Editor Note: Loyal Reader, Jamie Reidy, dropped us a line with something he thought everyone would enjoy. Upon opening it, it was obvious this needed it’s own space.
And what does Jamie get for this fantastic #content? Why the mention that this 1992 Notre Dame alumnus is also an author and you should 100% repay him for reliving the worst football parts of the past thirty years for your entertainment by buying his latest book, Sweep Her Off Her Feet: Seriously, Dude, Clean Up Your Place.
With that said, take it away, Jamie!
I rarely feel old. Two, competing theories exist for this absurdity, for why a guy who passed the midway point on life’s highway a few exits ago would feel this way: “It’s Jamie’s constant pursuit of a good time that keeps him young” (Jamie’s theory) and “It’s the complete lack of adult responsibilities Jamie has taken on during his 48-years that keeps him immature” (Jamie’s ex-girlfriends’ theory). Tomato, tomato. In my mind I’m closer to thirty than fifty.
Recently, though, I reminisced back to my freshman year at Notre Dame and came to a stunning realization: that was the last time the Fighting Irish claimed the national championship on the gridiron. Instantly, I felt older than a doddering alum asking a girl in Walsh Hall if he can take a look at “his” dorm room.
30 years. AYFKM?
On a Saturday night in the winter of 1989, I sat on the floor of a 4th floor room in Keenan with several buddies, drinking Old Swill. Like the Gas-n-Sip scene in “Say Anything” (which would premiere a few months later), there were no women anywhere. But, unlike the movie, that was not by conscious choice. We were playing Asshole, when the night’s festivities were derailed by an offhanded comment.
“Did you guys know we could become the only collegiate class to win all of its games?” SAY. WHAT?!
A fevered search ensued, unearthing a future football schedule that was thrown down on the diseased carpet. We crowded around, analyzing it with the seriousness of Allies trying to crack the Nazi codes. Of course, our mission was far more important: identifying the landmines in “our” march to an undefeated class, i.e. four straight undefeated seasons. (Note: Oklahoma’s record-setting 47-game winning streak ran from September 1953 to November 1957.)
We circled the games that could, maybe, possibly trip us up over the next three seasons. (It is important to remember that Michigan State and Stanford were mediocre back then. Also, for whatever reason, my esteemed colleagues and I did not fear USC at all, this despite the fact that the Trojans had entered the final week of the 1988 season ranked #1 in the nation.)
1989 – At Michigan, at Miami
1990 – Michigan at home, at Tennessee, Miami at home
1991 – At Michigan, at Penn State
Of these mere seven contests, only the Miami and Tennessee road games gave us real concern, the latter because we’d heard that Volunteer fans were insanely loud. Plus, they could dock their boats right next to Neyland Stadium field! (Note: I don’t know what that had to do with a football game, but it seemed plenty intimidating to lonely 18-year olds, apparently.)
In case you don’t still have nightmares, I mean, don’t know how those seasons turned out, our Miami worry in ‘89 proved prescient, as did the ‘91 road games versus Michigan and Penn State. Amazingly, my panel of prognosticators missed some other losses. Gipper’s Guys also managed to lose to Stanford and Penn State at home in ‘90, while falling to Tennessee at home in ‘91.
We ended up correctly predicting the number of potential losses – seven – but we had assumed we’d win all four bowl games. (Lost the 1990 season Orange Bowl to Colorado.)
All in all, a four-year run of 43-7 is pretty f’ing stellar. Yet… woulda, coulda shoulda.
As a freshman in 1988, I learned that Notre Dame had won the national title in 1966 and 1977. Ergo, we should win it in 1988. Duh. I mean, that was simple math. And then Coach Holtz’s squad did just that! I don’t know about anyone else, but I was legitimately surprised when the Irish did not play for the Natty in 1999.
Well aware that it has been 30 years since the #1 on Grace Hall stayed lit because of gridiron glory, I began wondering which individuals and individuals’ decisions had kept us from our self-proclaimed rightful place at the top of the heap.
So, I started scratching out list, a masochistic 30 for 30, which I thought could be a lot of fun.
And enraging, as you remember how many dumb fucking things our administration and coaching staffs have done over the past three decades since the Fiesta Bowl victory. (We have lost thrice in Fiesta Bowls since then, btw.)
First, a couple of guidelines: you will find no citing of player decisions here, i.e. a defensive end’s failure to fall on the fumble at Miami in ’89 or a backup quarterback’s disastrous pass just before halftime vs. BC in ’02.
Declan Sullivan isn’t on this list because his death was important and tragic, as opposed to something to do with a game played with an oblong ball by 18-22 year olds.
You will notice that I don’t have, uh, 30 blunders. I couldn’t think of them all. Hopefully, that’s where you will come in, dear reader.
I know I am missing specific Holtz decisions in the Northwestern lost and the 2nd half of the 96 Orange Bowl vs FSU, or Davie’s idiotic clock management in his first two years.
I didn’t include Kelly’s decision to throw the ball against Tulsa instead of attempting the FG, because I thoroughly agreed with the decision to try for a TD when Michael Floyd was matched up against a midget.
Some of the things I will spell out; others, I think you’ll get automatically.
We can argue over the order – that’s the point, actually.
(If I was a real sports writer, I would have revealed one per day for the 30 days leading up to kickoff. Alas, I’m not a real sports writer.)
Now, let’s raise a beer and pour one out for our homies who sadly won’t get to see our beloved Fighting Irish win another national championship. And then let’s toast the 2018 team; may they stay healthy and play hard for Our Lady!
30 – LSU in 2007 Sugar Bowl. Charlie Weis calls a fake punt on the first drive. No, Coach, nobody smelled the panic. Not a bit.
29 – Holtz telling Randy Moss he was accepted into school, when the student-athlete hadn’t even applied. For me, this marked the beginning of the end of the Lou Era.
28 – Help.
27 – Michigan at home 1992. Lou Holtz runs out the clock on a 17-17 tie, rather than trying for a win. It’s not “Tie one for the Gipper,” coach!
26 – Brian Kelly’s punt return “strategy” 2010-2016.
25 – Ty Willingham ignoring Jeff Samardzija’s talent for two years. Tough to miss the 6′ 5″ gazelle.
24 – Down 17-10 to Michigan State late at home in 2001, Bob Davie calls fake FG from inside the 20. The Spartans, along with everybody else, saw it coming.
23 – At Purdue 1999. With a chance to win on the final play, ND calls timeout on the one-yard line. A confusing play call results in a sack. And a loss.
22 – Running a play where three of your receivers are taught to illegally block defensive backs, instead of pretending to be going out for a pass.
21 – See: 28.
20 – At Michigan, 2009. Rather than run the ball on third down late in the game to kill clock, Weis calls a pass play to a frosh receiver. Incomplete. Thanks, Charlie; if not for you, we’d only remember Tate Forcier as a douchey kid who later transferred.
19 – Throwing 26 times in hurricane.
18 – Northwestern at home 2014. Kelly goes for 2 when up by 11, even though nobody had ever suggested that in football history.
17 – At Texas 2015. Kelly giving Malik Zaire a third series. Kizer was so clearly the better player that day, the QB “controversy” still boggles the mind. The UT loss left a funk that never got fumigated.
16 – Keeping Joe Schmidt as starting inside linebacker in 2015. Everybody loves Joe… when he’s making the same tackles he made before he got hurt in 2014.
15 – Davie firing Joe Moore in 1996. Not only did it make the rookie head coach look like a total wuss who felt threatened by the veteran offensive line coach, the move caused tensions for the players, some of whom had to testify at the subsequent lawsuit! Only recently did I learn that Joe Moore had recommended Davie to Holtz; that’s how Bob got hired onto the Irish staff in the first place. Then he turns around and axes him? That’s some real Carlo Rizzi-Sonny Corleone shit, right there.
14 – Georgia Tech 2007. In the season opener at home, Weis unveiled a surprise offense: the visitors romped 33-3. It totally summed up the Gunt’s arrogance that he thought he could spend just one weekend in Morgantown hanging with Rich Rod and be able to duplicate West Virginia’s success with the spread.
13 – Davie promising CJ Leak he’d be the only QB recruited in the class of ‘03. Way to go, Bob! You doomed yourself – and Ty – to sucking on offense.
12 – George O’Leary.
11 – Nebraska, #1 team in the nation, at ND in 2000. After the defense forces YET ANOTHER punt, the Irish get the ball back with on our own 30 yard line with 67 seconds left on the clock and EVERYBODY in the stands believing that nobody leaves Notre Dame #1. Bob Davie… runs the ball twice to kill the clock and play for overtime. When you have the heavyweight champ on the ropes, you don’t take your foot off the gas. (Mixed metaphor alert!) That decision said so much about Davie.
10 – LSU at home 1999. Nursing a lead with the ball frighteningly deep in our own territory late in the game, Davie has starting QB Jarious Jackson run around in the end zone prior to taking a safety. The Irish win the game, but lose their QB, as Jackson suffered a serious knee injury while dancing around. With a BCS invitation on the line the next week, the Irish get shut out at USC, thanks to bewilderingly poor quarterback play.
9 – Kevin White didn’t force Ty Willingham to recruit offensive linemen. Look, I loved the TW hire at the time, so I can’t sit here now and badmouth it. But, lawdy, was he a program killer or what?
8 – Keeping BVG after the 2015 collapse.
7 – Stanford at home 1990. After Ricky Watters fumbled a punt in the first half, Holtz ignored his “you fumble, you sit” rule and put Ricky back deep in the 4th quarter. #12 fumbled a second time.
6 – Green jerseys vs. BC. Ty took CFB by storm in his first year as Irish head coach, springing to an 8-0 start. Ranked #4 in the country and a double digit favorite hosting an unranked BC team, he naturally decided to break out the vaunted green jerseys and jinx his kids while pumping up the opponents. Buh, bye, dream season.
5 – The Charlie Weis extension.
4 – 3rd and 43, but only have one DB deep.
3 – Penn State at home 1990. Mistake? Holtz’s entire second half offensive play-calling. Once Rocket got hurt, Lou seemingly forgot he still had, like, 7 Parade All-Americans at the skill positions on his soon-to-be-no-longer-#1 team.
2 – Hiring Bob Davie.
1 – 1996. Dick Rosenthal interviewed only one head coach (Terry Donahue) to replace Holtz.
Sheesh. All that reminiscing–and cursing and crying–made me tired. I think I’ll pop a One-A-Day-Men’s-50+ Health, pull off my compression socks and take a nap.