Feb 24, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT
Being a late 1980’s baby, I wasn’t alive the last time Notre Dame won a unanimous national championship in football. I wasn’t around for the NCAA Final Four run in the late 70’s. I didn’t get to see “Rocket” streak down the sideline, or Austin Carr drop 50. So what did I see?
Growing up in the Notre Dame area, I have had the great opportunity to eat, sleep and dream about the Irish since I was born. My memories are strong, yet some are sad. Not every memory we have of our favorite sports team involves coming out on top, and that holds true with me.
Over the past few weeks I have been asked about my favorite memories of my time at Notre Dame, but that’s not what I am going to talk about today. Today, I want to tell you my top-five Notre Dame moments I remember. To be eligible for this list, I had to be sitting in the stands for the moment. Enjoy…
1. Ingelsby’s Leaner
Feb. 21, 2001 • Men’s Basketball
Current assistant men’s basketball coach Martin Ingelsby hits the shot of his life as the 18th-ranked Notre Dame men’s basketball team upsets the ninth-ranked Boston College Eagles, 76-75, on the Joyce Center floor. With just 3.7 seconds left, guard Martin Ingelsby hit the game-winning shot on leaner by the left elbow.
I remember as the shot went up, my buddy (who I also went to moments 2,4 & 5 with) and I had the angle to see that Ingelsby’s shot was on line, but we had no idea if it had the right touch to down the Eagles.
Ryan Sidney, one of Boston College’s top defenders went on to say after Ingelsby’s make, “I’ve always said that no one scores on me, and I still feel that way. Ingelsby got a lucky shot off and put the ball in the basket. I played it the best way I could have.”
2. On The Field After 9/11
Sept. 22, 2001 • Football
On September 15, 2001, the Irish were scheduled to play Purdue (this weekend’s opponent) at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. The game would be postponed and rescheduled to the end of the season, making the next time the Irish football team would take the field would be on September 22nd at Notre Dame Stadium against the Michigan State Spartans.
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to go to the game with my best friend (who ended up graduating from Notre Dame). While on campus that day, the atmosphere was different. The songs of Notre Dame still rung throughout the tailgating lots, but the mood was different, people were on edge.
Walking into the stadium was different with all the security changes, but it really didn’t hit you until you were going in your respective tunnel to your seats and they were handing you a newspaper printout of the U.S.A. flag that this was not just another game.
On that day, they asked that everyone hold up the flag during the “Star Spangled Banner” in a show of unity for those lost on that fateful day.
The 23rd-ranked Irish would lose to the Spartans 17-10 after a 47-yard touchdown pass from Michigan State’s Ryan Van Dyke to all-american wide receiver Charles Rogers in the fourth quarter.
I didn’t actually remember who won or lost that game, but the experience of being there and singing as loud as possible during the Star Spangled Banner will forever be with me.
(I wrote about this game more in-depth a few months ago, click here to read more)
3. The Dedication Game
Nov. 18, 2011 • Hockey
The Irish hockey team had moved out of the JACC and to it’s new “digs” across the parking lot at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Having already played a few games in their new barn, the Dedication Game of the Compton Family Ice Arena wasn’t the first time Notre Dame had played a game on the new ice, but it was against arch rival Boston College. I must mention that the game was full of surprises, from Chicago Blackhawks Anthem singer, Jim Cornelison, singing the national anthem to the video board shout-outs from San Jose Sharks players.
Let’s just say that the game far surpassed all expectations as the fourth-ranked Irish played the third-ranked Eagles.
4. Near No-No vs. Second-Ranked Hurricanes
May 12, 1999 • Baseball
One of my best memories as a kid was watching this game as it unfolded in the Eck Stadium bleachers. The moment I remember the best from this game was when left fielder Matt Nussbaum made a diving catch to preserve the no-hitter with one out in the ninth inning.
“Miami’s Mike Rodriguez broke up Notre Dame’s bid for a no-hitter with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning but the No. 2-ranked Hurricanes failed to avert their first scoreless game since 1995, as the No. 24 Irish held on for a 1-0 victory in exciting non-conference baseball action Wednesday night at Eck Stadium.
Sophomore right-hander and All-American Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) closed the final five innings to improve to 10-2 for the season and 17-5 in his career. Heilman’s 72-pitch outing included seven strikeouts, four groundouts and three walks, plus the 1-2 single by Rodriguez in the ninth.
Miami (36-12) saw its scoring streak snapped at 248 games (sixth-longest in NCAA history), with the previous shutout versus the Hurricanes coming in a 4-0 loss to Texas A&M on May 29, 1995. Miami averted its first no-hit effort in 2,078 games, stretching back to a 4-1, seven-inning loss to Florida Southern on April 18, 1964 (the last nine-inning, no-hitter versus Miami came in an 18-0 loss to Florida State on April 18, 1958).
The visitors were one hit away from another dramatic late-inning rally, but Heilman struck out fellow Team USA invitee Manny Crespo to end the game.
Brian Seever struck out looking on three pitches to open the ninth before Bobby Hill sent a 1-2 pitch down the leftfield line, with junior leftfielder Matt Nussbaum making a sliding catch to his right for the second out.
Rodriguez fell behind on a 1-2 count but then drilled a fastball into shallow left field, ending the no-hitter. Rodriguez swiped second base while Heilman went to his tough slider for a 2-2 count on the righthanded-hitting Crespo, who then swung and missed at a low-and-outside slider to end the night’s excitement.”
5. Downing The Huskies
Jan. 15, 2001 • Women’s Basketball
Nowadays it seems as if Purcell Pavilion has 8,000 fans or more for every women’s basketball game at Notre Dame. It didn’t use to be like that. Before the renovation, Purcell Pavilion (previously the JACC) held a capacity of 11,418 (currently it is 9,149). On January 15, 2001, the women’s basketball team welcomed the top-ranked and undefeated Connecticut Huskies to the JACC for a BIG EAST showdown.
The Huskies had Notre Dame’s number up until January 15, 2001. This was one of the first women’s basketball games I ever attended and my parents dropped my best friend and I off at the JACC right when the doors opened. Instead of heading to Heritage Hall to play the blow-up version of pop-a-shot (old patrons of the JACC will understand this), my buddy and I headed down to get seats as all the tickets were general admission back them except courtside seats.
So, there we were, watching the Fighting Irish defeat the top-ranked Huskies for the first time in school history en route to the program’s first NCAA Championship.
We watched it all from our first row seats behind the basket.
(I have a confession … as the game was winding down and Ruth Riley was about to shoot free throws, my buddy yelled out “OVERRATED” and everyone looked at us, even UConn players on the free throw line. We were young and didn’t understand that calling the team you were beating, “overrated,” made your win mean less. You live and you learn.)
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