Early Losses Can Lead to Season Success
By: Phil Houk of Fighting Irish Preview
Dan Devine instructs Joe Montana during the '78 Cotton Bowl.
For certain the loss to Georgia was disappointing to Notre Dame fans, losing always is, but an early season loss by the Irish has not always meant all was lost. There are quite a few examples from the last several decades where the Irish righted the ship after an early loss and went on to a great season. One time they even went on to win a National Championship!
In 2017 the Irish were coming off a disastrous 2016 and Notre Dame Nation was hungry for success, but in week 2 #15 Georgia, handed the Irish a 20-19 defeat. The loss motivated the Irish who went on a 7 game roll behind the strength of Josh Adams and “33 Trucking” and an often times electrifying Brandon Wimbush. The Streak ended at Miami but the Irish concluded a great rebound season at 10 and 3 with an exciting 21-17 come from behind win over LSU, featuring Ian book’s coming out party, in the Citrus Bowl.
In 1992 a team loaded with NFL 1st round picks, including among others, Rick Mirer, Jerome Bettis and Bryant Young tied Michigan in week 2, and lost to Stanford in week 5, but the Irish won everything else including the famous Snow bowl game against Penn State they then finished things up in the Cotton Bowl beating Texas A & M and finishing at 10-1-1 and ranked 4th in the Nation.
And the best example of the Irish recovering from an early loss to a great season? In 1977 Dan Devine’s Irish were loaded: Ross Browner, Luther Bradley, Ken McAfee, Bob Golic and Joe Montana. Expectations were high for the squad, but they were tripped up in week 2 at unranked Mississippi, 20-13.
The Irish quickly overcame that shock of that upset however, and rolled through their next 9 regular season opponents including a 49-19 stomping of #5 USC in the famous Green Jersey game.
The 10-1 and #5 ranked Irish then traveled to the Cotton Bowl to take on the great Earl Campbell and #1 Texas. That day, ND kept Campbell out of the end zone, and Vegas Ferguson scored 3 times in route to a 38-10 rout of the Longhorns.
After the game the Irish were voted the National Championship, their 10th in program history.