Notre Dame's worst home losses since 1990

It had been a while since Notre Dame lost to an inferior opponent at Notre Dame Stadium before Marshall came to South Bend in the second week of the 2022 season and threw the Irish around en route to a 26-21 upset victory.

Based on the way Marshall played as the game went on they only gained more control so I hesitate to really call them an inferior opponent but you catch the drift.

Just a month later, Notre Dame fell to Stanford 16-14, a team that hadn’t beaten an FBS opponent in over a calendar year.

From 1988-1989 Notre Dame didn’t lose a single home game and made it all the way until 1990 when the top-ranked Irish fell as a significant favorite to a Stanford team that was unranked.  

What is the biggest loss in Notre Dame football history?  In 1944, the Cadets administered the worst defeat in Notre Dame football history, crushing the Fighting Irish 59–0.

That’s where our list of the worst home losses in recent Notre Dame memory begins.

1. 1990 vs. Stanford Ranked as the nation’s top team, Notre Dame dropped their October 6 contest against unranked Stanford 36-31.  Notre Dame wound up going 9-2 that regular season with this loss keeping them from having a shot at the national championship entering bowl season.  Stanford would finish just 5-6 that year.

2. 1991 vs. Tennessee Notre Dame was 8-1 and rolling as they led No. 13 Tennessee 31-7 in the first half of this one, but Craig Hentrich had a field goal attempt blocked and the Vols returned it for a touchdown just before halftime to set up the biggest collapse Notre Dame has ever had at their home stadium.

3. 1992 vs. Stanford Sixth-ranked Notre Dame had tied a top-10 Michigan game in September before No. 18 Stanford came to town in October.  The Cardinal, led by future NFL hall of famer John Lynch rolled the Irish however, 33-16.  Notre Dame would ultimately finish 10-1-1 and ranked fourth after routing Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

4. 1993 vs. Boston College Perhaps the biggest heartbreaker in Notre Dame history, the top-ranked Irish were fresh off a win over No. 1 Florida State in the “Game of the Century” a week earlier.  Tom Coughlin’s Boston College squad wanted to play spoiler though as they jumped out to 38-17 lead before Kevin McDougal rallied the Irish to a 39-38 lead with just over a minute to go.  It wasn’t meant to be for Notre Dame however as walk-on kicker David Gordon connected from 41 yards to give Boston College the stunning victory and ultimately end Notre Dame’s championship dreams.

5. 1994 vs. BYU The early-season loss against No. 7 Michigan was a heart-breaker but was against a very good Wolverines team.  The more troubling home loss that year came in mid-October when 25th ranked BYU handled the 18th ranked Irish in a 21-14 final.  It wasn’t a banner season by any means but this was the low point at home.

6. 1995 vs. Northwestern No. 8 Notre Dame’s national championship dreams were over before they could even get going in 1995 as the Irish were stunned by Northwestern, 17-15.  Notre Dame entered the game as nearly a four-touchdown favorite in the game that was Northwestern’s first step in a season that culminated with them making what remains their second and most recent Rose Bowl appearance.

7. 1996 vs. Air Force Fresh off a 51-24 victory over No. 16 Washington, Notre Dame was back in the top-10 as they were ranked eighth when Air Force came to town on October 19.  Notre Dame managed just  67 woeful yards on the ground in what wound up being a 20-17 overtime upset by the Falcons.

8. 1997 vs. Michigan State Notre Dame was unranked after falling at Purdue the week before and sitting at 1-1 when No. 18 Michigan State came to town.  This one isn’t on the list because Notre Dame was upset as much as it is a part because of what it set the foundation for.  This was the first loss Bob Davie would suffer against Michigan State.  He’d end up 0-5 against the Spartans in his career at Notre Dame.

9. 1999 vs. Michigan State After going unbeaten at home in 1998, Notre Dame routed Kansas in their opener before dropping road contests to Michigan and Purdue.  In what was no accident under Davie, the Irish fell to 1-3 with a 23-13 loss to Michigan State as the Irish offense was non-existent.  Notre Dame would run off four-straight wins after this but drop their final four games to finish 1999 at just 5-7.

10. 2000 vs. Nebraska If you know, you know.  Usually losing to No. 1 wouldn’t be considered a bad loss, especially when it went to overtime but the decision made to get there is somehow worse 22 years later.  Notre Dame had the fortune of two special teams touchdowns in this one and found themselves tied with the top-ranked Cornhuskers at 21 late in the fourth.  Notre Dame had two timeouts, nearly a minute to play, and the ball at their own 30-yard line but Davie decided to play for overtime.

11. 2001 vs. Michigan State Just to make it a perfect 5-5, Bob Davie’s final game against Michigan State checks in on the list as Notre Dame’s offense was again nowhere to be found in the Spartans 17-13 victory in South Bend in the first game played by both programs after the September 11 attacks.

12. 2002 vs. Boston College Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before.  Notre Dame was fresh off a victory over Florida State the week before and appeared to be rolling as they were unbeaten as Boston College came to town.  In hideous green jerseys, Notre Dame laid a golden egg as Tyrone Willingham’s magical first year came crashing down with a 14-7 loss to the Eagles.  Willingham never had it the same following that afternoon in South Bend.

13. 2003 vs. Michigan State It wouldn’t be an odd-year without Notre Dame losing at home to Michigan State.  This was the only time Tyrone Willingham would face his alma mater at Notre Dame Stadium but such is the theme, the Irish offense mustered just one touchdown in the 22-16 defeat in falling to 1-2.

14. 2004 vs. Boston College Notre Dame was 5-2 and seemed headed in the right direction as they led Boston College 20-7 at halftime but managed just a field goal the rest of the way as Tony Gonzalez hauled in a 30-yard touchdown reception with just under a minute to play as the Eagles won yet again in South Bend.

15. 2005 vs. Michigan State Fresh off a win at No. 3 Michigan and excited to start the home slate with a 2-0 mark in the Charlie Weis era, Drew Stanton went off against Notre Dame as Michigan State stormed out to a 38-17 lead before the 10th ranked Irish stormed back to force overtime.  They couldn’t get a stop in overtime though as they dropped the contest 44-41.

16. 2006 vs. Michigan This one wasn’t so much the what as it was the how.  Notre Dame was fresh off a dominating win over Penn State the week before and favored against Michigan in their third game of 2006.  It was all Wolverines all day however as they beat Notre Dame in every way, shape, and form with a 47-21 victory. This was the day the wheels began to come off for Charlie Weis, even if this team would end up earning a Sugar Bowl berth.

17. 2007 vs. Navy The entire 2007 season was awful but it didn’t get lower than losing to Navy at home for the first time since the 50’s.  Notre Dame had a chance to kick a field goal late in regulation but Charlie Weis chose to go for a 4th-and-long as overtime was ultimately forced and the Fighting Irish streak over the Midshipmen was officially over.

18. 2008 vs. Pitt In another case of not losing to a bad opponent as much as how you lost to a good one, Notre Dame was cruising right along as they led No. 17 Pitt 17-3 at halftime of the 2008 meeting.  The Irish were held to just seven second half points however as a Golden Tate touchdown over half way through the fourth quarter gave Notre Dame a 24-17 lead, but Jonathan Baldwin scored with 2:22 left to force a four-overtime affair ultimately won by Pitt, 36-33.  The longest game in the history of Notre Dame Stadium was actually interrupted at one point because the field sprinklers went off.

19. 2008 vs. Syracuse How bad was this loss?  Considering Syracuse had already announced they were firing Greg Robinson at season’s end the week leading up to this game, one might say pretty bad.  Syracuse walked into Notre Dame Stadium and stunned the Irish, 24-23.

20. 2009 vs. Navy 6-2 Notre Dame was ranked in the top 20 when Navy came to South Bend to open the final month of the regular season, a month that prove disastrous for Weis and the Irish.  Navy controlled the game in the 23-21 victory that actually didn’t feel as close as the final score indicated.

21. 2009 vs. UConn In saving perhaps his best (worst) for his final home game as Notre Dame head coach, Charlie Weis and Notre Dame suffered one of the most embarrassing losses in the history of the program when UConn walked into Notre Dame Stadium and handed the Irish a 33-30 overtime loss to close the 2009 home slate.  Weis was let go just over a week later after losing his final four games as Notre Dame head coach and finishing 2009 just 6-6.

22. 2010 vs. Tulsa A week after getting routed by Navy in East Rutherford, Notre Dame was expected to bounce back against Tulsa at Notre Dame Stadium.  Instead, the Irish fell to 4-5 on the year as John Flanders intercepted a Tommy Rees pass in the end zone with under 30 seconds to play in the 28-27 final.

23. 2011 vs. South Florida Murphy’s law says that anything that can go wrong will go wrong and that’s exactly what happened to Notre Dame as the Skip Holtz led South Florida squad forced five Irish turnovers in the 23-20 final.  This was the day that Brian Kelly’s purple face gained its greatest fame under the golden dome.

24. 2014 vs. Northwestern A Cam McDaniel fumble with 88 seconds left allowed Northwestern to march into field goal range and connect via Jack Mitchell, who made four field goals on the day, the final coming in overtime as Northwestern stunned the Irish, 43-40.  Notre Dame was hyped as a potential College Football Playoff team just a couple weeks earlier after dropping a close contest at unbeaten Florida State and instead were handed a defeat by a Northwestern squad that went just 3-5 in Big Ten play and 5-7 overall.

25. 2016 vs. Duke The 2016 season was already off to a rough start after a season-opening overtime loss at Texas and a loss to Michigan State under the lights but the bottom completely fell out when Duke rolled into Notre Dame Stadium and scored 38 points in the upset of the Irish.

26. 2022 vs. Marshall No. 8 Notre Dame was a 20.5 point favorite in their 2022 home opener when Marshall made their first trip to South Bend.  All the Thundering Herd did was push around the Irish on both sides of the ball for 60 minutes and walk out with one of the biggest wins in program history while new Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman fell to 0-3 all-time in the 26-21 loss.

27. 2022 vs. Stanford After starting 0-2 and suffering an embarrassing home loss to Marshall in the season’s second week, Notre Dame had rebounded and won three-straight when they welcomed 1-4 Stanford to town on October 15.  Notre Dame looked disinterested from the start, were the ones reeling from the go and couldn’t get out of their own way as the Cardinal won their first game over an FBS opponent in 378 days.


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