At Their Best

The Purcell Pavilion housed its best men's basketball moment last Saturday. Meanwhile, Brian Kelly's football team awaits its first "Notre Dame Moment" in South Bend entering 2012.

The Notre Dame campus rocked last Saturday during and after the team's upset of No. 1 Syracuse. But as noted on the Hoops Message Board this week, "The crowd was loud, and the students were into it. I guess we shouldn't pat them on the back too much, because of course they should be, it's the No.1 team in the country. Still pretty cool, though."

And that's the modern-day reality, as Saturday marked the first time since Senior Day 2011 and a ridiculous three-point explosion in a win over Villanova (a record 20 Irish bombs found the bottom of the net) that Notre Dame's mens basketball fans and the team's student body offered anything resembling a hostile environment for the building's visitors; it was a welcomed nonetheless.

Three months prior to Mike Brey's upset of Syracuse, Notre Dame Stadium was brimming with an October noise level not previously seen inside its walls over the last six seasons.

The Irish fell flat that day and the fan base followed suit.

It's unfortunate that Notre Dame's opponent greatly impacts its crowd atmospheres for both Brey's hoops squad and Brian Kelly's Irish. Relatively tame crowds that politely cheer on their Irish seem to be the norm, and a decided lack of a home field advantage has materialized on the gridiron as a result. (Though certainly not on the hardwood where Brey's Irish have won 30 of 31 and 95 of their last 102 home games.)

Of course, it hasn't always been this way inside Notre Dame Stadium, which brings us to the point of this morning's blog: the loudest game days and game moments I've experienced inside the Stadium's walls.

#1 – Tunnel Vision

It was a special fan experience, one that coincided with bloodthirsty revenge, an all-time villain, and the nation's best team as Notre Dame's opponent. Add an opposing coach everyone hated, and of course, a pre-game tunnel fight that worked the crowd, the Irish team, Lou Holtz, the game's announcers, and everyone in the vicinity of northern Indiana into frenzy than never dissipated over the next four hours and the months that followed.

Notre Dame 31 Miami 30 will always rank as the loudest, wildest sporting event I've attended. It's relevant to note that the Stadium's 59,075 fans in attendance that mid-October day had no trouble generating deafening noise for four hours. Piped-in music and acoustics had no bearing on the atmosphere.

A raucous crowd and a tremendous, disciplined, expertly-prepared football team however, did.

(As an aside, tunnel fights are frowned upon these days, but ND could use one well-timed scuffle before its next truly big game. Curiously, I've found tunnel scuffles have a much greater impact on both the Irish team and their crowd than do shiny helmets, but it's much harder to market a tunnel brawl, I suppose.)

Rounding out the Top 5 Crowd Atmospheres at Notre Dame Stadium in my viewing lifetime:

2.) Notre Dame 31 Florida State 24 (1993) – The best "Game Week" in campus history
3.) USC 34 Notre Dame 31 (2005) - The only fall Saturday that's come close to the Florida State epic since.
4.) Notre Dame 19 #3 Michigan 17 (1988) – Detailed below
5.) Notre Dame 28 USC 24 (1989) – With plenty of healthy hatred on the field to keep us warm as the late-afternoon kickoff and freezing conditions took their toll
(Honorable Mention) 6.) Notre Dame 17 Penn State 16 (1992) – With this catch serving as the loudest moment in a tremendous, old-school atmosphere.

"They Won't Control Us" (#4 above)

Sometimes its better to just listen, but I'll set the stage anyway:

The date: September 10, 1988.

The situation: Following the first of three pre-game tunnel fights during the 1988-89 run to excellence (23 straight wins), Notre Dame is penalized 15 yards because the unruly student section wouldn't cooperate. In short, they refused to quiet down and allow Michigan quarterback Michael Taylor call his signals in peace.

The (end) result: A 19-17 victory that moved the Irish to 1-0 on the season. 11 consecutive wins followed en route to the school's last national championship.

Click here to see the penalized noise. Though this link and the pre-game tunnel might have been even louder: Forward to the 4:37 mark

Loudest Isolated Moments

Arguments can be made for the crowd noise during Tom Zbikowski's punt return touchdown that gave the Irish a 21-7 lead, but it's hard to beat the sudden decibel explosion following the sack by Trevor Laws during the 2005 epic vs. USC.

If only it ended there: Notre Dame vs. Boston College 1993: Lake Dawson catches a 4th-and-goal pass from Kevin McDougal to tie BC, 38-38 with just over a minute remaining. The ensuing extra point gave Notre Dame a one-point lead but Eagles kicker (who shall forever remain nameless in this space) connected on a 42-yard wobbler to win the game, thus weakening America and all that is right…

If only it ended there, Part II: Rudolph goes 95 vs. Michigan in 28-24 defeat. Brian Kelly missed his first "Notre Dame Moment" when the defense gave up the game-winning drive to the remarkable Denard Robinson.

Irish Celebrate the Onside: Notre Dame vs. Miami 1988: Minutes after junior Anthony Johnson secures a Hurricanes last-gasp onside kick attempt, Notre Dame's band and its spent crowd celebrates with a special rendition of the 1812 Overture (6:30 mark on the video, though the rest is worth watching as well.)

Sudden Explosion: Notre Dame vs. UCLA 2006: 59 minutes and 23 game seconds of relative boredom gave way to a 37-second period that left most in attendance shaking after this pass to Jeff Samardzija

Start of Something Bad: Notre Dame vs. USC 2011: ND vs. USC kick-off, 2011. For a brief moment it appeared Notre Dame's crowd – and team – were returning to their rightful place in the sporting world.

If you need a pick-me-up: The most recent example of a crowd doing its job at Notre Dame Top Stories