12 Plays that Defined Notre Dame Football in 2012

As the final days of 2012 wind down and we inch closer and closer to Notre Dame’s showdown with Alabama for the BCS Championship, today we look back at the plays that defined Notre Dame’s improbable run to Miami.

12. Stephon Tuitt’s fumble return against Navy

Dublin, Ireland. Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive end Stephon Tuitt #7 recovers a fumble during the American Football game between Notre Dame and Navy from the Aviva Stadium. (Photo – Paul Walsh/Actionplus/Icon SMI)

Notre Dame’s season opening win over Navy in Dublin might have lacked the drama that characterized some of Notre Dame’s victories later in the season, but it also had its fair share of highlights and the one play that stands out from this one was Stephon Tuitt’s 77 yard fumble return.  Notre Dame was in clear control of the game and would have won the game whether or not Ishaq Williams jarred the ball loose with Tuitt scooping it up off the turf and rumbling down the field for a score, but the play set the tone for the season – Notre Dame had a defense that was going to make plays.

Notre Dame had lacked a big play defense for years, but Tuitt’s highlight worthy play was the first real indicator that Notre Dame had some players on defense this year.  Not only did it show that Notre Dame had playmakers on defense – it showed Notre Dame had playmakers up front where the Irish lacked such ability since Justin Tuck wore the blue and gold.  Tuitt is a big man.  A man much too big to be able to run down the field as fast as he did back in September, so when he did it raised some eyebrows.

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  1. SteelFanRob 5 years ago

    Along the lines of Joeyknuklehead’s line of reasoning, a very distant honorable mention also to Miami WR Phillip Dorsett for dropping several long balls (including 2 sure TDs on the Canes’ first drive) early on in the game in Chicago. Perhaps the Irish go on to kill Miami regardless. But who knows how a big play TD on Miami’s first play pumps them up and brings down ND. Thankfully, we’ll never have to find out!

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  2. Joeyknuklehead 5 years ago

    Honorable mention to any of the U Michigan Ints that set the tone for the game. Anybody know if Davaris Daniels will be ready for the Bowl game.

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    1. spiceyirish 5 years ago

      Daniels has been practicing the last two weeks since his collarbone injury. He will be fully healthy for the Orange Bowl.

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  3. spiceyirish 5 years ago

    It seem like in the 2nd half of the season that Theo Riddick and Everett Golson made most of the big plays for the team. For a team that struggled so badly in the red zone, Theo Riddick became Notre Dame’s #1 threat in the red zone. This leads up to my #1 play. It was against Oklahoma right after Chris Brown’s long reception. Notre Dame had a 2nd and 9 or 10, I was assuming that ND was going to settle for a field goal and Oklahoma would have a great chance of winning. Everett Golson hit Theo Riddick on that 2nd down play on a crossing route. Riddick ran the ball to the 3 yard line to put ND in complete control in the red zone. Three plays later, Golson ran it in from a yard and ND put Oklahoma’s backs against the wall.

    Since that crucial play, Notre Dame circled the offense around Riddick. Riddick became an added feature in the passing game for much of the last four games. He made some gigantic plays, especially against Pittsburgh.

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  4. Jack 5 years ago

    The one common theme through all of these plays is not one man makes a team. It goes from Manti, to Everet, to Tommy, and etc. This is a team and if they play to their ability will be in this game. I have kept off the boards and tried not to watch to much ESPN, but it hasn’t worked. This is a team and with either a win or a loss I am proud to be an Irish fan because this team is what the University is about.

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  5. dinglewood 5 years ago

    Think the two most important plays, both on the list, were the Stanford goal line stand and, most importantly, the Pitt missed FG. Also don’t have any problem with the others chosen.

    That being said … two plays that I would not have ignored … the long run by Theo Riddick vs BYU and the pass not completed to a wide open BYU receiver thanks to steady pressure during the game that caused their QB to not set his feet when there was time to do that.

    The TR run was the second best I’ve seen at ND in my 40+ years of watching ND home games. Could not believe he got past the line of scrimmage when I saw it live and was even more amazed when I saw the replay.

    Aside … the best run the should not have happened belongs to Alan Pinkett vs Arizona as a FR running on pure instinct. What should have been a run off tackle became one more or less straight ahead. The end result was something like a 70 yard TD as he somehow got through a tangle of bodies (a rugby scum) as folk on both sides of the ball were moving toward where the play was designed with the defenders then trying to change direction.

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  6. duranko 5 years ago

    trey, I’m with Frank on the Tommy Rees play. In the moment, it
    was needed and pivotal. there are trigger points for a great season
    and sometime it’s just that one first down……

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  7. Bill and Ted 5 years ago

    Great article. My second favorite play of the season was the Manti Teo sack of Landry Jones.

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  8. ND Southy 5 years ago

    Say what you want about TR, but it is clear that without him we are not 12-0.
    Kudos to TR and BK for handling this QB situation better than anybody could have imagined.

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    1. jeff 5 years ago

      so true

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  9. Charlie 5 years ago

    I would add to the list – field goal to tie game against Stanford to send to OT.

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  10. trey 5 years ago

    I think this author has too much of a love affair with Tommy Rees. Come on, a 3rd and 6 play is one of the most important plays of the season?

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  11. George 5 years ago

    I loved this game, don’t get me wrong. But when I hear “experts” say that we crushed OK that just tells me they have no earthly idea what they’re talking about. Of course that’s no surprise, but this was a CLOSE game. Yes the bomb to Brown was huge because of its timing in the game. ND came right back at OK after they scored and sent a huge message. Definitely a season changer

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    1. George 5 years ago

      In regards to the Oklahoma game

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