Miami-Notre Dame may not be college football’s most traditional rivalry, but it’s certainly one of the fiercest. From controversial blowouts to canonized classics, the meetings between the Hurricanes and Fighting Irish are never normal.
When the rivalry was at it’s best, though, it was because there were national implications. For the first time in more than 20 years, those stakes are back. Miami will host Notre Dame on Saturday in Miami Gardens, Fla., and a potential spot in the College Football Playoff will be on the line.
The meeting goes beyond a postseason berth, though, and to understand it’s important to look back at some of the rivalry’s most important games. Here are seven of the most important meetings between the Hurricanes and Fighting Irish before they square off again this weekend:
1983: Miami 20, Notre Dame 0
After decades of dominance in the rivalry, Miami finally turned the tide during the mid 1980s and the Hurricanes’ 1983 win helped signify the start of a decade of dominance. It began with a 12-1-1 stretch for Notre Dame, but this was the second of six losses in eight meetings for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame was a bit down during this era, although the Fighting Irish had preseason respect in 1983. A Sept. 24 win against No. 13 Notre Dame in Miami was enough to finally thrust the Hurricanes into the rankings. Miami steadily rose throughout the season on the way to an 11-1 record and its first national championship during Howard Schnelleberger’s final season as coach.
The shutout win also helped give the Hurricanes a unique distinction against the Fighting Irish. Miami is the only team to shut out Notre Dame during the Dan Devine, Gerry Faust and Lou Holtz eras. This was the shutout against the Faust-coached Fighting Irish.
1985: Miami 58, Notre Dame 7
If the 1983 win helped earn the Hurricanes national respect, the 1985 win helped give Miami its reputation. The Hurricanes whipped teams all season and peaked at No. 2 in the rankings during Jimmy Johnson’s second season. During the final week of the regular season, Nov. 30, Miami crushed Notre Dame to clinch a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
The Hurricanes blew their chance at a national championship against Tennessee in New Orleans, but the blowout win in Miami helped build their identity. Miami was accused of running up the score against a mediocre Fighting Irish team in the third of four straight wins against Notre Dame. Bad blood left from this game would boil over a few years later.
1988: Notre Dame 31, Miami 30
The infamous “Catholics vs. Convicts” game is one of the all-time college football clashes. Top-ranked Miami and the No. 4 Fighting Irish both entered the Oct. 15 game unbeaten. The defending champion Hurricanes took a 36-game regular-season win streak to South Bend, Ind., and left Notre Dame Stadium with their first regular-season loss since the opening week of the 1985 season.
There are almost too many famous moments to mention. Cleveland Gary’s fumble at the 1-yard line during the fourth quarter is still disputed by Miami fans. The Fighting Irish fans have their own call they still argue, too, as the Hurricanes’ last-minute touchdown, Notre Dame fans, argue was trapped and shouldn’t have counted.
And then, of course, there’s the famous finish. After Andre Brown’s touchdown with 45 seconds left, Johnson opted to go for 2 rather than kick the extra point and tie the game at 31-31. Pat Terrell batted down Steve Walsh’s pass and the Fighting Irish hung on. Two and a half months later, Notre Dame beat No. 3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl to win the national title. Miami finished the year at No. 2.
1989: Miami 27, Notre Dame 10
The Hurricanes didn’t have to wait long to get their revenge. A year later at the Miami Orange Bowl, a Hurricanes win sent them on their way to a third national championship.
Like Miami a year earlier, the Fighting Irish entered as the No. 1 team in the nation. Notre Dame was unbeaten and on track to repeat as national champion until it collided with the Hurricanes on Nov. 25.
Miami historically has thrived at home against Notre Dame, and this was the latest example. The victory was the Hurricanes’ fifth straight home win against the Fighting Irish and sent Miami to the Sugar Bowl at No. 2 in Dennis Erickson’s first season as head coach. The Hurricanes took down Alabama in New Orleans to claim the national championship.
1990: Notre Dame 29, Miami 20
The 1988-90 trilogy is the rivalry’s fiercest stretch and Notre Dame claimed the rubber match in Indiana. It was another game with national championship implications. Miami shrugged off a season-opening loss to rise back to No. 2 by Oct. 20. The Fighting Irish, who replaced the Hurricanes at No. 1 after the season-opening loss, were at No. 6 after a loss to Stanford. The winner, though, would be on track for a chance at the national title.
The narrow win sent Notre Dame down the path, only for the Fighting Irish to fall short. Notre Dame missed its shot with a postseason loss to top-ranked Colorado in – of course – the Orange Bowl.
2010: Notre Dame 33, Miami 17
The final game of the “Catholics vs. Convicts” trilogy gave way to a 20-year drought in the rivalry. Miami joined the Big East for the 1991 season and a conference schedule made it difficult to schedule its independent rival. The resumption came totally by chance in 2010.
The Hurricanes and Fighting Irish were both mediocre in 2010. It was Brian Kelly’s first year as Notre Dame’s coach and Randy Shannon’s last with Miami, so the implications this time were a meaningless bowl game in El Paso, Texas.
Interim coach Jeff Soufland was at the helm for the Hurricanes in the 2010 Sun Bowl and the Fighting Irish cruised to victory on Dec. 31 thanks to 2 first quarter touchdowns by Michael Floyd.
Even though the game was hundreds of miles from either campus, it served as a reminder of how much people love this rivalry. The game sold out in only 21 hours and set a Sun Bowl attendance record with 54,021 spectators despite game-time temperatures below freezing.
2016: Notre Dame 30, Miami 27
Miami and Notre Dame have met three more times since the Sun Bowl, most recently with a thrilling contest last season. The Hurricanes trailed 20-0 during the second quarter before firing back with 27 straight points to take a lead with less than 7 minutes remaining.
Only 56 seconds later, though, Josh Adams, now a Heisman Trophy candidate, tied the game on a 41-yard touchdown run. The Fighting Irish won the game on a short field goal with 30 seconds left.
Plenty has changed from last fall when both teams went to Notre Dame Stadium just scraping for bowl eligibility. This is the toughest remaining challenge standing between the No. 3 Fighting Irish and their place in the College Football Playoff. A loss for No. 7 Miami at Hard Rock Stadium would all but end the Hurricanes’ playoff hopes.
It feels like old times in South Florida and there’s no better traditional test for Miami than a date with Notre Dame.
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