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Thursday, September 8, 2011
Updated: September 9, 2:17 PM ET
Michigan-ND rivalry's best games

By Chantel Jennings
WolverineNation

The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry is one of the biggest and oldest in college football. Michigan played Notre Dame in the Irish's first football game in 1887, and, with some breaks in the middle, the teams have been rivals since.

"This is important," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "This has always been a game where you get, for both teams, I remember Coach [Bo] Schembechler talking about this, it's a game where you get a gauge of where you are at as a team.

"It's always been in the national spotlight and gives you expectations of how your guys are going to play."

Now, WolverineNation looks at the top five Michigan-Notre Dame games of the modern era leading up to Saturday's matchup at 8 p.m. at Michigan Stadium.

Date: Sept. 13, 1986

Result: No. 3 Michigan 24, Notre Dame 23

Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh passed for 239 yards and a touchdown as the Wolverines beat the Irish in South Bend in 1986.
What happened: During the preseason camp of the 1986 season, Michigan coach Bo Schembechler walked through the Wolverines' warm-up lines and screamed to his players, "When is Michigan going to show up?" He was sure the Wolverines were buying into the hype of their '85 season in which they'd finished 10-1-1 and second in the AP polls. But he knew the Wolverines would have to "show up" before they faced Notre Dame in their season opener in South Bend, Ind.

Through the first half, it looked as though Michigan still hadn't shown up. The Fighting Irish had taken a 14-7 lead before the Wolverines went on a 17-point run to take a 24-14 advantage midway through the third quarter. The run had been capped off by a pair of touchdowns scored within six seconds of each other.

But on the ensuing possession, the Irish tore down the field and scored after a 66-yard drive. The touchdown pulled Notre Dame within four points, but the missed extra point kept the Wolverines ahead, 24-20.

A slim lead in the fourth quarter was anything but comfortable for the Wolverines.

"It was a typical Notre Dame/Michigan game -- you had two great coaches going after one another," Michigan tailback Jamie Morris said. "And honestly, when you look at a game like that, it's the team that's down with a chip on its shoulder that'll pull it out and win."

And it looked as though the team that was down was going to win after Notre Dame quarterback Steve Beuerlein got the football to Joel Williams in the back of the end zone. The score would've given the Irish a three-point cushion, but the pass was ruled incomplete as it was decided that Williams' foot had touched the end line and not the end zone.

Notre Dame had no choice but to go for the field goal.

With 13 seconds remaining, Irish kicker John Carney attempted another field goal, this time for the win. His kick was off, and Michigan pulled out the 24-23 win in South Bend.

It was what was to be expected of the rivalry game. In Schembechler's tenure, the coach went 4-6 against the Irish, but coming into the 1986 game, Schembechler was 3-3, including a particularly difficult loss during the 1980 season when Notre Dame kicker Harry Oliver nailed a 51-yard field goal to put away Michigan.

"You think I feel sorry for these guys? After what happened in 1980? Come on." Schembechler said after the game.

A one-point game between the teams seemed fairly normal, however it was the statistics that made it seem unfathomable that it could be such a close game. It was hard for anyone to imagine that the losing team had 455 yards of offense and never punted.

Beuerlein had completed 21 of 33 passes but still the Irish "kind of self-destructed," as Notre Dame's Robert Banks would describe it. He was explaining the Irish's interception in the end zone, the dropped touchdown pass, the two fumbles and the missed extra point that spelled doom for the team.

And while Michigan didn't look spectacular -- the Wolverines had to punt the ball four times and averaged only 2.4 yards per rush -- it was eventual All-American Jim Harbaugh who led his team down to South Bend to bring back Schembechler's fourth victory in the series.

The senior threw for 239 yards and a touchdown to Morris, who scored all three of Michigan's touchdowns "by Touchdown Jesus," as he remembered.

"You're playing in one of the greatest rivalry games there is," Morris said. "You know it's nationally televised because of the two schools. And Bo always taught us the history of the rivalry."

But this game would go down as one that Bo would be able to tell his future teams about: the time his hard-nosed Wolverines scraped out the win. And it had nothing to do with luck; Michigan had shown up.

Significance to season: The victory worked as a catalyst in the Wolverines' 1986 season in which they tied for the Big Ten championship and made the Rose Bowl. Michigan lost to Arizona State, 22-15.

Historical significance: This marquee matchup marked Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz's debut as the head coach of the Fighting Irish, the fifth stop on his six-school tour from 1969-2004. The loss was just a small blip on the coach's eventual 100-32-2 record at Notre Dame.

They Said It: In reference to his third touchdown: "If they had instant replay, I don't think I would've gotten it," Morris said. "I don't think they would've given it to me. The good thing is, I'm old enough to say, they didn't have that and I got a score. I was convincing to the referee. I remember I caught the ball, I hit the ground, I rolled, the ball flopped out. So I jumped up in the referee's face and gave the touchdown signal. He then proceeded to throw his arms up in the air, so we were just throwing our arms up in the air."

Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at jenningsespn@gmail.com.