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Notre Dame Football & Halftime Leads

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Navy was one of three 2016 foes who rallied from a halftime deficit to defeat the Irish.
Bill Panzica

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Earlier this week, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program saw its streak of winning 157 consecutive games when leading at halftime snapped at Tennessee.

The Fighting Irish held a 44-31 lead at the intermission (and were ahead by as much as 15 points) before a fourth-quarter collapse saw them score only seven points on 3-of-14 shooting, resulting in a 71-69 defeat. It was the first time since Feb. 12, 2012, a 65-63 setback to West Virginia, that head coach Muffet McGraw’s squad lost after holding a halftime lead (33-30).

That prompted us to ask the following: What is Notre Dame football’s longest such streak since the start of the Ara Parseghian era in 1964?

Unfortunately, the news was not positive during the 4-8 campaign in 2016. The Fighting Irish lost three times despite holding the advantage at halftime: 17-10 to Stanford after a 10-0 lead at the intermission, 28-27 to Navy after clinging to a 17-14 halftime edge, and 34-31 to Virginia Tech following a 24-14 lead at the half (also 17-0 and 24-7 at one point).

That tied the single-season record of three that also occurred under Charlie Weis in both 2008 and 2009, Bob Davie in 1997, Lou Holtz in 1990, and Gerry Faust in both 1982 and 1984.

The three such losses this year made it nine such games under head coach Brian Kelly, who completed his seventh season. That tied the nine under Holtz during his 11 years (1986-96) and Faust in his five (1981-85).

In Kelly’s two best seasons — 12-1 in 2012 and 10-3 in 2015 — Notre Dame did not lose a game when leading at halftime. Chronologically, here are the six others in addition to the aforementioned three in 2016:

• 2010: Led Tulsa 20-18 at halftime, but lost 28-27.

• 2011: Led Michigan 17-7 at halftime (and 24-7 in the fourth), but lost 35-31.

• 2011: Led Florida State 7-0 at halftime (and 14-0 in the third), but lost 18-14.

• 2013: Led Pitt 14-7 at halftime, but lost 28-21.

• 2014: Led at No. 2 Florida State 17-10 at halftime before losing 31-27 in controversial fashion at the end on a pick play used similarly by Clemson to win the national title this month.

• 2014: Led Northwestern 27-23 at halftime (and 40-29 in fourth) before losing in overtime, 43-40.

The longest Notre Dame winning streak since 1964 when ahead at halftime is 40 under Parseghian from the start of the 1970 season until the regular season finale at USC in 1974. The Irish lost the Jan. 1, 1970 Cotton Bowl to Texas (21-17) after leading 10-7 at halftime, and then didn’t lose another halftime advantage again until dominating USC 24-6 on Nov. 30, 1974 — only to fall 55-24 in one of the most mind-numbing change of momentum witnessed in college football annals.

The second-longest winning streak when leading at halftime was 32 under Lou Holtz that began with the Air Force game his first season (1986) until losing at home to Stanford on Oct. 6, 1990, while holding a 24-15 halftime edge.

In fact, the 9-3 Irish that season (1990) saw all three defeats occur despite a halftime advantage: 36-31 to Stanford to lose their No. 1 ranking, 24-21 to Penn State as the No. 1 team again despite a 21-7 halftime lead, and 10-9 to No. 1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl after holding a 6-3 edge at the intermission.

Tyrone Willingham (2002-04) had a 15-game streak, beginning with his debut versus Maryland in 2002 until a 24-23 defeat at home to Boston College in 2004 after building a 20-7 halftime cushion.

Kelly’s record streak is 13. It started in the 2012 opener versus Navy before falling at Pitt in 2013 (28-21) after holding a 14-7 halftime advantage.

A positive such streak will need to commence for Kelly and company in 2017.

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