Let’s Not Party Like it’s 1999

If Saturday’s loss to Michigan in the Big House had a familiar feeling for you, it should have. Notre Dame’s been in this position before.

David Givens was a member of the 1999 Fighting Irish who lost a heartbreaker in Ann Arbor they never full recovered from. (Photo - Icon SMI)

A 1-0 Notre Dame team went into the Big House to take on Michigan, with a veteran quarterback on the heels of an impressive victory, against an overmatched opponent making its first trip into Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish got off to a good start with a small lead at half-time, but were held scoreless in the third quarter, and found themselves trailing as the game entered the final quarter.

Notre Dame’s veteran quarterback would go on to lead Notre Dame to a go ahead score, with less than five minutes remaining. The Irish ended up getting flagged for excessive celebration on the two point conversion, and Michigan ended up scoring the go ahead touchdown in the final two minutes of the game. Notre Dame had a last ditch effort come up short, with the game ending on a little bit of a clock controversy.

Sound familiar? It ought to. I’m not talking about Saturday’s 38-34 loss to Michigan though. I’m talking about Notre Dame’s 26-22 loss in the Big House in 1999 under then head coach Bob Davie.

Notre Dame started off the ’99 season with a 48-13 win over Kansas. The Irish ran for 363 yards as a team and cleared the benches in the fourth quarter. The win left some Notre Dame fans concerned with certain aspects, but for the most part, there was a lot of optimism surrounding a 35 point victory to start the season.

The next week Notre Dame traveled to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines. After jumping out to a 14-9 lead at half-time, the Irish were outscored 10-0 in the third quarter, before Jarious Jackson threw a 20 yard touchdown pass to Jabari Holloway. On the ensuing two conversion attempted, Jackson connected with Bobby Brown who was flagged for a very questionable excessive celebration penalty.

Wolverine quarterback Tom Brady rallied the Wolverines, and led Michigan to a go-ahead touchdown with under two minutes left. Jackson responded by leading the Irish down the field to the Michigan 12 yard line, but time ran out after it appeared Notre Dame had converted a first down that would have stopped the clock. The clock continued to run with no measurement for the first down and the game ended with Notre Dame fans complaining about officiating and missed opportunities.

Ten years later, we’re in almost the exact same position. Jimmy Clausen led Notre Dame back from an 11 point deficit in the fourth quarter only to see Michigan march back down the field for the go ahead score. Armando Allen’s taunting penalty was eerily similar to Bobby Brown’s excessive celebration penalty with both coming on two point conversion attempts and severely impacting the field position game.

Both games were filled with plenty of officiating and clock issues that had Notre Dame fans clamoring about the Big 10 officials on the message boards. The only difference here was there weren’t any “blogs” back then, and there were only a handful of forums – UHND being one of them.

Notre Dame sits at 1-1 and can go in one of two directions. The Irish can rebound this weekend, and beat a Michigan State team that limps into Notre Dame Stadium after losing at home to Central Michigan last week. Or, the Irish can squander the opportunity to get their season back on track, just as they did in ’99 when they fell to Purdue on the road the following week, in another game that they probably should have won.

The 1999 season went south pretty fast after the Michigan loss. Notre Dame followed the loss to Michigan with losses to Purdue on the road and Michigan State at home. While the order of the games differs in 2009, the Irish will face the same two opponents the next two weeks at the same locations.

That 1999 season was very characteristic of the Bob Davie Era – the Irish were good but not good enough on most Saturdays. Instead of finding ways to win games that season, they usually found ways to lose games. Late season losses to Pitt and Stanford on the road, and Boston College at home, were all winnable games in which the Irish lost to teams with inferior talent.

Adding to the parallels between these two seasons were some pre-season national championship expectations. In ’99 Bob Davie was entering his third season in South Bend and the Irish were coming off a 1998 season in which they were able to improve on their win total from 1997. The magical third season and the steady improvement shown on the previous two seasons had expectations pretty high for Notre Dame.

After the Michigan loss though, things began to unravel for Notre Dame, and every Saturday became an adventure for Irish fans. In ’99 Bob Davie and Greg Mattison couldn’t fix an Irish defense that gave up points in bunches. Oklahoma under first year head coach Bob Stoops scored 30 points in a 34-30 Notre Dame win; Tennessee put up 38 on the Irish in Knoxville; Pittsburgh rang up 37 in a 37-27 Pitt win; Boston College scored 31 in a 31-29 win in South Bend; and Stanford scored 40 to cap off the season with a 37-40 Irish loss.

Will 2009 be different? Notre Dame certainly has more talent now than they did in 1999, and has an offense that can put up a lot of points. If Notre Dame doesn’t bounce back this weekend when rival Michigan State comes to town, the parallels will continue to be drawn to the ’99 season.

Hopefully for Notre Dame and Charlie Weis, history does not repeat itself again this weekend and the Irish bounce back with a win over the Spartans.

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  1. I’m going to disagree and say that Armando Allen already is a good back. He is our best back by far and what is keeping him from being a great back is the fact that he still lacks some field vision. Allen has breakaway speed but he always seems to run right into the tackle still. For example, on his 24 yard run on the first drive of the game, if he cuts to the right as the safety was coming up on his left, he probably makes the safety and the defensive back on his right side run into each other and he would have been gone. He just doesn’t have that aspect of his game down yet. Give him some time though and he will have a breakout year. This was my breakout player this year and I’m sticking with it.

  2. I want to throw something out there that has bothered me all week after the game. I really don’t think Armando Allen is a great running back. He doesn’t make people miss or break tackles. I will give it to him that in the 4th quarter he finished runs by getting the extra couple of yards and moving the pile. I know he had great numbers but Charlie himself could have ran through those holes! The screen pass was not close enough to overturn in my mind but this guy doesn’t have the awarness when no one is around to not get that close to the sideline? If you watch Allen’s carries and you watch Minor’s carries that game you tell me who was clearly the better back. Just wanted to get some thoughts on that?

    1. The guy (Allen) Had 139 yards
      rushing and 1 TD
      Minor had 106. No Touchdowns

      I think the average yard per carry was about the same for both.

  3. We’ll see. Because of what happened this past weekend, the test of leadership of clearly upon the captains, experienced players, and indeed Weis and his entire staff. This team can put itself phyiscally, mentally, and psychologically in position to assure itself a win, or they can fumble around and let fate dictate the outcome. I guarantee this, if Weis thinks it’s all X’s and O’s just like the pro’s, we’ll probably drop 2 games before USC. And USC will be a blow out.
    However, if this team closes ranks, including the coaches and dedicates itself in all aspects. If they play for one another, but play inspired to represent Notre Dame, they might be unstoppable.
    Weis’s job, players future’s, and the whole program are on the line this week and especially in the next 5 weeks. It’s theirs to take hold of or to lose.

    We’ll see.

    1. C-Dog, got something that I think that you might find amusing. There is a west coast based sports web site that talks about the punches thrown by Michigan players in last Saturday’s game. There is video proof that has been circulating for about 4 days now. Even though the whole free world has seen it, the master cheater, liar, crybaby of a wannnabe coach, RichRod still insists that he didn’t see it.
      What a douch-nozzel.
      Check it out here:

  4. Davie and Weis are very similar. They’re both decent men who are very set in their ways. And, I am not sure that either way is correct. I can remember the excruciating run between the tackles of predictable Bob. Against any decent team, that was how things went.

    Weis has one advantage (that is, I think, quite unfortunate): a much easier schedule. So, he has to know that if things don’t go well in South Bend on Saturday, he’s in for an excrutiatingly long final season. I still think we can put up some real points Saturday, but we may give up quite a few points, too.

  5. Here’s one way to look at last Saturday’s loss.
    How many major college football teams are going to finish the season undefeated? How many finished last year undefeated? Just about everyone is going to get schackled with at least one loss.
    Now, if you new that your team was going to loose one game and you had the choice of picking that game what would you choose? Early in the year? Mid-season? Or one of your 4 final contests? Would you pick a “small potatoes” program, or a well known, established Program, in a close game?
    If the choice was mine, I would go with the early season loss. This gives your team the chance to run the table the rest of the way. Climb back up the POLL’s, and posisition your team for a bowl game.
    Wasn’t there a team from the SEC that lost early in the year last season? (To Mississippi I think) Didn’t their QB come out and say (after that loss) that they weren’t going to loose agian the rest of the year?
    Didn’t that team indeed run the table, including their league championship game and bowl game?
    If I remember right, they won the crystal football and the National Championship that goes along with it.
    I don’t think that I need to mention that team by name. I think we all know who it was, chomp, chomp.
    What one team can do, another can do!

  6. Is anyone else really upset with this loss? This loss almost hurt as much as the USC loss in 2005, however, in 2005, nobody was expecting a whole lot out of the team. That is why this loss ranks up there. Do you all realize on paper, we are so much better than Michigan? Why can’t we get over that hump? This is the same crap we see year in and year out. You cannot lose games like this and expect to be a high calibur team. This loss was terrible and our defense laid an egg. There is no way we should have lost to a true freshmen qb.

    I think this goes to show you that any spread type offenses are going to give our defense some serious issues with short passes and qb scrambles. I sure thought this 2009 ND team was ready. Apparently, we are not.

  7. Let’s stay positive about 2009. Did we all think we were honestly, seriously, absolutely gonna win em all and go 13-0? Nah, man. Yeah, we should have beaten Michigan, but let’s go get the other 11 plus a bowl game and see where the chips falls. Save the Charlie needs to go crap until after Thanksgiving.

  8. Oh my dear LORD Jesus in Heaven, please NO repeat of 99.
    THat was –to say the leat–awful.
    I remember every moment-It was –well worst than the Faust years.
    ND had chances to win–but did not.
    ( at least when you know you are down and out–you are gone pretty much.)
    COULD change the mood of a season that STILL has me angry about the calls on ND’s last possession–
    grind out the clock–uggh
    gring out the clock
    running game
    it is not ALL passing

    ( I am NOT over it yet–and I still wonder WHY ND threw with three minutes left on every play-
    ball inbounds, force the time out,
    conservative, yet agressive,
    you know-
    the Holtz era stuff-it is not Rocket Science.)

    99 was BAD
    very bad
    and I don’t care to lose to Stanford near Nancy Pelosi’s neighborhood!!!!
    but Irish Fans
    don’t count your chickens EVER again before they hatch
    on this same web site–
    people were saying “we should beat michian 31-10
    not so fast my friend as they say on ESPN
    and common sense to GET THE WIN
    ( somebody PLEASE tell me it is not a BIG 10 crew)
    GO irish I love ya men–
    but I am PISSED
    and we should have won
    and could have
    and this week is a MUST
    against the rather “interesting” company from East Lansing–
    not exactly stellar company

  9. I was watching and I couldnt really tell why allen got the call. Seemed like he did same celebration as anyone else. ran into endzone stood there and pounded his chest. What else did he do

    1. truegipper~

      It appeard that after Allen scored he put his finger to his mouth to the Mich. crowd as to say “be quite”. I believe that’s what the call was. My questions is why didn’t we hear anything else about it from the guy’s in the booth? Not one word, or even a replay afterwards? Humm?

  10. I was thinking the same thing as soon as the celebration flag was thrown. Brought back nightmares of that day and of Bob Davies poor clock management abilities as well.

    Why do we get these penalties on seemingly minor issues at very critical points in our games at the Big House?

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