Notre Dame Football: The 10 Best Games in the Michigan-Notre Dame Rivalry

Matt Smith@MattSmithCFBCorrespondent IIISeptember 3, 2014

Notre Dame Football: The 10 Best Games in the Michigan-Notre Dame Rivalry

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    You have probably heard, but Saturday night's game between Michigan and No. 16 Notre Dame will be the last between the two rivals for the foreseeable future, as Notre Dame reconfigures its schedule to allow for five games annually against ACC opponents.

    Despite the history of both programs, the teams have met only 41 times, with the Wolverines holding a 24-16-1 advantage. The series has produced many memorable moments, but we've narrowed it down to the 10 best.

    Let's relive the top 10 games in the history of the bitter feud between Michigan and Notre Dame.

10. 1986: Carney Can't Connect

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    Charles Bennett/Associated Press

    Lou Holtz’s Notre Dame career began with a thriller at Notre Dame Stadium, as Jim Harbaugh and Michigan outlasted the Fighting Irish, 24-23.

    The Irish were a sizable underdog after a losing season in 1985, but they nearly pulled the upset over the third-ranked Wolverines.

    Mistakes ultimately doomed the Irish, including two fumbles in the red zone, an interception in the end zone and a missed extra point.

    But it was John Carney’s missed 45-yard field goal as time expired that hurt Notre Dame most, making Holtz the first Irish head coach in more than 50 years to lose his first game.

9. 1990: In the Rick of Time

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    Notre Dame began the season ranked No. 1 after having lost only once during the prior two years.

    The Wolverines christened the post-Bo Schembechler era with a valiant effort in South Bend, but Rick Mirer—making his first career start—and the Irish were too much for Gary Moeller’s Wolverines. 

    Elvis Grbac had given fifth-ranked Michigan a 24-14 lead midway through the third quarter on a touchdown pass to Desmond Howard, but Mirer started to produce his first comeback.

    After cutting the deficit to three, Mirer found Adrian Jarrell with 100 seconds to play, keeping the Irish perfect at home since 1986.

8. 1994: Groundhog Day

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    Prized quarterback Ron Powlus made his Notre Dame Stadium debut against Michigan, but it was the steady Todd Collins who would get the last laugh.

    For the second straight game in South Bend, Notre Dame was beaten by a last-second field goal, albeit in slightly less destructive fashion than its 1993 loss to Boston College when ranked No. 1.

    Notre Dame took a late lead on an acrobatic catch by wide receiver Derrick Mayes in the back of the end zone, but Collins still had 52 seconds with which to work, needing only a field goal to win the game.

    Collins drove the Wolverines to the Notre Dame 25-yard line, setting up Remy Hamilton to connect on the game-winning 42-yard field goal as time expired for a 26-24 Michigan win.

7. 2009: May the Forcier Be with You

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    Domenic Centofanti/Getty Images

    The defenses struggled mightily in the rivalry’s highest-scoring game, as Michigan outdueled favored Notre Dame in Ann Arbor for a 38-34 win.

    The Irish overcame a 31-20 deficit with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to take a three-point lead, but a late collapse became the beginning of the end of the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame. 

    Notre Dame stopped Michigan but threw two incomplete passes on the ensuing possession to give Michigan ample time for a game-winning drive.

    True freshman Tate Forcier capped off a stellar performance by marching the Wolverines 58 yards, finding Greg Mathews for the game-winning five-yard touchdown with 11 seconds to play.

6. 1999: No Reason to Celebrate

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    DUANE BURLESON/Associated Press

    Controversy marred the last meeting of the 20th century, with two calls breaking the way of the host Wolverines.

    After catching the go-ahead touchdown pass with four minutes remaining, Notre Dame’s Bobby Brown was flagged for excessive celebration, meaning Notre Dame had to kick off from its own 20-yard line.

    Tom Brady drove the Wolverines just short of the Notre Dame goal line, but the Irish defense held strong until Anthony Thomas was ruled to have scored from a yard out despite replays showing he was likely down before the ball crossed the plane.

    The Irish threatened to regain the lead, but time ran out on the visitors.

5. 2002: Return to Glory

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Notre Dame remained perfect in the short Tyrone Willingham era by holding on late for a 25-23 victory over the seventh-ranked Wolverines.

    An opportunistic defense again came through for the Irish, and the offense scored its first touchdown of the season after failing to do so in the first two games.

    The Irish led for much of the afternoon, but Michigan closed to within two in the fourth quarter on a touchdown pass from John Navarre to Bennie Joppru.

    The Irish offense could not seal the game, but senior cornerback Shane Walton intercepted Navarre near midfield with less than a minute to play to give the Irish their first 3-0 start in six seasons.

4. 2010: Denard's Day

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Michigan stormed to a 21-7 lead after Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist was lost for the first half after a head injury on the game’s first drive.

    The Irish fought back to take a 24-21 lead in the fourth quarter on a 95-yard touchdown toss from Crist to Kyle Rudolph. 

    But the story of the afternoon was Denard Robinson. The sophomore became the early Heisman Trophy favorite after running for 258 yards and throwing for 244 more.

    His 87-yard second-quarter touchdown run was the game’s best highlight, but it was his two-yard run with 27 seconds remaining that provided the winning points for the Wolverines.

3. 1988: Razor-Thin Win

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    JOE RAYMOND/Associated Press

    A season that would culminate with a national championship required Notre Dame to sweat out the season opener, as the reverse of the 1986 game worked in the Irish’s favor.

    Reggie Ho’s fourth field goal of the night gave Notre Dame a 19-17 lead, but Michael Taylor and the Wolverines still had more than a minute to get into field-goal range.

    Taylor did just that, marching Michigan into Notre Dame territory with just enough time for a Mike Gillette field-goal attempt.

    As John Carney had done two years earlier, Gillette missed the field goal, giving Notre Dame the win and the spark it needed to go on to a perfect season and the program’s most recent national title.

2. 1980: Golden Boot

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    Dan Devine
    Dan DevineAssociated Press

    Dan Devine’s final season at Notre Dame saw the Irish contend for the national title, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the foot of Harry Oliver.

    The lead changed hands twice in the final four minutes, with Michigan holding a 27-26 lead in the final seconds.

    The Irish were driving for the game-winning points, but the wind was blowing against them. With the breeze perhaps divinely calming just before the kick, Oliver was able to just get the ball over the crossbar from 51 yards out, setting off pandemonium inside Notre Dame Stadium.

1. 2011: 15 Minutes of Shame

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    For the third year in a row, Notre Dame led Michigan with 30 seconds remaining. For the third year in a row, Notre Dame lost.

    Throwback uniforms and the first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium added to the flair of the evening, but it was the final 15 minutes that made this game the rivalry’s most memorable moment.

    The Wolverines scored 28 points in the fourth quarter, the last of which game on a Denard Robinson lob to Roy Roundtree, who made a leaping catch over Notre Dame’s Gary Gray for the game-winning touchdown.

    Perhaps no loss in the series was more devastating to Irish fans, as Notre Dame blew a 24-7 lead, went back ahead and then lost the lead again for good on Roundtree’s famous catch.