Counting down the games from least desirable to most desirable re-watches.
Fighting Irish TV will add one past NBC game to its Vault collection each week, starting this month. The Vault already contains 92* regular season games between 1992 and this past season, which means there’s 104* games left to release to fans who have downloaded the free app (Google Play, Amazon, AppleTV).
In the first of four articles, I’ll rank 26 games at a time — from least desired to most desired.
104. Boston College 14, No. 4 Notre Dame 7 (2002)
The Irish fumble the ball seven times and throw two interceptions — one of which is returned 71 yards for a touchdown — to suffer their first loss of the season. The Irish don’t score until 2:25 left in the game; a blown officiating call in the second quarter negates the first true score.
103. Georgia Tech 33, Notre Dame 3 (2007)
The Yellow Jackets register nine sacks, force three fumbles, stuff Notre Dame rushers 19 times and hold the Irish to negative 8 rushing yards. It is the first time we see Jimmy Clausen, Robert Hughes, Armando Allen, Duval Kamara, Golden Tate, Brian Smith, Kerry Neal, Ian Williams and Brandon Walker in a real game, though.
102. No. 5 Florida State 37, Notre Dame 0 (2003)
The Irish are shutout at home for the first time in 150 games. They blow four red zone chances and have just one first down by half. Craphonso Thorpe sets a record for most receiving yards by an opponent — 217. (Purdue’s Selwyn Lymon would eclipse it three years later.)
101. No. 14 USC 38, Notre Dame 0 (2007)
Evan Sharpley, starting in place of the ineffective Jimmy Clausen, goes 17-for-33 for 117 yards and an interception. Notre Dame manages just 48 yards rushing. It’s the Irish’s most lopsided loss to its intersectional rival ever. But the jerseys looked sweet!
100. Syracuse 24, Notre Dame 23 (2008)
Greg Robinson, who was fired the week prior, upsets Notre Dame, which was favored by 19 1⁄2 points. The Irish have the ball four times inside the Syracuse 23-yard line, but only manage six points. Adrian Dantley’s son throws the game-winning touchdown pass against his dad’s alma mater. Maurice Crum calls it the worst loss of his career. Weirdly, Manti Te’o decides to commit after attending this game.
99. Duke 38, Notre Dame 35 (2016)
The Irish, favored by 20 points despite their 1-2 record, wither after taking a 14-0 lead. The student body chants, “Fire VanGorder!” (They’ll get their wish the following day.) Fans mockingly cheer when Notre Dame records its first sack of the season. Daniel Jones, now starting quarterback for the New York Giants, goes 29-for-42 for 290 yards and three touchdowns.
98. Northwestern 43, No. 18 Notre Dame 40 (OT) (2014)
Scenario: 4th Quarter, 1:36 remaining, leading by 3, ball at opp 31, 2nd down & 8 to go. Team leading is a 17 point favorite, according to Vegas.
Expected points: 3.106
Win probability: 97.42% #NDFB
— Jude (@ndjrs) July 13, 2019
Notre Dame were 17 point favorites. They give up 30 or more points on defense for the fifth straight game. Northwestern, which had rushed for minus nine yards the previous week, scampers for 263 on the ground.
97. No. 12 Michigan State 36, No. 18 Notre Dame 28 (2016)
The Spartans, who will finish the year 3-9, take a 36-7 lead before ceding meaningless scores late. Brian Kelly choose to punt on 4th-and-7 on his own 32-yard-line, trusting that Brian VanGorder’s defense will get the offense the ball back in the remaining 3:37. (Narrator: It did not happen.) The Irish rush for just 57 yards. Miles Boykin muffs a punt. C.J. Sanders’ opening kickoff touchdown return is negated by penalty.
96. Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24 (2010)
Denard Robinson accumulates 502 all-purpose yards and sticks the dagger with 27 seconds left to seal Michigan’s second consecutive last-minute comeback against Notre Dame. This is a game of extremes, with the teams combining for 1,000 offensive yards but also punting 18 times and being very ineffective on third down. If you want to see Tommy Rees throw a pick on his first ever attempt and Nate Montana sail a pass out of the end zone right before the half, this is the game for you!
95. Connecticut 33, Notre Dame 30 (2OT) (2009)
If Irish fans weren’t already certain of Charlie Weis’ imminent departure, they certainly were after his Notre Dame team imploded against Connecticut. The Irish staked out to a 14-0 lead, but still managed to almost lose in regulation. A late Irish fumble gave the Huskies a chance to win it on a field goal, which was missed. It didn’t matter. The Irish defense surrendered two touchdowns in overtime and lost to Zach Fraser, their former recruit.
94. Air Force 20, No. 8 Notre Dame 17 (OT) (1996)
Ron Powlus fumbles on the first play of overtime — the first such extra period in the Irish’s 108-year history. The defense subsequently gets a late hit personal foul and the Falcons nail a chip shot to prevail. This was one of three Powlus fumbles on the day and, to make matters worse, the Irish running game was held to just 67 yards (its lowest under Lou Holtz).
Upside? Allen Rossum returns a 57-yard punt to the house. Frustration? Besides Powlus’ miscues, the refs wave off a 13-yard touchdown to freshman Raki Nelson with the score tied at 10. Jim Sanson misses a subsequent 42-yard try.
This is the game that makes Joshua Vowles, our site manager, call every Air Force quarterback Beau Morgan. Air Force would lose three of its last five games to finish 6-5.
93. No. 5 USC 45, Notre Dame 14 (2003)
Irish fans endured a 44-13 humiliation at USC’s hands the year prior, only to see their beloved team thrashed again in 2003. The primary antagonist had changed; Carson Palmer out; Matt Leinart in. But the Irish had no answers for USC’s potent offense. After trading touchdowns, the Trojans reeled off 35 unanswered points for their most points ever scored at Notre Dame Stadium.
92. Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 14 (2007)
The first 0-4 start in Irish football history, as the team looks lifeless in the second half. Brian Hoyer plays a pretty terrible game, but four of his 11 completions go for touchdowns. Weis pulls Jimmy Clausen for Evan Sharpley in the fourth quarter.
91. No. 4 Boston College 27, Notre Dame 14 (2007)
Charlie Weis again inserts Evan Sharpley to replace an ineffective Jimmy Clausen. This time, the Irish act as though a match has been lit. Sharpley completes a 19-yard touchdown pass to Robby Parris and Brian Smith intercepts Matt Ryan for a pick six. Suddenly, it’s 20-14 for the 1-5 Irish. But there will be no spoiling of Boston College’s unblemished season — exacting payback for 1993 and 2002. Instead, Sharpley’s fourth-and-1 touchdown to Parris to trim the score to 27-21 is negated by a holding penalty. The Irish rush for just 27 yards.
90. Air Force 41, Notre Dame 24 (2007)
The Irish suffer their worst loss against a service academy since Navy’s win in 1963 and lose their record-setting ninth game of the season. Jimmy Clausen is sacked six times; the offensive line is so porous, it yields a sack to just two rushing linemen. The Irish run for just 58 yards.
89. No. 14 Oklahoma 35, No. 22 Notre Dame 21 (2013)
Perhaps this game is considerably more tolerable if you skip the first three minutes. By that point, the Sooners are leading 14-0 after two Tommy Rees interceptions — the first of which has gone for six. Rees never truly figures it out, going 9-for-25 on the day for 104 yards. Blake Bell, his counterpart, is 22-for-30 for 232 yards and two touchdowns. And the Belldozer also rushes for 60 more.
88. Tulsa 28, Notre Dame 27 (2010)
Scenario: 4th Quarter, 0:42 remaining, trailing by 1, ball at opp 19, 2nd down & 8 to go. Team trailing is a 8.5 point favorite, according to Vegas.
Expected points: 3.8983
Win probability: 83.77%#NDFB
— Jude (@ndjrs) July 13, 2019
David Ruffer had made 18 straight field goals. Yet, there was freshman Tommy Rees, trying to force a ball to Michael Floyd in the end zone on second down. (Get used to it.) This game was played under a cloud of sadness surrounding the tragic death of videographer Declan Sullivan in a scissor lift collapse.
87. Michigan State 22, Notre Dame 16 (2003)
With 1:25 left in the game and Michigan State confronted with a 4th-and-1 up six, the Irish call timeout. When the ball is snapped, flags fly. Twelve men on the field.
Perhaps you could argue the game was lost when Carlyle Holiday hit defensive end Greg Taplin with a perfect pass in the fourth quarter, and Taplin rumbled 40 yards for a score. Brady Quinn’s relief appearance following the pick-six produced points, but it was too late.
86. Stanford 17, Notre Dame 10 (2016)
The Cardinal fall behind 10-0 at halftime without star tailback Christian McCaffrey and were hampered by miscues (missed field goal, fumble, interception). But anything an opponent could do, the 2016 Irish could do worse. DeShone Kizer is pulled after his second interception, but the offense sputters with Malik Zaire as signal caller. By the time Kizer is reinstated, it’s too late. The game ends with a dumb fumble/lateral thing.
Stanford finished this season 10-3.
85. Michigan State 17, No. 23 Notre Dame 10 (2001)
Bob Davie tries a fake field goal with 4:09 left in the game and a missed block blows up the whole plan. Like the 2016 Stanford game, Notre Dame doesn’t score after the half. The Irish faithful boo the team at the game’s conclusion. Perhaps the best reason to watch this is the halftime show, which was a joint performance by both teams’ marching bands in remembrance of those lost on Sept. 11. (It may not be included in the Vault, however.)
84. Virginia Tech 34, Notre Dame 31 (2016)
Notre Dame is leading 24-7 with two minutes left in the second quarter. But, like most 2016 games, it’s a mirage. The Irish can’t muster more than seven points in the second half, racking up just 150 total yards in the final two quarters. DeShone Kizer starts off blazing — 13 for 18 for 199 yard and two touchdowns — and ends freezing (3 of 15). The ignominious end comes with Zaire replaces Kizer after the latter is knocked out by a Tech shoulder to the helmet. Zaire exhausts the time by dancing, then throws a completed pass to a downed receiver.
83. No. 24 Louisville 31, Notre Dame 28 (2014)
This is a weird game. Louisville jumps out to a 17-6 halftime lead. The Irish, supercharged by a Greg Bryant punt return, take a 20-17 lead. Then the Cardinals unleashed Brandon Radcliff, who rushed for 127 of its 136 yards in the second half. Kyle Brindza’s 51 yard attempt as time expires is no good. The 2014 meltdown continues.
82. No. 16 Stanford 37, Notre Dame 14 (2010)
The Cardinal are led at quarterback by Andrew Luck, but it’s their defensive line that shines brightest this day. The Irish are held to a season-low 44 rushing yards. Stanford’s Owen Marecic scores on both offense (1 yard run) and defense (intercepting Dayne Crist) within 15 seconds.
81. Navy 23, No. 22 Notre Dame 21 (2009)
Imagine a game in which your team never punts — but still loses. Such was the case for the Irish, who instead managed to yield a game-deciding safety with one minute remaining. Jimmy Clausen passes for 452 yards in a losing effort. Ram Viela seals his status as an all-time villain, recording nine tackles, a fumble recovery and interception in Navy’s second win over Notre Dame in three years.
80. Pittsburgh 41, No. 24 Notre Dame 38 (2004)
Tyler Palko’s greatest day is somehow not yet a Vault offering. The Pitt quarterback with a predilection for profanity goes 26-for-42 for 334 yards and five touchdowns. What a deflater after being No. 9 Tennessee the week prior.
79. Navy 46, Notre Dame 44 (3OT) (2007)
Notre Dame loses to Navy for the first time in 43 years and extends its home losing streak to five games. The Irish get two chances to tie the game at 46 and convert exactly none of them. Award yourself five life points if you can name Navy’s winning quarterback. (Hint: It isn’t Ricky Dobbs.)
* As of this writing, there are currently nine games available through the YouTube Vault that have not appeared on Fighting Irish TV. I chose not to include those, as well as two 2020 games that are on FITV, but not on YouTube.