The top-5 games in the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry

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By Greg Garno, Managing Sports Editor
Published September 4, 2014

In case you hadn’t heard, a big football rivalry is coming to an end.

Forty-one games between Michigan and Notre Dame and now it’s come down to one last matchup, built on the exciting, offensive shootout games in the past. Michigan has won six of the last eight and holds the alltime record 24-16-1.

The Daily has been covering the rivalry since 1920 and we broke down the best five games in the storied history.

No. 5: Michigan 47— Notre Dame 21 (2006) It wasn’t a down-to-the-wire game, but it was entertaining to watch then-sophomore receiver Mario Manningham run past the Fighting Irish.

Not even an injury in the third quarter could slow Manningham, who finished with 137 yards and three touchdowns on just four receptions.

But it was the defense who helped provide the rest of the offense, scoring two touchdowns. Linebacker Prescott Burgess tallied two interceptions, one of which he returned to the end zone, and defensive end LaMarr Woodley took back a fumble recovery.

As the Daily’s Kevin Wright wrote then: “The defense dirtied Notre Dame pretty boy (quarterback) Brady Quinn. Woodley and defensive tackle Alan Branch spent more time in the Irish backfield than Notre Dame’s running backs. It was so bad that a despondent Quinn hitched a ride sprawled out in a flatbed of a Gator after holding interviews following the game.

“The Wolverines dominated the Fighting Irish in every aspect of the game.”

Michigan’s win propelled it through the season until it fell to Ohio State and USC in the final games of the season.

No. 4: Michigan 38 — Notre Dame 34 (2009) Do you remember Tate Forcier?

Once thought to be the gem of Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense who had both the mobility and strong arm, he was unlike anything Michigan had seen in its recent history.

Well, he didn’t stick around for long, but his one shining moment came in Michigan’s thrilling win with 11 seconds left in the game. Then a freshman, Forcier found receiver Greg Mathews in the end zone to spark the upset.

Former Daily football writer Michael Eisenstein might have been a bit presumptuous in talking about Forcier’s game, but he said then: “Forcier isn’t a normal freshman in Angell Hall. People spell his first name with three letters now (‘G,’ ‘O’ and ‘D’). The quarterback is the cover boy of the Rodriguez Michigan football turnaround success story that started a little more than a week ago.”

Darryl Stonum returned a kick for a touchdown and both teams went back and forth in the thriller. The Fighting Irish clawed their way back from a 31-20 deficit to take a three-point lead before Forcier led the comeback.

“Everybody kept saying a freshman can’t do it,” Forcier said after the game. “And I did it.”

The win began the demise of the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame and would be the lone marquee win for the Wolverines, who finished 2007 with a record of 5-7.

No. 3: Notre Dame 29 — Michigan 27 (1980) The Daily dubbed it a “seesaw battle” in which the Fighting Irish’s Harry Oliver nailed a 51-yard field goal as time expired.

Oliver, who called the kick “by far the greatest moment of my life,” finished a drive that began with just 41 seconds to go in the game.

Michigan, though, had mounted a comeback after it fell down 14-0 early in the first half. It fought back to score 21 unanswered points thanks to two touchdown passes from John Wangler.

He threw his third late in the fourth quarter to Craig Dunaway to give the Wolverines the lead for a fleeting moment.

Former coach Bo Schembechler said then: “It was a great Michigan effort. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”

The Daily’s Stan Bradbury called it, “Heartache, plain and simple.”

Notre Dame and Michigan both lost two games that season, but the Wolverines won the Rose Bowl that year over Washington.

No. 2: Michigan 26 — Notre Dame 24 (1994) The Wolverines exacted revenge after the 1980 heartbreaking loss, by delivering one of their own.

Michigan quarterback Todd Collins mounted a drive with 46 seconds to go on the 17-yard line, marching down the field, escaping what seemed to be an imminent sack to set up Remy Hamilton’s 42-yard field goal with seven seconds to go.

Hamilton kicked three field goals before that, connecting on his longest for the game winner. Until then, Hamilton had made one field goal in his entire career.

Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz called a timeout as the play clock wound down in an attempt to ice Hamilton, but the added time gave him a chance to set up.

“(Notre Dame) did us a favor,” Hamilton said after the game. “Thanks Lou.”

Wolverine fans swarmed the field and stormed down South University in celebration.

“I’m sure I won’t appreciate this until I’m older,” Hamilton said.

Collins, meanwhile passed for 224 yards while tailback Tshimanga Biakabutuka (an all-time great name) rushed for 100 yards. Collins shined in a game overshadowed by star quarterback Ron Pawlus.

Michael Rosenberg, now with Sports Illustrated, wrote then: “I’m telling you it’s perfect. Another chapter in the folklore.”

No. 1: Michigan 35 — Notre Dame 31 (2011) Games like this are tough to script. The kind that are hyped up so much and live up to it.

In the program’s first-ever night game, Michigan completed one of its best finishes. Trailing 24-7, the Wolverines scored 21 unanswered points behind quarterback Denard Robinson. Even the Fighting Irish’s touchdown with 30 seconds left to retake the lead wasn’t enough.

Robinson erased three quarters of ugly football when he found Jeremy Gallon alone on the sideline before connecting with Roy Roundtree in the end zone with two seconds remaining.

The Daily’s Tim Rohan, now with the New York Times, said of the game in his column: “The crowd was roaring, woken up from its slumber by a team that needed waking itself. Every maize pom-pom beat the air in unison. The event — the first night game ever, the largest crowd ever, the anticipation building because it seemed everyone who had ever called Ann Arbor home was back in town this weekend — felt larger than life. Under the lights.

“And the game was outshining the event.”