Notre Dame’s 9th Home Symphony
Until 1988, Notre Dame had never played seven football games at home in a season.
Even that year it occurred by accident because only six games were scheduled at home. However, when the road game at SMU that season had to be canceled because of the NCAA death penalty imposed on the Mustangs, Notre Dame scheduled Rice as the substitute at home.
Seven home games didn’t occur again until 1999, when Kansas was added at home in the opener for the Eddie Robinson Classic.
Since then, especially because of the permanent addition of a 12th regular-season game in 2006, there have been six other years where Notre Dame hosted seven home games, and 2021 will mark the ninth, including two first-time visitors: Toledo (Sept. 11) and Cincinnati (Oct. 2).
The 1988 national title season and 2019 still remain the lone ones in which the Fighting Irish finished 7-0 at home.
Meanwhile, the current 24-game winning streak at home is the second-longest since the dedication of Notre Dame Stadium in 1930. If head coach Brian Kelly’s squad holds serve at home again with the second 7-0 output at home since the championship year, it would eclipse the school-record 28 held by head coach Frank Leahy’s juggernauts from 1942-50. Leahy actually was overseas in 1944-45 during World War II while Notre Dame played only seven total home games those two years combined.
If the Irish can reach that point, the record-tying 28th would occur Oct. 23 versus USC and then the all-time lead would happen against North Carolina Oct. 30.
Here are the years when Notre Dame played eight home games, and the outcome in those seasons.
Home Record: 7-0.
This was highlighted by pulsating wins in the opener versus No. 9 Michigan (19-17) and No. 1 Miami (31-30). The Wolverines would go on to win the Rose Bowl and finish No. 4 in the country, while the defending national champ Hurricanes had their 36-game regular season winning streak snapped before finishing No. 2 to the Irish.
Overall Result: 12-0.
The most recent national title — we prefer to use the word “recent” instead of “last” — saw Notre Dame take advantage of its first-ever seven-game home slate.
Home Record: 5-2.
Under third-year head coach Bob Davie, the Irish rallied from 30-14 and 24-3 deficits at home to defeat Oklahoma, led by first-year head coach Bob Stoops, and USC, respectively.
Overall Result: 5-7.
The Irish finished 0-5 on the road, with four of the defeats by a total of 14 points.
Home Record: 6-1.
Second-year head coach Charlie Weis’ Notre Dame team was a popular preseason No. 1 pick, and moved up to No. 2 following a 41-17 throttling of No. 19 Penn State in game 2. The following week, a 47-21 blowout loss at home to Michigan dropped the Irish to No. 12 and pretty much out of the title chase. Notre Dame also needed a dramatic 11th-hour rally to defeat UCLA 20-17.
Overall Result: 10-3.
Notre Dame finished No. 17, the first time in 10 years it had back-to-back finishes in the Associated Press top 25.
Home Record: 1-6.
Notre Dame lost its first six games at home. It was outscored 129-31 in the first four, and then lost 46-44 in triple overtime to Navy, ending an NCAA record 43-year winning streak versus the Midshipmen, followed by a 41-24 loss again at home to Air Force. The 1-9 Irish ended the home season with a 28-7 win versus 1-9 Duke — a unique event in college football history with two 1-9 teams facing each other.
Overall Result: 3-9
It was both the most losses at home and overall in one season at Notre Dame
Home Record: 4-3.
Weis’ final season started fine with a 3-0 mark at home, but ended 1-3 inside Notre Dame with defeats to USC (34-27), Navy again (23-21) and first-time visitor UConn (33-30 in two overtimes) on Senior Day
Overall Result: 6-6.
A 6-2 beginning ended with four consecutive defeats overall and the end of the Weis era.
Home Record: 4-3.
First-year head coach Kelly began his Notre Dame career 4-5, with losses at home to Michigan (28-24), Stanford (37-14) and Tulsa (28-17).
Overall Result: 8-5
Spearheaded by a 28-3 win versus No. 15 Utah in the home finale with first-time starter and freshman Tommy Rees at quarterback, the Irish finished the season on a 4-0 uptick.
Home Record: 6-1.
The lone blemish was a 20-19 heartbreak in game 2 versus Georgia, which would lose the national title in overtime versus Alabama. Thereafter the current 24-game winning streak at home began, highlighted by a 49-14 conquest of No. 11 USC.
Overall Result: 10-3
The outcome resulting in a No. 11 finish was an appreciable rebound from the 4-8 meltdown the year prior, and the resurgence continued with a bid to the four-team College Football Playoff in 2018 and 2020.
Home Record: 7-0.
On Oct. 12, Notre Dame hung on against a late USC charge to post a 30-27 victory, the fourth straight at home versus the Trojans. But it was on Nov. 2 versus Virginia Tech where the Irish faced their greatest jeopardy of seeing their current home winning streak end.
Trailing 20-14 with 3:19 remaining in the contest, Notre Dame took possession at its 13-yard line. Quarterback Ian Book led the 87-yard drive in 18 plays, capped by his seven-yard scoring run with 29 seconds left.
On fourth-and-3 from his 20 he completed a five-yard pass to Jafar Armstrong, and on 4th-and-10 from the Virginia Tech 33 he rifled a 26-yard completion to Chase Claypool, before tallying two plays later.
Overall Result: 11-2
The win was the first of six straight to close out the season with a No. 12 ranking in the AP and came on the heels of the 45-14 debacle at Michigan.
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