Highs and Lows

Memorable games and a few to forget from the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame.

With opinion, rumor and innuendo dominating Notre Dame's headlines this past week I felt it was time for a look back at the defining on-field moments of the Charlie Weis era.

Top 10 Games of the Weis Era

  1. USC 2005 – The 34-31 loss ranks as one of the greatest games played in Notre Dame Stadium and was easily Weis' shining moment as a college coach. The then-first-year head man mentioned postgame that if others were waiting for him to note the loss as "a moral victory" that they'd "be waiting a long time." The same group would endure 56 more games waiting for a signature victory that never materialized.
  2. Michigan 2005 – Weis best win (in terms of the teams' standing at the time of the game) as the Irish upset #3 Michigan in Ann Arbor, 17-10 (the Wolverines finished 7-5 in '05). WR Rhema McKnight suffered a knee injury early in the contest, an unfortunate play that nonetheless cemented starting roles for both Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall and the pair evolved into the school's most productive single-season pass catching tandem to date (146 receptions, 1,398 yards, 26 touchdowns).
  3. Penn State 2006 – Easily Notre Dame's most complete game vs. a quality opponent since the Week Six loss to No. 1 USC in 2005. The 41-17 win over #19 Penn State cemented the Irish as the nation's No. 2-ranked squad…for one week.
  4. Michigan State 2006 – The miracle in the monsoon: The #12 Irish came back from 17-point halftime deficit in East Lansing on the arm of Brady Quinn (5 TD passes) and clutch performances by Samardzija, McKnight, tight end John Carlson, and CB Terrail Lambert.
  5. UCLA 2006 – The most thrilling finish of Weis' 5-year reign as the stagnant Irish offense erupted in the game's 59th minute, traveling 80 yards in three plays and 0:35 seconds as Brady Quinn hit Samardzija for the game-winning 45-yard touchdown catch and run and a 20-17 victory (video below). The win kept Notre Dame's hope alive for a second straight BCS berth and an outside shot at the title game had the Irish run the table.
  6. Purdue 2005 – Five games into the Weis era and the Irish entered the contest in West Lafayette as slight underdogs to the 22nd-ranked Boilermakers. Seven touchdowns later there was little doubt that Notre Dame's offense ranked among the best in the nation and Samardzija's stardom reached a national level with two highlight reel plays and 153 receiving yards in a 49-28 victory.
  7. Pittsburgh 2005 – The debut game, forever remembered for a crisp, balanced offensive effort and Weis' 1st Quarter sideline proclamation that he'd bench the entire starting defensive unit if they didn't respond to the Panthers 7-0 opening drive march. Notre Dame scored 42 of the game's next 56 points and the underrated Irish climbed into the national rankings after a 23-week poll absence (September 13, 2003).
  8. Washington 2009 – A rare 8-play goal line stand (which followed a garden-variety 4-play stand in the previous quarter) suggested the 2009 Irish were a team to be reckoned with as the season progressed. Inaccurate in retrospect but few Irish fans could find fault with the team's heart and desire after the 37-30 comeback overtime win vs. the upset-minded Huskies.
  9. Boston College 2009 – Weis' 20-16 final victory was his last in Notre Dame Stadium and snapped the head-scratching six-game losing streak to Notre Dame's recent rivals.
  10. Michigan State 2009 – Another streak-snapper, this time the 33-30 victory provided the program its first win over the Spartans in South Bend since 1993.

Honorable Mention:

  • Stanford 2005 (Irish were BCS-bound with a 38-31 win over 5-6 Cardinal)
  • Purdue 2009 (24-21…Clausen-to-Rudolph)
  • Georgia Tech 2006 (The Irish escaped the ultimate opening-game trap, 14-10 in front of a frenzied crowd in Atlanta)
  • UCLA 2007 (The 20-6 win, as 24-point underdogs, for the 0-5 Irish was important for the players more so than the embattled head coach)
  • BYU 2005 (49-23 and record-setting performances from Quinn/Stovall)
  • Michigan 2008 (35-17 and an emotional rivalry win albeit over what proved to be a terrible football team)
  • Nevada 2009 (the 35-0 shutout was fool's gold for hungry Irish fans)

Bottom 10

Let's get this over with…

  1. Michigan 47 ND 21 (2006) – Why No. 1? Notre Dame was ranked No. 2 entering the contest. Four hours later they ranked only as proven pretenders in the 47-21 unexpected home bloodletting.
  2. Navy 46 ND 44 3 OT (2007) – Honestly, the Midshipmen were a better, if not more talented, college football time at the time. Navy's first win over the Irish since 1963...
  3. Georgia Tech 33 ND 3 (2007) – An August shrouded in QB secrecy proved completely irrelevant as the Irish were lambasted by the Rambling Wreck defense led by Jon Tenuta. The rudderless Irish looked as inept as any team in program history throughout the '07 season-opener.
  4. Syracuse 24 ND 23 (2008) – The worst? Not by a long shot if you'd been paying attention. Expectations were already low at this point and the defeat served as a portent of things to come 12 months later.
  5. Michigan 38 ND 0 (2007) – Team turmoil reached its apex this weekend and in the days that followed.
  6. Navy 23 ND 21 (2009) – Navy's first win over the Irish since 2007…
  7. Michigan 38 ND 34 (2008) – The goodwill engendered by the team's shutout win seven days prior was short-lived as the Irish defense flailed away at a team that would defeat just two BCS opponents (ND and IU) by season's end.
  8. UConn 33 ND 30 (2009) – It was already all over but the shouting, but this was the final blow.
  9. Ohio State 34 ND 20 (2006 Fiesta Bowl) – The first chink in the armor as the Irish surrendered 607 yards to the powerful Buckeyes.
  10. LSU 41 ND 14 (2007 Sugar Bowl) – Final proof that Weis' Irish remained at least a level below the nation's strongest programs.

Dishonorable Mention:

  • USC 38 ND 0 (2007) – Not unexpected
  • PSU 31 ND 10 (2007) – Due largely to the fact that I drove seven hours and sat in the 2nd Row to watch the Irish throw about 650 screen passes
  • Air Force 41 ND 24 (2007) – Air Force was more than a field goal favorite in Notre Dame Stadium.
  • North Carolina 29 Notre Dame 24 (2008) – In completely control late in the first half, then...Poof! Serves as a microcosm of the Weis era.

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