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September 5, 2011

At ND, home equals heartbreak

Playing in one's home stadium is supposed to be an advantage. The majority of the fans are pulling for you. The opponent has had to travel, and is now playing on a surface and in an environment that are unfamiliar to them. Even the referees are supposed to be intimidated to some extent by the home-field advantage.

If the last 28 games in Notre Dame Stadium is an accurate indicator, then the Irish no longer have an edge when it comes to playing at home.

With Saturday's loss to South Florida, the Irish fell to 13-15 in their last 28 games in Notre Dame Stadium. Even excluding Notre Dame's 1-6 mark at home in 2007, the Irish have dropped nine of 23 at home.

The Irish have lost at least three times at home in five of the last eight seasons, and it's come against some unlikely foes. South Florida, Tulsa, Navy (twice), Connecticut, Syracuse and Air Force are among some of the previously unexpected victors in Notre Dame Stadium.

Currently, Brian Kelly's .500 winning percentage in Notre Dame Stadium (4-4) is worse than his three predecessors - Charlie Weis, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie.

Davie's home record - 24-7 (.774) - is by far the best since Lou Holtz's brilliant .792 winning percentage in Notre Dame Stadium (51-13-1). Weis' winning percentage was .575 (19-14). Willingham's was .611 (11-7).

The last undefeated season at home came in 1998 - Davie's second season - when the Irish went 6-0. Even Holtz did not go undefeated in Notre Dame Stadium during his last seven seasons at the helm. The Irish won all 17 of their home games from 1987-89.

Since 1981, Gerry Faust's first season at Notre Dame, the Irish are 125-56-1 at home (.689). But exclude Holtz from the equation and the Irish are just 72-43 (.626), which means they've lost about four out of every 10 home games in the last 30 years without Holtz on the sideline.

The Irish have been generous to all. Twenty-five different programs have won in Notre Dame since 1981, led by Michigan State's seven (six in a row at one point). The Spartans are followed by USC's six, Boston College's five, and four each by Michigan, Pittsburgh and Air Force. Stanford has won in Notre Dame Stadium three times since 1981as has Penn State with victories in 1982, 1986 and 1990.

Other multiple winners in South Bend include Tennessee, Florida State and, of course, Navy. One-time winners at Notre Dame since 1981 include Arizona, South Carolina, Miami, LSU, Brigham Young, Northwestern, Ohio State, Nebraska, Purdue, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Connecticut, Tulsa and now South Florida.





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