but left points on the field as ND had to settle for two field goals in addition to an ill-advised two-point conversion attempt after the first touchdown.
UVA’s defense offered little resistance to the Irish, but what should have been a 21-0 lead was only a 12-0 advantage.
The Cavaliers were able to drive down and score to cut the lead to 12-7. The next time Virginia got the ball, the Cavaliers pulled off a perfectly timed trick play, in which the Wildcat back pitched the ball back to the QB who found a UVA WR wide open in the endzone for the score.
This play gave Virginia the lead and reengaged the crowd which had fallen silent after ND’s strong first quarter. It was apparent after this play that the Irish were in for a four quarter fight.
A common thread for Notre Dame is the inability to put lesser opponents away, especially on the road. The Irish allow a team to hang around just long enough, so that when the opposition garners accrues confidence and momentum, they still have a chance to win the game. That’s exactly what happened in Charlottesville.
The Irish steadied the boat briefly as they scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to build their lead to 26-14. However, the Irish defense was struggling and starting QB Malik Zaire broke his ankle in the third quarter.
In came DeShone Kizer, who was last seen by Irish fans looking completely lost in the 2015 Spring Game and contemplating a switch to baseball.
Every ND fan knows what happened next as UVA took the lead with just under two minutes remaining only to have Kizer drive down the field to clinch the victory and give us one of the greatest fan reaction gifs of all-time ever.
The Kizer to Fuller touchdown pass will be etched in Notre Dame history, but the real key on the play was C.J. Prosise’s blocking. Fuller doesn’t get off the line until well after the ball is snapped and Prosise’s blocking allows Fuller to get down the field and made it easier for Kizer to find him.
2006: #13 Notre Dame 40, Michigan State 37
Following a dismantling at the hands of Michigan the week prior, the Irish were again on their heels early against Michigan State as the Spartans exploded out of the gate to take a 17-0 lead.
MSU would eventually take a 31-14 lead into halftime and the Irish looked as dysfunctional as they were a week earlier. ND was not without hope as the Irish came back from a three touchdown deficit the year before against the Spartans. They eventually lost that 2005 matchup in overtime, but they knew Michigan State had a penchant for choking.
The weather began to deteriorate in the second half, but the Irish opened up the scoring with a 62-yard touchdown pass to John Carlson. Michigan State would add a field goal at the end of the third quarter to build the lead to 37-21, but the Irish onslaught was just getting started.
Brady Quinn connected with Jeff Samardzija for a 43-yard touchdown on a fourth down to cut the lead to ten after a failed two-point attempt. On the ensuing drive, Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton was stripped by Chinedum Ndukwe and the Irish recovered in Spartan territory.
At this juncture, the Irish had all of the momentum and they wasted little time as Quinn connected with Rhema McKnight for a 14-yard touchdown pass to pull the Irish within three with just under five minutes remaining.
On the next drive, Stanton, who was clearly rattled, forced a ball under pressure on third down and was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Terrail Lambert .
The Irish went from being down 16 to up three in a matter of 5:25 of game time.
However, Michigan State still had time to tie the game. The Spartans were able to drive into ND territory, but needed to get into the redzone to feel comfortable with a field goal attempt in the rainy and windy conditions.
MSU had the ball at the Irish 45-yard line with :31 remaining when Stanton threw to a wideout on the right sideline. The ball was deflected twice and eventually ended up on the WR’s back for Lambert to fall on and record his second INT in a matter of minutes to end the game.
This win allowed the Irish to get back on track for the 2006 season and caused the Spartans to implode. Michigan State would go on to win just one more game in 2006 as MSU finished with a 4-8 overall record. John L. Smith was fired at season’s end and Mark Dantonio took over.
Fun fact about MSU’s lone win after the ND game. The Spartans defeated Northwestern 41-38 after coming back from a 35-point deficit – it still holds as the largest comeback in college football history.
2006: #8 Notre Dame 20, UCLA 17
In what turned out to be the signature moment of Brady Quinn’s career at Notre Dame, the Irish used a last minute touchdown drive to defeat UCLA 20-17.
Notre Dame got off to a good start as the Irish were first to put points on the board with a touchdown in the first quarter. From that point, however, the staunch UCLA defense kept the high-powered ND offense at bay.
The Irish were stuck in the mud and couldn’t develop any rhythm offensively. Even when the Irish did threaten, the Bruins were able to keep them out of the endzone and hold them to field goals.
Meanwhile, what the UCLA offense lacked in explosiveness they made up for in methodical drives. The Bruins were able to play keep away with the Irish and were often able to pin ND deep in their own territory.
Trailing 17-13 in the fourth quarter, the Irish had moved the ball into UCLA territory with just under three minutes remaining. The Irish were faced with a 4th & 1 and, in of the few unsuccessful tries of his career, Quinn’s QB sneak attempt came up short and gave UCLA the ball back.
With the Irish still having two timeouts remaining, the game was not over, but a Bruin first down would seal the contest. UCLA elected to take an extremely conservative route and ran the ball up the middle three times and had to punt.
Quick anecdote about the next sequence. To run off as much time as possible, the Bruins took a five-yard delay of game penalty on fourth down to put them at 4th & 13 – seemingly an innocuous occurrence.
However, on the ensuing punt, the Irish were called for a holding at the line of scrimmage, which resulted in a 10-yard penalty and UCLA elected to punt again. Had the Bruins not taken the initial delay of game penalty, that ND hold would have resulted in a UCLA first down and the game would have been over.
Instead, UCLA’s punt went into the endzone and the Irish took over on their own 20-yard line with just over one minute remaining.
Quinn first completed a pass to Samardzija and then he found David Grimes on the sideline to put the Irish back in UCLA territory with :40 remaining.
On the next play, Quinn scrambled in the pocket and eventually found an open Samardzija, who was able to weave his way through the UCLA defense and into the endzone for the game-winning touchdown pass.
The Irish defense was able to hold UCLA down in the final seconds to clinch the win and keep Notre Dame’s National Championship hopes alive.
2002: #12 Notre Dame 21, Michigan State 17
Seemingly every Notre Dame-Michigan State matchup from the the mid-2000s was a great game and the 2002 installment was no different.
The Irish built a 14-3 lead at halftime behind some opportune defense and consistent play from quarterback Carlyle Holiday and running back Ryan Grant. Holiday’s touchdown pass to Maurice Stovall right before the half was the following week’s Sports Illustrated cover.
Notre Dame maintained their 14-3 advantage in the second half, but Holiday went down late in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and he would not return. Former walk-on Pat Dillingham came in to replace Holiday.
Holiday’s absence gave the Spartans new life and MSU cut the lead to 14-10 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter when Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker connected with Charles Rogers on a 38-yard touchdown pass.
Both team exchanged punts for the majority of the fourth quarter until Michigan State mounted a drive in the closing minutes. The Spartans were able to advance the ball to the Irish 21, but faced a 4th & 11 with 1:52 remaining.
On the fourth down play, Smoker found Rogers again for a touchdown as Rogers made one of the best catches in Spartan history. the wide receiver caught the ball as all of his momentum was forcing him out of the back of the endzone.
Rogers somehow managed to get one foot in and credit to the officials for getting the call right in the pre-instant replay era. From the naked eye it appeared there was no way Rogers was in bounds, but the replays told a different story.
The touchdown put the Spartans up 17-14 and had Notre Dame fans thinking of the 4th & 15 game-winning touchdown MSU had the last time the Irish visited East Lansing. With the Notre Dame’s hopes riding on a former walk-on seeing his first legitimate game action, all hope seemed lost.
When the Irish got the ball back, Dilingham moved the chains and got Notre Dame to their own 40. He then found Arnaz Battle on a quick slant and after Battle was able to make a few Spartan defenders miss, he outraced the rest of the defense to give the Irish the 21-17 lead with 1:16 left as Brent Musburger exclaimed “Holy Rudy!” on the broadcast.
The Irish defense was then able to keep the Spartans from forming and sizeable scoring threat and the Irish won the game to move to 4-0 in the Ty Willingham era.
Sidenote, watching all of these older highlights with the radio voice over reminds you of the greatness pf Tony Roberts. Don Criqui gets a little too much criticism, but it’s clear Roberts was just on another level.
2012: #1 Notre Dame 22, USC 13
Every Notre Dame fan can rehash the great moments of the 2012 season. The win over the Trojans is the first of three games from the 2012 season this list.
After Oregon and Kansas State lost the week before, the Irish rose to No. 1 for the first time since 1993 and only had to defeat USC to clinch a spot in the National Championship Game.
The Trojans had entered the 2012 campaign as the favorite to win the National Title and the preseason No. 1. USC scuffled through much of the season and quarterback Matt Barkley was injured in USC game against UCLA the week before and was unable to to play against the Irish.
Despite USC having first-time starter Max Wittek behind center, beating the Trojans on the road was not going to be an easy task, especially considering USC had soiled Notre Dame national championship runs in the past.
The Irish started out hot and impressively drove the ball down the field on their first two possessions to build an early 10-0 lead. USC would answer to cut the lead to 10-7 in the second quarter.
The Irish consistently outplayed USC, but ND would get bogged down in Trojan territory and have to settle for field goals. Kyle Bridza converted all five of his attempts, including a 52-yard field goal right before halftime, but if the Irish were able to sustain those drives and turn those field goals into touchdowns, the game would have been put away much earlier.
The Trojans hung around and late in the fourth quarter, while trailing 22-13, Wittek completed a long pass to Marquise Lee to put USC inside the Notre Dame five yard-line.
What followed was a “goal line stand for the ages for the Fighting Irish,” as Brent Musburger called it. ND held USC outside of the endzone on six consecutive plays (the Irish got called for two pass interferences in the sequence) and when Wittek’s fourth down pass to the fullback hit the ground, the Irish had punched their ticket to Miami.
The goal line stand is what most people remember from this game, but Theo Riddick put together one of the best performances from a Notre Dame running back in school history. The senior ran for 146 yards on 20 carries and caught three passes for 33 yards. Riddick provided the lone touchdown for the Irish in the game and was the heart and soul of Notre Dame’s offense through much of the second half of the season.
Although this wasn’t a vintage USC team, beating the Trojans was still a major hurdle as ND had just one win vs. USC since 2001.
The win in Los Angeles capped a perfect and unforgettable season. Like many games from 2012, Notre Dame’s front seven led the way.
Stay tuned to The Otter Room as we conclude out countdown in the coming days. Again, if you have any disagreements or just want to call us dumb-asses, feel free to reach out on Twitter (@otterroom).