This year’s Fiesta Bowl matchup between Notre Dame and Ohio State will only be the sixth game ever between the two historic programs. The first game was played in 1935 and was one for the ages, while the last was a shootout in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. Here are the five meetings ranked from worst to best.
5. Ohio State 29, Notre Dame 16
South Bend, Ind. – Sept. 28, 1996
The Irish took an early 7-6 lead on a short touchdown pass from Ron Powlus to Marc Edwards. From there, the Buckeyes took control and led 22-7 at halftime. A touchdown pass from Stanley Jackson to D.J. Jones late in the third quarter put Ohio State up 29-10 and clinched the victory. With the win, Ohio State became the fourth school to beat Notre Dame in consecutive years.
4. Ohio State 45, Notre Dame 26
Columbus, Ohio – Sept. 30, 1995
Notre Dame led 20-14 with less than seven minutes to go in the third quarter, but Irish return man Emmett Mosley ran to catch a punt and dropped it. Ohio State then unleashed its offensive weapons. Quarterback Bobby Hoying hit tight end Rickey Dudley for a 15-yard touchdown pass to put the Buckeyes ahead. Then wide receiver Terry Glenn caught a short pass and raced 82 yards for a touchdown pass to extend the lead. Eddie George, who rushed for 207 yards, then sealed the victory with two touchdown runs.
3. Notre Dame 7, Ohio State 2
South Bend, Ind. – Oct. 31, 1936
The Irish entered the game 3-1 and the Buckeyes were 2-2 in what would be a sloppy game in sloppy weather. The only scoring came in the second quarter, as Notre Dame marched 75 yards down the field for its lone touchdown and Buckeye Charles Hamrick blocked Jack McCarthy’s punt in the end zone for a safety. Ohio State drove down to Notre Dame’s 12-yard line in the game’s final minutes, but quarterback Nick Wasylik threw consecutive incompletions in the end zone and the rules at the time awarded the defending team the ball on a touchback (This draconian rule was changed decades ago.).
2. Ohio State 34, Notre Dame 20 (Fiesta Bowl)
Tempe, Ariz. – Jan. 2, 2006
Notre Dame’s offense showed a lot of promise in its first year under head coach Charlie Weis. The defense? Not so much. The Irish gave up 617 yards, the most in school history, in what would be a bit of a shootout. Notre Dame scored first with a touchdown run by Darius Walker. Ted Ginn Jr., responded with two touchdowns, one on a 56-yard pass from Troy Smith and the other on a 68-yard reverse. Smith then hit Santonio Holmes for an 85-yard touchdown pass to put the Buckeyes up 21-7 at the half. Late in the third, Irish quarterback Brady Quinn engineered a 71-yard drive that was punctuated with another Walker touchdown run to make the score 21-13. Ohio State then added two field goals and Quinn engineered another long drive that ended with Walker’s third touchdown run of the game putting the score at 27-20 with five minutes left. Ohio State iced the game when Antonio Pittman broke free for a 60-yard touchdown run. The win helped make Ohio State the preseason No. 1 and Smith the Heisman front-runner going into the 2006 season.
1. Notre Dame 18, Ohio State 13
Columbus, Ohio – Nov. 2, 1935
College football’s first “Game of the Century” lived up to its hype with an epic “Shakespearean” comeback. Both teams were undefeated late in the season in their first-ever meeting. A then-record 81,018 attendees were on hand at Ohio Stadium and watched the Buckeyes build a 13-0 halftime lead off of two Notre Dame interceptions. However, late in third quarter, Irish quarterback Andy Pilney returned a punt 37 yards to the Buckeye 13-yard line.
The Irish scored early in the fourth but missed the extra point to get on the board at 13-6. After fumbling the ball on Ohio State’s one-yard line, Notre Dame got the ball again with three minutes and drove 79 yards in about a minute and scored another touchdown. Once again, the Irish missed the extra point and were down 13-12 with less than two minutes in the game. The Buckeyes recovered the onside kick but still needed to gain a first down to secure the win. On the first play, Pilney nailed Dick Beltz, causing him to fumble the ball. Both teams scrambled for the ball, but it rolled out of bounds.
As you read earlier, the rules were different back then and the linesman ruled that Notre Dame was the last team to touch the ball and in 1935, that gave the Irish possession. Taking the snap at the OSU 49-yard line, Pilney raced 30 yards and was forced out of bounds at the 19-yard line, where he was injured and carted off the field on a stretcher. Pilney was replaced by William “Bill” Shakespeare, who hit Wayne Millner in the end zone for the game-winning score.
Legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice described the game as "one of the finest things I've ever seen in football." Notre Dame was actually upset by Northwestern the next week and neither team was contending for the national championship at the end of the season. Nevertheless, this game is among the best in college football history.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)