The Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke years felt like an eternity for Michigan fans. The program hit lower lows than most had experienced in their lifetime, and the achievements were minimal and sparse. Thankfully those days are gone, as are many of the painful memories.
However, one matchup always seemed to shine in those dark days. Facing off in every season from 2002 to 2014, Notre Dame consistently served as a barometer for Michigan’s upcoming year and often proved to be one of highlights at the end of the season. Before these two historic rivals face off this Saturday, take a quick look back at their recent encounters.
2009: Michigan 38, Notre Dame 34 (Ann Arbor)
The 2009 season began with a splash as Michigan knocked off the 18th-ranked Irish in Week 2, although in hindsight that ranking was a little ambitious. The teams traded the lead throughout the game, and the Wolverines found themselves with the ball on their own 42-yard line, down four with under two minutes left.
Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier led the team down the field and hit a wide-open LaTerryal Savoy in the end zone with just 16 seconds on the clock, only to see the pass dropped. Luckily, he found Greg Mathews on the very next play to seal the first of three-straight comeback victories against Notre Dame.
2010: Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24 (South Bend)
The next season’s game was oddly similar to the season prior, as the Irish took the lead late in the fourth quarter. Denard Robinson was now at the helm for Michigan, and he capped an astonishing day by marching the team down the field with three minutes to go and rushed in for the winning touchdown himself with only 27 seconds on the clock.
Robinson threw for 244 yards and a score and also rushed for 258 yards (!) and two more touchdowns in one of the most outstanding performances by a quarterback in school history. His 87-yard touchdown sprint in the second quarter was one of the most memorable plays of his electric career.
2011: Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 (Ann Arbor)
“Under the Lights” likely needs no recap. One of the most incredible games in Michigan history came during the Big House’s first ever night game. The Wolverines put up 28 fourth quarter points to stun Notre Dame with just two seconds left on the clock in a comeback victory that will never be forgotten.
After Michigan took its first lead of the night with just one minute and 12 seconds remaining, Notre Dame needed only 40 seconds to jump back in front. It took a miraculous 64-yard completion from Robinson to Jeremy Gallon to put Michigan in field goal range. However, Hoke was not going to settle for the tie in his second game as head coach, and Robinson hit Roy Roundtree in the corner of the end zone to seal the win.
2012: Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6 (South Bend)
The Irish finally jumped back in the win column with a night game of their own. No. 11 Notre Dame took down No. 18 Michigan in a defensive battle, with the home team looking in control for most of the evening. They carried this dominance throughout the season, going 12-0 before losing in the National Championship.
Robinson had a dreadful game, throwing four interceptions without recording a score. He was much less productive than during the previous two contests and struggled to put together any sort of consistent offense attack. Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o took over the game, tallying a couple interceptions and a handful of tackles.
2013: Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30 (Ann Arbor)
“Under the Lights II” was a fun sequel with slightly less drama. Wearing the No. 98 jersey, quarterback Devin Gardner was electric, passing for four touchdowns and almost 300 yards. The 17th-ranked Wolverines never trailed and perhaps infamously taunted the No. 14 Irish with the Chicken Dance as the game ended.
Gallon continued right where he left off from his huge play two years prior and was the biggest benefactor of Gardner’s productive night, reaching the end zone three times on his way to 184 receiving yards. The game was the rivalry’s last showing in Ann Arbor for a while and the Wolverines did everything to make the most out of it.
2014: Notre Dame 38, Michigan 0 (South Bend)
Perhaps the reason fans are so excited to see Notre Dame back on the schedule is to avenge how the series ended. Regardless of how the Irish dishonorably tore up the contract, the last game between the two rivals was not a pretty sight. No. 16 Notre Dame were undoubtedly the better team in every way and humiliated the Wolverines in South Bend.
The culprits were all over the place; Gardner threw three interceptions, no running back totaled over 30 yards, and the defense gave up almost 50 percent of the Irish’s third down conversions without recording a takeaway. The biggest fault probably lies with Hoke, though, as this debacle spelled the beginning of the end of his time at Michigan.