This week we mark Saturday’s anniversary of the resumption of the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry in 1942, when your beloved #6 ranked Wolverines traveled to South Bend and crushed on the #4 Irish. But to understand the significance of that day, we first take a trip back to November 1910 to understand why the rivalry was originally cancelled. Go Blue, Beat Irish!
You can listen to all 6 years of This Week In Michigan Football History here. And don’t forget to catch the whole KeyBank Countdown to Kickoff on WTKA 1050AM starting 4 hours before each game, and of course live in the Bud Light Victors Lounge Saturday starting at 11:30am.
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[Ed. IMHO one more must read prior to the final game with the Irish. Originally posted Sep 4, 2013.]
With all the talk on the historical significance of the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry, I’d thought I’d share a little bit on the original meeting in 1887. Women, prepare to swoon.
So you’ve heard that Michigan taught Notre Dame how to play this game. This is true of course, and the details of that meeting are chronicled up front in John Kryk outstanding book Natural Enemies.
Kryk explains that the origins of the fateful meeting in South Bend over 125 years ago can be attributed to three men: students George DeHaven, Billy Harless and Notre Dame’s prefect Patrick ‘Brother Paul’ Connors.
In a nutshell, DeHaven and Harless were former Notre Dame students in the mid-1880s who, in 1886, enrolled at Michigan. Both were exceptional athletes and suited up for the U-M 1887 varsity football squad…aka Team 8 (official logo, inset). While at ND DeHaven had become friendly with Brother Paul, who was a popular administrator on campus and helped run the intramural athletics program.
In South Bend they did have an IM sport which was something like football…but not really. Kryk described it this way: “A hundred boys to a side, all scrambling to get a round ball over the opponent’s fence by any means. Kick it, toss it, slap it – whatever. If you want to get technical it was part soccer and part rugby, but mostly it was pure pandemonium.” More »
Given that John Kryk, author of the definitive history of the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry Natural Enemies, is a mere email away, I had to get his thoughts and observations on the game.
This marked the 19th time Kryk has watched the game in person and that’s exactly half of the 38 games played all time between two schools. A few thoughts from Mr. Kryk:
- The only Michigan players I’ve seen that are so potentially and routinely electrifying [as Denard] are Anthony Carter and Desmond Howard (in that order).
- This is no fluke. The drive to open the second half vs UConn was mostly Denard completing 3rd-down after 3rd-down pass, not Denard running for first downs. And the winning drive Saturday was almost all on Denard’s arm, not his legs. He’s a quarterback, not a deluxe running back who keeps defenses honest with his throw. In fact, he tears ’em up with his throws.
- This game reminds me what Lloyd Carr once told me about the greatness of this series — that neither team will ever play its greatest game of the year, because it’s too early in the year, but because both teams play so hard in this game, and it’s early, you get more killer mistakes. Thus more momentum swings, thus more exciting games.
- It was the seventh time in 27 games since the series resumed in 1978 that a team scored the winning points in the final two minutes. The first three times, it was Notre Dame ruining Michigan hearts — Harry Oliver in 1980, Reggie Ho in 1988 and Mirer-to-Jarrell in 1990. The last four times, however, it was Michigan ruining Notre Dame hearts — Remy Hamilton in 1994, Anthony Thomas in 1999, Tate-to-Mathews last year, and Denard yesterday.
- By the way, the series record now since the ’78 resumption? 13-13-1.
- Here’s a stat just for you: RichRod now joins Lloyd Carr and Fielding H. Yost as the only Michigan coaches to win two of their first three games against Notre Dame. Bo went 1-2, Mo 1-1-1.
So where does this game stack up in the history of the series? Kryk’s take:
- The Top 2 are 1980 and 1994, because both are the only two series games that had TWO lead changes in the final 55 seconds — and so many other exciting, momentum-changing plays and outside drama.
- After those two, it’s probably 1986, 1990, 1999, 2009 and 2010 fighting for the other three spots in the Top 5 most exciting. This year’s has to be in the Top 5, I’d say. Rounding out the Top 10 would be the 1979, 1986 and 1988 games.
If you what the rest of the story, go get Natural Enemies.
Here’s another little statistical ditty for you. The WSJ ran this last year prior to the 2009 Notre Dame game, in which the Irish were a 4-point or so favorite. With Tate’s in 2009 and Denard’s heroics Saturday, the favorite has covered a mere THREE times in the last 22 match-ups between these teams.