It’s the top 10 plays of the decade. Pretty self-explanatory. I tried to stay away from good plays in games that hurt my feelings, so, for example, Dayne Crist to Kyle Rudolph against Michigan in 2010 didn’t make it, nor did Everett Golson’s theatrics against Florida State in 2014.
We know what this is, so let’s get to the good times.
10.) Shaun Crawford Steals A Touchdown From Michigan State
It’s 21-7 in the middle of the second quarter at Michigan State in 2017, and the Spartans are driving to cut the game to seven. Spartan running back LJ Scott appears to be headed toward the end zone when our beloved Shaun and his surgically repaired body enters the play and punches the ball away prior to Scott entering the end zone. To put a cap on his heroics, Crawford hustles after the ball even when it appears Scott will obviously fall on it and pounces on it when the Spartan back falters. It’s a touchback to Notre Dame, who then takes the ball down the field and scores to make it 28-7, all but ending the game.
The play highlights everything that makes Crawford great: savviness, playmaking, hustle, and instincts.
9.) Remember The Six
The history books say this play didn’t happen, no matter though because it resides in our hearts. This was to be the final game in the series of Michigan and Notre Dame, at least that was scheduled at the time, and Notre Dame fans wanted blood to end the series. The Irish delivered with a shutout of the hated Wolverines, and to add final insult to injury, a pick-six was registered on the final play of the game, with Elijah Shumate intercepting Devin Gardner and racing down the sideline for a score as the clock struck zero. The play was called back because of a pity penalty for “roughing” Gardner during the return. But, the play happened, everyone saw it, and it will live on forever.
8.) Dexter Goes 97 Against Virginia Tech
The lead up to the 2018 road contest against Virginia Tech was this whole thing about road games and the Enter Sandman entrance. Notre Dame was ranked 6th and undefeated, Tech had just entered the top 25, and this game was a signature one for Hokie head coach Justin Fuente. Early in the third quarter, things looked pretty good for the home team. They were only down one, were moving the ball pretty well on the Irish, and they had Notre Dame pinned deep on second and long. Dexter Williams then ruined the party with a 97-yard touchdown on a sweep the left, a play that was perfectly blocked, and Williams only being touched till he was 70 yards down the field, a hopeful dive that was ultimately unsuccessful. The long score made it 24-16, and the Irish went on to win 38-22 to extend their undefeated regular season.
7.) Chris Finke Leaps Over The State Of Michigan
The story heading into the 2018 season opener was the Michigan defense and how good they were and how would Notre Dame score and on and on. Notre Dame didn’t have Dexter Williams. Josh Adams was gone with Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson to the NFL. The Irish were doomed. Two drives into the game it was Notre Dame 14, the Wolverines zero after an opening drive score and a faithful heave towards Chris Finke on a post route from quarterback Brandon Wimbush. Finke paid off that faith with a leaping, Randy Moss-like, grab over the Michigan safety for a two-score lead and a signal to the Wolverines, their fans, and the state of Michigan that this day was not their day. And so it went to the final whistle.
6.) Josh Adams Tears Apart USC
We saw Notre Dame beat USC during the Kelly era. They won in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015 leading up to this contest, but none of those USC teams were particularly good, and all the games were relatively close. 2017 was different. USC was ranked in the top 15, and they had a star quarterback. When Notre Dame went up 28-0, it was like an out of body experience. Is this really going to happen like this? When USC came out and scored two touchdowns to open the second half, there was a little tension. Still, it was 35-14 when Notre Dame opened a drive with a run to Adams up the middle, and he went untouched for 75 yards to make it 42-14, and a Heisman campaign was kicked off. Nothing better than watching a bunch of USC guys futilely chase a Notre Dame runner toward the end zone while already down three scores.
5.) Boykin Gives A High Five To LSU
Can a single play in a bowl game change the trajectory of the season following? This is something we cannot know, but the Ian Book to Miles Boykin connection at the end of the 2018 Citrus Bowl sure felt like a program turner. The 2017 season once had so much promise, but the debacle against Miami sent the program into a tailspin, and a late defeat to LSU only seemed to further the slide. Then, Ian Book replaced Brandon Wimbush at quarterback, Miles Boykin made a one-handed grab, and the turnaround following the 2016 calamity felt complete. A year later, Notre Dame was 12-0 and in the playoff. Funny how that works.
4.) Golson Finds Koyack
The bad part of the 2014 season crashing into the ocean is so many moments get lost to history because of it. The 2014 Stanford game being one of them. At the time, Notre Dame was undefeated and was looking forward to a showdown against then #1 Florida State. But, first was Stanford, who had been a bugaboo for Brian Kelly in the years previous, and they had the Irish in big trouble. Down four with a little over a minute left and facing a fourth down in the rain and wind, Everett Golson scrambles left and throws a missile to Koyack in the corner of the end zone for the game-winner. First, the throw just beats the closing safety, Koyack secures the ball while getting hit, and keeps his toes in bounds. An incredible play that’d hold more significance in Irish lore had 2014 ended a little better.
3.) Will Fuller And DeShone Kizer Crush Virginia’s Hopes And Dreams
Before the Virginia game in 2015, the last time we’d seen DeShone Kizer play football was the 2015 spring game, when he short-hopped everything and barely looked functional on a football field. Yet, there he was, holding Notre Dame’s season in his hands at Virginia, down one, and the clock ticking down. He rolls left and finds the streaking Fuller, who was, of course, behind the defense because he was always behind the defense. Fuller hauls it in, Kizer loses his mind, and a great meme is created, the sad Virginia fan who will never feel happiness or hope again.
2.) Will Fuller Smoke Show Against USC
Notre Dame can beat up on USC, but how often do they out athlete USC? Notre Dame has always had guys, but they didn’t have guys like USC had, especially on the perimeter. And USC had Adoree Jackson, the Olympic hopeful who ran the blazes and could leap miles. Sure Will Fuller was fast and all, but the five star, all world Jackson was going to bottle him up. At least, that was the theory. After USC took the opening kickoff down the field for a touchdown, Notre Dame needed one play to answer. A 75-yard post route from Kizer to Fuller, who left Jackson grasping at air, sent the message that this wasn’t your grandfather’s Notre Dame team, and your best guy isn’t as good as our best guy.
1.) The Goal Line Stand
It needs no introduction. Stanford said we are going to ram this ball into the end zone, come hell or high water. Well, wouldn’t you know, hell and high water is what they got.