Two of college football’s most storied programs will meet under the lights of Ohio Stadium on September 3rd. Even though Columbus and South Bend are a little under 300 miles apart, Notre Dame and Ohio State have met on the football field just six times, with the last two matchups coming at the Fiesta Bowl.
There could have possibly been a seventh meeting between the schools, but Ohio State had imposed a bowl ban for the 2012 season after the fallout from “Tatgate”. The Buckeyes went 12-0, which would have at least put them in the Big Ten Championship Game, and had they beat Nebraska, they likely would have joined Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game in Miami.
A good place to start is with the first meeting between the programs, which came in front of over 80,000 people in Columbus in 1935. The game was the first “Game of the Century”, of which there would be nine more in the 20th century. The game was the most covered sporting event of 1935.
Ohio State took a 13-0 lead into the fourth quarter before Notre Dame engineered a shocking comeback, scoring three touchdowns over the game’s final 15 minutes. The Fighting Irish took the lead when backup quarterback Bill Shakespeare found Wayne Millner for the game-winning touchdown.
The Buckeyes saw their final shot at victory dashed when they fumbled out of bounds. The rules at the time were that when a ball was fumbled out of bounds it was awarded to the team that touched the football last. The setback would be Ohio State’s only loss in a 7-1 season that saw them win their first Big Ten title in 15 years.
Ohio State’s first trip to South Bend was one they’d like to forget. Not only did the Buckeyes lose 7-2, but the game was played in a driving rain storm. Francis Schmidt’s team had a chance to win late, but Nick Wasylike threw two incomplete passes into the end zone. The rules of the game at the time were that two incompletions in the end zone resulted in a touchback. Ohio State unsuccessfully argued that the second pass landed incomplete before it reached the end zone.
After a strong 1935 season, Ohio State wasn’t quite as successful the next season. The loss to Notre Dame saw the Buckeyes fall to 2-3 on the season, but Ohio State did win their final three games of the season, shutting out their final three opponents of the season. The final game of the season saw the Buckeyes beat Michigan 21-0 in Columbus.
The next time the teams would meet would be nearly 60 years later, as Notre Dame opened up a home-and-home series with the Buckeyes with a trip to Columbus. Ohio State entered the game having beaten Boston College, Washington, and Pitt. Notre Dame suffered a 17-15 setback to Northwestern in the season opener. Prior to the showdown with Ohio State, the Fighting Irish had little trouble with Texas, beating the Longhorns 55-27.
Notre Dame looked like they might have Ohio State on the ropes early on, opening up a 17-7 lead in the second quarter before a Dimitrious Stanley 17-yard touchdown catch cut the lead to 17-14 by halftime. Ricky Dudley gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game with a 15-yard touchdown reception. Terry Glenn added to the lead with an 82-yard touchdown reception four minutes later. The touchdown was Glenn’s second of the game.
Eddie George then took over on the ground, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the score look a little more lopsided than it really was. The Heisman Trophy winner finished with 207 yards on 32 carries. Bobby Hoying passed for 272 yards and four touchdowns, while Glenn caught four passes for 128 yards and two scores.
Greg Bellisari registered 10 tackles, while Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel combined for 18 tackles, with three of those stops being for a loss. John Cooper’s team would go into the Michigan game undefeated before falling 31-23 to the Wolverines. The loss sent Ohio State to the Citrus Bowl, where they would loss 20-14 to Peyton Manning and the Tennessee Volunteers.
Notre Dame had to feel better about their chances headed into the 1996 game since George, Glenn, and Hoying had all closed out their career in the scarlet and gray in 1995. Pepe Pearson picked up right where George left off, rushing for 173 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. The Buckeyes went into halftime with a 22-7 lead.
Stanley Jackson extended Ohio State’s lead with a 15-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Jones. Vrabel, Fickell, Bellisari, and the rest of the Ohio State defense made life miserable for quarterback Ron Powlus, who was 26-56 for 397 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions in the two games against the Buckeyes.
Ohio State came into the Notre Dame game having defeated Rice and Pitt by a combined score of 142-7. Like 1995, Ohio State would head into the Michigan game undefeated before the Wolverines ruined the hopes of a perfect season for the Buckeyes, downing John Cooper’s team 13-9 in Columbus. The Buckeyes would close out the season with a 20-17 win over Arizona State in the Rose Bowl, while Notre Dame didn’t play in a bowl after passing on a big to the Independence Bowl, as the Golden Domers felt the bowl game, as well as potential opponent Auburn, were beneath them.
The next meeting between the schools would come nearly 10 years later, as the teams matched up in a bowl game for the first time. Ohio State and Notre Dame battled in the desert on the second day of 2006, in the final Fiesta Bowl that would be played at Sun Devil Stadium.
The lead-up to the game was dominated by talk of A.J. Hawk dating the sister of Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. The game even featured plenty of camera cuts to Laura Quinn, who was wearing a half Notre Dame/half Ohio State jersey. Quinn would have to watch her future husband sack her brother twice, as well as defensive lineman Mike Kudla take down Quinn three more times.
Notre Dame actually took an early lead in the game when Darius Adams scored from 20 yards out two minutes into the game. The Buckeyes answered quickly when Troy Smith found Ted Ginn Jr. for a 56-yard touchdown two minutes later. Ohio State took the lead for good when Ginn rushed for a 68-yard touchdowns, and Jim Tressel’s team took a 21-7 lead into halftime when Santonio Holmes hauled in an 85-yard touchdown pass from Smith.
The win over the Fighting Irish set the table for hype for a national title run in 2006. With Smith, Ginn, Antonio Pittman, and many more key starters returning the following year, Ohio State was a favorite to win the title, and made it all the way to the championship game before falling to Florida.
Notre Dame entered the bowl game having lost heartbreakers to Michigan State and USC earlier in the year. The Spartans beat the Fighting Irish 44-41 in overtime, while USC used the “Bush Push” to stay undefeated on the season with a 34-31 win in South Bend. The 2005 season was Charlie Weis’ first as head coach of the Fighting Irish.
The next time the schools would face off in the Fiesta Bowl we would see Urban Meyer as Ohio State head coach and Brian Kelly in charge at Notre Dame. Even though the Buckeyes could have put little effort into this game after suffering a shocking loss to Michigan State late in the season, Meyer had his team ready to finish the season strong with victories over Michigan and Notre Dame in the final two games of the year.
Ohio State came out of the gates hot, using the first of four Ezekiel Elliott touchdowns, and a 15-yard Michael Thomas touchdown catch to put the Buckeyes ahead 14-0 early in the game. Joey Bosa had a little too much energy early in the game though, as he was ejected for targeting after a hit on Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes went into halftime with a 28-14 lead after two more Elliott touchdowns in the second, followed by a 47-yarder in the third quarter. Sean Nuernberger kept the Fighting Irish at bay with three field goals in the fourth quarter. J.T. Barrett threw for 211 yards and added 96 rushing yards, while Darron Lee registered two sacks and a forced fumble.
The team took a scary turn early on when Butkus Award winner Jaylon Smith suffered a knee injury. In the years after the injury, more and more players that aren’t involved in the playoff are deciding to skip bowl games to protect their future in the NFL after seeing what Smith went through. Even though Smith did go on to play in the NFL, he hasn’t been the same player that we saw at Notre Dame.