First Look

South Florida will be the 26th school to make its first visit to Notre Dame Stadium over the last 40 football seasons.

Notre Dame's opening contest vs. South Florida, in its basic form, is merely an intra-sectional matchup between teams that finished a combined 16-10 last season. Both the Irish and the Bulls have aspirations for more in 2011: the latter to earn the school's first Big East championship, the former to return to and win the school's first BCS Bowl game.

But for Bulls coach Skip Holtz, a 1986 Notre Dame graduate, walk-on wide receiver, and assistant coach (1990-93), a return to South Bend after an 18-year hiatus will be special.

"We'll address the opportunity to play at Notre Dame with all the tradition and history that they have there," Holtz said in a conference call this week. "Selfishly, it's going to be an incredible experience for me, having spent time as a student there and having the opportunity to play there and also coach there for four years.

"With all the success that my father has had there, and with Notre Dame being such an integral part of our family with three of us graduating from Notre Dame, it's going to be a very exciting time for me."

Holtz noted the stark contrast between his growing football program and the legend that is Notre Dame.

"You're talking about one of the most storied programs in the country going against the youngest program in the BCS," Holtz said of his Bulls. "We have only been involved at the BCS level for six years and only playing football now for 13 years. When we were founded in 1956, Notre Dame had already won seven national championships. They're celebrating their (more than) 120th year and we just celebrated our 100th win.

"I think that tells you more about the differences in the programs…the University of South Florida getting the opportunity to play at Notre Dame is a much bigger picture than just Skip Holtz coming to South Bend for the first time since I left in '94".

Holtz maintains his focus will be solely on the task at hand, though it's safe to assume his official jog through the north tunnel will challenge that direction.

"I'm going to have to put my emotions and enthusiasm (aside) for what we're trying to do as a team," he offered. "I just need to keep in perspective that the game is much bigger for South Florida than it is for Skip Holtz,"

Virgin Territory

25 programs have made their initial trip to South Bend over the last four decades. Five flew home with more than a story to tell. Two of those five spoilers visited over the last eight home contests: Tulsa in 2010 and Connecticut in '09; both secured victory in the game's waning moments or overtime.

Prior to the Huskies overtime win in November '09, no visitor had taken down the Irish on its first visit to the Stadium since Bobby Bowden's Florida State Seminoles in 1981.

  • Utah 2010: Ranked #15 entering the contest but lost 28-3
  • *Tulsa 2010: Upset the reeling Irish 28-27
  • *Connecticut 2009: Won 33-30 in double-overtime on Senior Day. The game marked Charlie Weis' last in the Stadium.
  • Nevada 2009: Lost 35-0 in the season-opener for both teams
  • SD State 2008: Lost 21-13 in the season-opener for both teams
  • Washington State 2003: Dropped a 29-26 opening decision in overtime.
  • Texas A&M 2000: Fell 24-10 in the season opener
  • Arizona State 1999: Hammered by the Irish, 48-17 after losing in Tempe 28-9 the previous season
  • West Virginia 1997: Lost 21-14 on Senior Day in South Bend. The Mountaineers were ranked #22 entering the contest vs. the unranked Irish…who were favored by 10 points.
  • Rutgers 1996: Lost 62-0 in Lou Holtz's final home game.
  • Vanderbilt 1995: Lost 41-0 in mid-September but gave the Irish a scare one year later in Nashville, falling 14-7 in the season opener.
  • Brigham Young 1992: Lost to #10 Notre Dame, 42-16
  • Boston College 1987: Lost to the 9th ranked, ground-oriented Irish, 32-25
  • Ole Miss 1985: Lost 37-14 to the driving rain.
  • Colorado 1984: Lost 55-14 under intense heat in the season opener for both teams.
  • *Florida State 1981: Won 19-13 to drop Gerry Faust's first team to 2-3 in mid-October.
  • *Clemson 1979: Won 16-10 as the #14-ranked team in the nation to ruin Senior Day for the Irish.
  • South Carolina 1979: Lost 18-17 to the #14 Irish on a field goal by the late Harry Oliver.
  • Tennessee 1978: Lost 31-14 on Senior Day
  • Alabama 1976: Ranked #10 entering the contest but fell to the #18 Irish, 21-18.
  • Oregon 1976: Shut-out, 41-0
  • Miami 1972: Lost 20-17 on Senior Day
  • *Missouri 1972: Upset the #8 Irish in the rain, 30-26
  • TCU 1972: Lost 21-0 one week after the Tigers upset (above)
  • LSU 1970: Lost on Senior Day, 3-0 in a battle between two top 10 teams Top Stories