Notre Dame-Michigan: Top five games of one of college football’s most historic rivalries
The Notre Dame-Michigan football rivalry is one for the ages, and on Thursday, we learned that it’s returning in 2018. The Fighting Irish and the Wolverines haven’t squared off on the gridiron since 2014.
With both programs on the upswing, this is news college football fans are excited about. But for all that the future has in store for those two programs, their tradition is rich, too.
Here are five of the best games between Notre Dame and Michigan over the years.
1988: Notre Dame 19, Michigan 17
Special teams plays have served as huge momentum shifters throughout the course of this rivalry. Case in point: 1988, when running back Ricky Watters’ 81-yard punt return touchdown swung the tide in Notre Dame’s favor.
Reggie Ho booted four field goals for the Fighting Irish, but Michigan was competitive up until the final whistle. Down two, the Wolverines had a chance to win the game on a 48-yard field goal attempt. It was no good, and Notre Dame continued its dominant stretch over Michigan.
1989: Notre Dame 24, Michigan 19
No. 1 vs. No. 2. It doesn’t get much better than that in college sports – especially when the teams are fierce rivals.
The Fighting Irish didn’t have a lot going on offensively on this Saturday afternoon, but what they did have was a guy by the name of Rocket Ismael.
The then-Heisman hopeful put on an absolute show. He returned two kick returns for touchdowns; one from 92 yards out and the other from 88 yards out. Notre Dame attempted just two passes on the day, and it was Bo Schembechler’s last game coaching against the Irish. Schembechler retired after the 1989 season.
1991: Michigan 24, Notre Dame 14
You didn’t see plays like ‘The Catch’ very often back in 1991.
On a 4th-and-1 with the game close, Michigan elected to go for it. And not just on a QB sneak or a halfback dive; nope, the Wolverines went for it.
Elvis Grbac dropped back and hoisted one up to eventual Heisman winner Desmond Howard, who hauled in a spectacular catch behind two Fighting Irish defenders:
The Wolverines ended Notre Dame’s four-game winning streak in the rivalry in 1991, and did so in impressive fashion. Grbac completed 20 of 22 passes on the afternoon.
2009: Michigan 38, Notre Dame 34
Quarterback Tate Forcier had the hot hand for Michigan in this one, but Notre Dame would not quit easily.
Trailing 31-20 in the fourth quarter, the Fighting Irish found the end zone twice thanks to scores from Armando Allen and Golden Tate. Then, Forcier took over.
The Wolverine QB led a 58-yard game-winning touchdown drive, which culminated in a five-yard TD toss to Greg Mathews with 11 seconds left. The 72 combined points set a record in this historic series.
2011: Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31
2009-2011 was a wildly entertaining three-year period in the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry, and that all culminated in a crazy Michigan win in 2011.
The Wolverines seemed all but cooked heading into the fourth quarter. They trailed the Fighting Irish 24-7, but then, Denard Robinson unleashed some serious heroics.
Michigan scored 21 unanswered points to take a 28-24 lead with time waning. Notre Dame scored a touchdown with 30 seconds left, seemingly putting the game out of reach. Not so fast:
Robinson led the Wolverines 80 yards down the field for the game-winning touchdown in what was the first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium. It was a night of firsts for one of the sport's iconic venues; it was also the most attended college football game since 1948, with 114,804 fans taking in the action. And what a contest they witnessed.