November 6, 2004: A Red Letter Date For Notre Dame Football

Jeff KalafaAnalyst IIIJune 30, 2009

LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 29:  Kyle McCarthy #28 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish returns an interception eight yards out of the endzone against the USC Trojans in the third quarter on November 29, 2008 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  USC won 38-3.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

What's so special about November 6, 2004 when discussing Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football?  It's probably the last time they won a big game!

It's probably the last time they won a game they weren't supposed to win, while also  being a game that most Notre Dame fans can still remember for the importance it had on the outcome of their season.

On Nov 6, 2004, Notre Dame marched into Tennessee's Neyland Stadium with their 5-3 record to face the 7-1 Tennessee Volunteers, the No. 9 ranked team in the country. 

The Irish upset Tennessee 17-13 and became bowl eligible with the win. It was a memorable performance, but they lost their last three games that year and Ty Willingham was dismissed as head coach.

In 2005, the first year of the Charlie Weis era, Notre Dame finished 9-3 and lost to Ohio State by two touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl. The Irish beat two teams that finished with a winning record in 2005, Navy (8-4) and Michigan (7-5).

Weis' team was ranked No. 5 when they opened the 2006 season and beat Georgia Tech 14-10. Georgia Tech played well in 2006 and  ended up 9-5 but lost the Gator Bowl to West Virginia and finished the season unranked.

With the Georgia Tech win, the Irish rose to No. 2 in the rankings when they met and defeated Penn State 41-17.  Penn State finished 9-4 in 2006 and ended up ranked No. 25 in the country. They were good, but they lost to Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin that year.

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Notre Dame's next game, against No. 13 Michigan, was there first real test that year.  They got blown out at home 47-21.

The Irish finished 2006 with a 9-3 record. They beat three more teams that finished the season with winning records (Purdue 8-6, UCLA 7-6, and Navy 9-4) but lost their final two games (44-24 to USC and 41-14 to LSU in the Sugar Bowl).

In 2007, Notre Dame went 3-9 and failed to beat a team with a winning record. Last year, en route to a 7-6 record and a Hawaii Bowl win, the only team they beat that finished with a winning record was Navy.

What's so amazing about the last four years—the Charlie Weis era—is that Notre Dame has played in two BCS Bowls and the Hawaii Bowl without a "signature" win.

In the time that Charlie Weis has been coaching Notre Dame, almost every team on their 2009 schedule has had at least one of those "signature" type wins.

In 2007, a 1-3 Stanford team upset undefeated and No.1 ranked USC in Los Angeles 24-23. Notre Dame hasn't beaten USC in their last seven meetings.

That same year, 4-7 Pitt beat 11-1 West Virginia and knocked the Mountaineers out of the National Championship Game.

In 2007, Boston College beat 6-1 Virginia Tech and remained undefeated. That was a Thursday night game, with the Eagles coming back in the last seconds to get their eighth win and rise to No. 2 in the rankings

Two years ago, in a classic overtime thriller, Navy beat Notre Dame on the road and ended a losing streak which lasted over 30 years.

Michigan beat the Tebow-led 9-3 Florida Gators in a New Year's Day bowl game in 2007.  In 2005, with a 3-3 record, they upset Penn State on the last play of the game and eliminated their chances of playing for the national title.

In 2006, 3-0 Michigan beat 3-0 Wisconsin and gave the Badgers their only loss that year.

These kinds of games are memorable.  If they don't make one's own season, they break someone else's.

UConn was 5-2 when they met 5-1 Cincinnati last year, beating the Bearcats 40-16. Cincinnati was a good team and made it to the Orange Bowl. 

Michigan State has won big games against Notre Dame on the road in recent years,  winning their last six games in South Bend.

What makes the fact that Notre Dame has not won a big game in over four years more interesting is that, if they finish this year without beating USC, this streak could likely continue.

It's impossible to predict what will happen in 2009, but many prognosticators and Notre Dame loyalists have pointed to a 10-win season. There's always a chance that some of those 10 games, other than USC, could be meaningful but we won't know until the season takes shape.

Notre Dame has made it to two BCS Bowls in Charlie Weis' four years as coach and has a shot at another this season. They've done it without one game that can be considered a "big win".

Since November 6, 2004, the last time Notre Dame won such a game, they are batting under .500 against teams from BCS conferences. 

As of now, Charlie Weis' signature game—the game he'll be remembered for, unless the Syracuse game is still in your mind—is a 34-31 home loss to USC in 2005.