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HTS 2020 - Notre Dame

An on-and-off rivalry goes “on” for a two year span.

NCAA FOOTBALL: SEP 19 Georgia Tech at Notre Dame
I didn’t know the Blackhawks took the Stanley Cup to this game...
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Debuting a new feature this week - innovation! Let me know what you think.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Opponent Background:

  • Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference (2020)
  • Location: South Bend, Indiana
  • All-time Record: 913-327-42 (.729 - 4th all-time)
  • Home Stadium: Notre Dame Stadium (Capacity: 77,622)
  • National Championships: 11 — 1924, 1929, 1930, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988
  • College Football Playoff Appearances: 2018
  • New Year’s Six Bowl Games: 24 — (Rose: 1 - 1925, Orange: 5 - 1973, 1975, 1990, 1991, 1996 Cotton: 8 - 1970, 1971, 1978, 1979, 1988, 1993, 1994, 2018 Sugar: 4 - 1973, 1981, 1992, 2007 Fiesta: 5 - 1989, 1995, 2001, 2006, 2016 BCS: 1 -2013)
  • Conference Championships: N/A
  • Division Championships: N/A
  • 2017 Season Record: 11 - 2

Past Results:

  • Team Head-to-Head Record: 6-28-1 (.176)
  • Recent Meetings:

1999 - 35-28 Georgia Tech (Jacksonville, FL - Gator Bowl)
2006 - 14-10 Notre Dame (Atlanta, GA)
2007 - 33-3 Georgia Tech (South Bend, IN)
2015 - 30-22 Notre Dame (South Bend, IN)

  • Coach Head-to-Head Record: 0-0-0 (N/A)
  • Tech record against Notre Dame in this week’s venue: 3-11-1 (.214)

2020 Football Schedule

2020 Football Schedule

Date Time (if known) Opponent Conference Historical Record Venue Result Attendence
Date Time (if known) Opponent Conference Historical Record Venue Result Attendence
September 12 3:30 p.m. (ABC) @ Florida State Atlantic Coast 11-14-1 Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL 16-13 W (1 - 0) 17,538
September 19 3:30 p.m. (ABC) UCF American Athletic 3-1-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 21-49 L (1 - 1) 11,000
September 26 12:00 p.m. (RSNs) @ Syracuse Atlantic Coast 3-1-0 Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY 20-37 L (1 - 2) 0
October 9 7:00 p.m. (ESPN) Louisville Atlantic Coast 1-0-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 46-27 W (2 - 2) 11,000
October 17 12:00 p.m. (ABC) Clemson Atlantic Coast 50-32-2 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA [REDACTED] L (2 - 3) 11,000
October 24 4:00 p.m. (ACCN) @ Boston College Atlantic Coast 7-2-0 Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA 27-48 L (2 - 4) 0
October 31 3:30 p.m. (ABC) Notre Dame Atlantic Coast 6-28-1 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
November 14 Pittsburgh Atlantic Coast 5-9-0 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
November 21 @ Miami (FL) Atlantic Coast 13-12-0 Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
November 28 Duke Atlantic Coast 51-35-1 Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
December 5 @ NC State Atlantic Coast 20-10-0 Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
2020 Georgia Tech Football Schedule Arranged by Jake Grant

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Oh, dear, do I seriously have to discuss the history of Notre Dame? Oh well, I guess I can try to be fair. The history of the Fighting Irish began in 1887 without a coach and without much fanfare, when they lost to Michigan 8-0. The Fighting Irish would remain winless all-time until the final game of the next season, when they clobbered a now-defunct Illinois high school 20-0. The students of Northwestern bequeathed them their nickname in 1889 when they encouraged their own team to “hill those fighting Irish.” How welcoming. Northwestern remains one of Notre Dame’s most historic rivals. They would fade in and out of existence for a few years until they hired their first official head football coach in 1894, and would amass a solid 31-15-2 record in the nineteenth century. They first played Purdue in 1896, a team they have played 84 times, the most outside of USC and Navy. However, the Jeweled Shillelagh (USC) is an older trophy than the Shillelagh Trophy (Purdue). Go figure. It’s Indiana, weird rivalry trophies aren’t just a Big Ten thing. They would go until 1908 before a receiver or end on their team caught a forward pass for a touchdown, and would continue to barnstorm around the Midwest looking for teams to play. When they embarrassed Michigan 11-3 in 1909, a team that already saw themselves as perennial “Champions of the West,” the Wolverines, then and today a consistent familiar rival for the Irish, would refuse to play them for more than three decades.

Notre Dame would first reach fame in the sporting world in 1913. Their brand-new coach, Jesse Harper, added Texas, Penn State, and Army to their formerly hyper-regional schedule, and it would be the game against the latter of the three teams that rocketed Notre Dame onto the national stage. The Irish won this game 35-13, and the passing attack is commonly mis-credited with being the origin of the forward pass because of its innovative concept of hitting receivers in stride, but we as Tech fans are intimately familiar with the real originator of the forward pass, a man named John Heisman.

When Harper retired in 1918, a young assistant and Notre Dame alum named Knute Rockne became the coach of the Irish. He was, to borrow a phrase, Pretty Good, in his tenure in South Bend. Rockne, upon retirement, would go down as the winningest coach in Division I history, losing just 12 times in 13 years, on his way to three national championships. Like much of Notre Dame’s football-playing history, the truth is often shrouded in layers of mystery. Chief among this is the tenure of Knute Rockne, particularly the entirely fabricated story of “win one for the Gipper.” George Gipp, the sanitized story goes, caught pneumonia and strep throat giving punting lessons after a game against Northwestern, but it is just as often said that he didn’t return to South Bend with the rest of the team, and probably caught it carousing the town in Chicago. Notre Dame’s 25 year old star died an untimely death, but let tell you this right now - Rockne almost certainly made up the quote at his own convenience for a halftime speech years after the fact, as he was a known to be manipulative in his motivational tactics. But, it worked.

It was in those years that Georgia Tech and Notre Dame kicked off the first era of their mutual rivalry. They first played in 1922, and would go on to play eight years straight. This was all a part of William Alexander’s plan (not to be confused with The Plan - that came later) to schedule aggressively, much as his predecessor had done in the end of his tenure, as Georgia Tech grew in football stature. The first and only win for Tech in the 1920s era of the matchup was a timely one, though perhaps not the most famous game of the series. The win came in 1928 in Atlanta, a 13-0 shutout, Alexander’s only win over Rockne. Rockne’s own reflections remarked that,“I sat at Grant Field and saw a magnificent Notre Dame team suddenly recoil before the furious pounding of one man–Peter Pund. Nobody could stop him. I counted 20 scoring plays that this man ruined.” The infamous loss, though was the 26-7 contest in South Bend. See, trailing by three scores, Coach Alex didn’t have much hope for the game, but he was sitting on a Plan. Yes, The Plan, where he benched his starters and had them drill against the vaunted Notre Dame Box offense day after day while the second string mopped the floor with Oglethorpe and LSU. If you’ll allow me to quote myself, as this might be my favorite thing I’ve ever written,

“Tech had the Notre Dame game in the rearview mirror, which was helpful in more ways than one...considering Tech had one of the legendary Four Horsemen on staff. Conveniently, the school in Athens had ripped off Notre Dame’s offense, already possessing Yale’s stadium design and mascot, marching band uniforms from the British, a fight song from the Union Army, hedges from literally everywhere, and, later on, a logo sourced from a bunch of Wisconsinite meatpackers. It makes sense their schemes weren’t any more original than putting both peanut butter and jelly on a sandwich. After Tech pocketed three straight wins with only sparing play by just two or three of the starters, that practice time would prove very useful to the Jackets.”

Tech would demolish the School in Athens’ copycat Box scheme, much as Brian Van Gorder failed to do in 2016, when he served as Kirby Smart’s triple option guru.

To their credit, though, the Four Horsemen were very good, and it made sense why many an opponent felt the fear of the Apocalypse seared on their heart when they were up against the vaunted crew of Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden, Notre Dame’s first national championship team in 1924. What I just learned now, though, was that the linemen were known as the Seven Mules. You know, I guess that makes some sense, doesn’t it?

Tech and Notre Dame would go nine years between meetings after Notre Dame returned to Atlanta in 1929, a year in which they played all of their games on the road due to the construction of Notre Dame Stadium, the design of which was more or less cribbed from the Big House in Ann Arbor, save for the tunnel layout. This break would be the second longest gap in the series, behind the sixteen year stretch from 1981 and 1997 where Tech and Notre Dame wouldn’t meet a single time.

It was a tumultuous nine years for the Irish. Notre Dame Stadium, if Wikipedia is to be believed, is also known as the House That Rockne Built, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue well, and since it is most certainly in my top-three most frequently visited college football stadiums (the Memorial Stadiums in Clemson and Champaign-Urbana being the other non-Grant Field contenders) and I’ve never, ever heard anyone call it that, not even sarcastically, I’m gonna chalk that up as an overzealous Wikipedia editor. However, Rockne would not be long for this world to see his creation - and he really did move mountains to get the thing built - beyond its first season. He would die in the crash of a TWA in the Flint Hills of Kansas on his way to help produce a semi-mythical movie about the Spirit of Notre Dame, and he would also shirk this mortal coil as the two-time defending national champion coach and the oft-winningest coach of all time.

Before he died, however, his connections to USC and the allure of Los Angeles as a destination for football would start the most famous intersectional rivalry in sports, the USC-Notre Dame football competition, as a replacement for their annual game with Nebraska. Additionally, he added the Naval Academy to the Notre Dame schedule, which was, until Pandemic of 2020, the longest continuously played intersectional rivalry in college football. Navy went 43 years between wins against Notre Dame, until a fellow by the name of Paul Johnson and his triple option offense defeated the Irish 46-44 in 3OT.

It would be the power of the radio that brought countless thousands, perhaps millions, of non-alumni fans into the golden grasp of Notre Dame in the 1930s and 1940s. The allure of the Catholic and Irish institution entranced legions of Subway Alumni, who would cheer for and support the school, regardless of any actual connection to the institution in South Bend. Elmer Layden was the next coach of note - he was a member of the Four Horsemen, after all - but outside of vaguely successful season, he didn’t do much of historical note outside mending the rift with Michigan, or, more accurately, their tyrannical cult-of-personality leader, Fielding Yost. It is most significant for its implications outside the gridiron, though the ultimate and long-sought mission, join the Big Ten, remain unfulfilled to this day. Despite Notre Dame’s strict adherence to academic and athletic standards - those were less held-true in the 1900s, hence the rift in the first place - anti-Catholic and anti-private bias combined with athletic and academic elitism would keep Notre Dame out of the Big Ten. But there’s literally whole books written on that, so back to the main story.

Layden would be replaced in 1941 by Frank Leahy, a Notre Dame graduate and a familiar face from last week’s column about Boston College - I just want to shoutout the BC-Fordham game in 1940 when Leahy beat the “Seven Blocks of Granite.” Ironically, though Boston College and Notre Dame are now seen as rivals due to the ACC connection and the Catholicism connection and the Irish connection (okay, I get it now) the two schools don;t share a lot of beef, despite Notre Dame recalling their “national championship” winning coach to come back home to South Bend. They didn’t play until 1975. A theme, if it wasn’t already apparent: Notre Dame has a lot of rivals or at least notable series. What a cool nickname. In the end of the Layden years, the series with Georgia Tech was renewed, and would meet annually for eight years. Leahy would win the first against Tech, Notre Dame’s fourth win in four years over the Jackets, but Alexander’s excellent 1942 team would steal a win the next year, and Tech notched their second win in thirteen tries, a 13-6 win in South Bend.

Leahy’s team wouldn’t lose another game to Tech in that eight game streak, and he wouldn’t lose a lot of games in general, either. Of course, the 1944 and 1945 games would be played with Leahy serving in World War II, so Bobby Dodd’s first matchup against Notre Dame actually came with a Leahy assistant manning the helm. His all-time record is second only to Knute Rockne. In his tenure, he would win four national titles as the head coach of the Irish. The 1953 contest between the two schools, the first Leahy vs. Dodd contest, was a one-off game to round out the schedule. However, it would go down as the historical impetus behind Leahy’s retirement. At halftime, he collapsed on the sideline, and his health believed to be so far gone that a priest was brought in to administer his last rites. Unlike the common trope of his team that year, that they would fake injuries to manipulate the clock, this case was not one of the “Fainting Irish,” as it was found after the game that he suffered from nervous tension and pancreatitis. The Irish would go on to win the game 27-14, which, well, I guess “Dodd’s Luck” was only so powerful, since even the defending national champions couldn’t overcome the opposing coach literally almost dying halfway through the game. The Irish would go on to an unclaimed national title in Leahy’s final season. They have a lot of those, eleven, to be exact. Johnny Lattner was named the Heisman Trophy winner, and, this has nothing to do with Notre Dame or Georgia Tech, I can say for certain that he used the trophy - a replacement of the original, which was destroyed by fire - as a doorstop for the better part of the better part of the 2000s before his death in 2016, since he’s from my hometown and we share an insurance agent, plummer, and whatnot. He was a cool guy, and among unsurprising things, the Chicago Tribune noted that nobody “out-Irished” Lattner, duh, and famously called the fire department when he noticed an early morning fire and carried a small girl to safety. He ultimately gave the trophy to his high school alma mater, which is cool, but From the Rumble Seat does not stan the Fenwick Friars, as both Iman Shumpert and yours truly are proud Oak Park River Forest Huskies, the public school three blocks up East Avenue, but we can save that story for another time - this column is already long enough.

When 25 year-old Terry Brennan was hired to replace Leahy and asked about his age, he replied “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll be 26 in a few months.” He proceeded to do a heck of a lot of “not much.” Tech and Notre Dame would next play in 1959, another one-off game, the year after Brennan was fired as coach amid a spell where the school administration attempted to de-emphasize football. Don’t laugh, Tech fans, because our administration would try to do it to us in the mid-to-late twentieth century, too. Joe Kuharich, Brennan’s replacement, would be similarly bad - the worst coach in Notre Dame history, though my mental canon defers to Charlie Weis on that one - though he was a man with proven success at the professional level, not a young guy fresh out of the Chicago Catholic League.

Ara Parseghian would be the next man up after an interim 1963 season. He is widely considered the third best coach in Notre Dame history, after Leahy and Rockne, and, like his predecessors, sported a winning percentage above 80%. He would win a title in 1966, his third year at the helm, in a widely dissected tactical move against Michigan State, though one he probably made right call in doing. All he had to do to win essentially a sure-fire title was not lose to Michigan State, and though he could have played for a win and not a tie, he didn’t, and the Irish were named national champions. Tech would add Notre Dame to its schedule once more for the third era of the annual rivalry between the two teams, although now it was due to Tech fleeing the Southeastern Conference and its backwards recruiting principles and its increasing lack of institutional alignment with its conference mates and it made a lot of sense for the two independent titans to play one another. It was lucrative intersectional matchups between college football blue bloods like this that justified the move to independence, or so the story went.

Tech was attempting to become the “Notre Dame of the South,” but, as they learned, anything that is the something of the something isn’t really the anything of anything, to borrow a phrase. Tech would lose the first three games of the annual rivalry by a combined 79 points, and came close to winning in the fourth, but Bud Carson’s 1970 squad still lost by 3. It was in the latter half of that mini-series that Notre Dame reversed its longstanding “no bowl” policy, which was presumably due to polls taking bowls into account and financial benefits. Parseghian also won the 1973 national title in his 11 year career, before he, too, retired due to health reasons and was replaced by Dan Devine, who won the 1977 national title, but was also never really a fit for Notre Dame, and was not well liked in his day.

Tech seemed to agree with the Notre Dame fans on this one, as the Jackets again kicked off an annual tilt with the Irish starting in Parseghian’s final season. Rodgers got just one win off of the Irish in six tries, a 1976 win at Grant Field. However, the two years that bracket that bicentennial victory are vastly more famous in both Tech lore and in college football’s story, in general. In the preceding game, Tech lost 24-3 in South Bend, and a walk-on played in a few sequences and gained a relatively inconsequential sack despite being offsides on the play. That man’s name was Rudy Ruettiger, a man that managed to turn a handful of minutes of playing time into a famous, but wildly historically inaccurate movie simply titled Rudy, a thorough review of which I invite you all to listen here, courtesy of the Yahoo Sports NFL Podcast. Like much of Notre Dame history, particularly that which has been turned into movies, it is hard to separate myth from fact.

The following game, Notre Dame, en route to a national championship, beat Tech 69-14, the largest margin in the long history between the two teams. Looking over the results from the game, the 1977 game between the two teams (and the fate of that 1977 team) feel remarkably similar to this 2020 one. Rodgers accused Devine of running up the score for pollsters, and got Tech aggressively animated going into the game against the Fighting Irish the next year, going as far as leading the pep rally before the game. With Tech trailing late in the fourth en route to a 38-21 loss, Tech hurled fish, ice cubes, and liquor bottles on the field, as the students sat where the club sections currently are behind the visitors’ bench. Based on what we know about Tech’s predilection for chucking liquor bottles at Bear Bryant and an apparent history of tossing fish at the Fighting Irish, perhaps Tech should lean into the aggressive angry engineer trope. I am sure there’s some anti-Catholic trope in there, but I’ve seen conflicting stories as to what exactly it was, so I won’t speculate. Tech would again pelt their guests with fish after the 1980 Yellow Jackets, who would go on to finish 1-9-1, tied the Irish 3-3, in a game Tech led late, too, in a season that the Notre Dame tie probably helped the School in Athens quite a bit on their own quest for a national championship. Oops. Chalk one up for sportsmanship.

After the 1980 contest, Gerry Faust would beat Tech 35-3, and then Lou Holtz would come and go amidst the longest stretch of years between Tech and Notre Dame playing one another. The 1988 championship Holtz won is the most recent title the Irish have won, and the teams intersected from afar, when a bogus clipping penalty on Rocket Ismail would ultimately help a very faulty Colorado Buffaloes team cling to a stake in Tech’s most recent national championship. It is said that ACC-related scheduling difficulties helped end the series, which makes sense, but Auburn and Tennessee hung on into the late 1980s, so one would think the rampant fish and sportsmanship-related shenanigans helped make that decision a little easier for the folks in South Bend.

Tech and Notre Dame would next play in the season opener of the 1997 season, the first game following Holtz’ retirement. This was the symbolic first game of the newly expanded Notre Dame Stadium, its first major expansion since it was constructed. The capacity of the stadium was expanded by roughly 20,000 to approximately 80,000 seats. The Notre Dame sellout streak continued through the massive expansion all the way until last season, and the Irish would win that first game in front of the now-larger sellout crowd 17-13.

Tech and Notre Dame wouldn’t have to wait long to see one another again, this time coming in their only bowl matchup to date, which happened at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. Tech won this matchup, 35-28, and added to its superior bowl record, one of the few categories it outpaces the Irish in on Winsipedia. We also have more conference championships, though that one is a bit more obvious.

After the 2001 season, Tech and Notre Dame again crossed paths off the field when the Irish hired George O’Leary away from the Jackets. O’Leary would never coach a game for them, though, as it was found that he falsified the resume he gave to Notre Dame and was subsequently fired. The replacement for O’Leary, Tyrone Cunningham, was not that great, and then, Charlie Weis happened. He was also not that great, so that was a fun few years in South Bend. During the Weis years, though, Tech and Notre Dame again played a pair of games, splitting a home-and-home in which the road team won each game. The first of the pair, the season opener in Atlanta, was the second and most recent to-date time that College Gameday has been on campus at Tech. I learned researching this that Tech has the worst record of any Gameday team of all time, 0-5, so that should tell you what happened in this one, and that’s a super fun statistic. The five losses don’t even count the 2017 Chick-fil-A kickoff game, too, since we all know that Kirk and the gang were there for Alabama-Florida State, not the Monday tilt between Georgia Tech and Tennessee, as fun and historic as that matchup was. Tech got some measure of revenge in South Bend to open the following season, when they pantsed Notre Dame 33-3 for their largest-ever margin in the series.

Tech and Notre Dame played just once in the Brian Kelly and Paul Johnson eras, a hotly-anticipated 2015 game that was the second to last time a Georgia Tech team has been ranked in the AP Poll, entering the game at no. 14. Tech lost a tight one, 30-22, though it probably wasn’t as close as the score indicated, and would be the first of a long string of losses that year, the lone remaining bright spot being the Miracle on Techwood Drive, the walk-off blocked field goal attempt returned for a touchdown by Lance Austin.

It’s in the typical Notre Dame content to mention the rest of their historic rivals and series, so here they are, in no particular order: Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Army, Stanford. Georgia Tech is Notre Dame’s ninth most-played opponent (35 meetings), whereas Notre Dame is Tech’s twelfth most-played opponent. Therefore, this is a mathematically more important rivalry to them than us. Quick maths!

Speaking of quick maths, here is the new feature! Enjoy!

Georgia Tech Notre Dame Home Attendance

Georgia Tech and Notre Dame Home Attendance
Jake Grant

Sadly, the new feature leaves me without a clever quip to wrap it up. Oh well.

Tomorrow, Tech hosts Notre Dame for the first time since 2006. Tune in to watch on ABC, or it can be heard over the airwaves in the usual suspects, 680 AM / 93.7 FM and the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Radio Network. With the appearance of the historical matchup preview, that means it’s noon on Friday, and that concludes From the Rumble Seat’s regularly scheduled pregame content. Tune in tomorrow starting at 6:00 AM for How to Watch continuing through the gameday thread and the postgame recap. Go Jackets!