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NCAA Classic Rewind: Irish Defeat Michigan in First Ever Night Game in South Bend

Posted on September 05, 2011 by A.J. Foss

Notre Dame played under the lights in South Bend for the first time against Michigan in 1982.

The Michigan Wolverines make history this Saturday night when they play the first ever night game at Michigan Stadium against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

But this is not the first time that Michigan and Notre Dame have played a historic night game.

On September 18, 1982, the Fighting Irish hosted the Wolverines in the first night game ever played in Notre Dame Stadium.

It was the season opener for the Irish who were coming off their first losing season in 18 years, a 5-6 affair in the first season under head coach Gerry Faust who had spent 19 seasons as the head coach of Moeller High School in Cincinnati.

As for the Wolverines, they entered their showdown with Notre Dame ranked #10 in the nation following a 20-9 win over Wisconsin in their season opener.

Michigan was led by two-time all-American wide receiver Anthony Carter, who rewrote the record books during his time at Michigan and was a candidate for the Heisman Trophy in 1982.

The Wolverines got the ball to start the game but turned it over on the third play of the game when quarterback Steve Smith was sacked by defensive lineman Bob Clasby, who stripped Smith of the ball leading to a Notre Dame recovery at the Michigan 22-yard-line.

The Irish converted the turnover into three points with a 35-yard field goal by Mike Johnston to give Notre Dame an early 3-0 lead.

Later in the first quarter, Smith fumbled the ball again when he collided with tailback Lawrence Ricks and the Irish converted the fumble into more points when Larry Moriarty scored on a 24-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to increase the Notre Dame lead to 10-0.

Then just before the end of the half, Johnston kicked a 37-yard field goal with two seconds to go to give Notre Dame a 13-0 lead at halftime.

Anthony Carter returned a punt for a touchdown, but was injuried on the play and would miss the rest of the game.

It could have been worse for Michigan as they were unable to convert a single third-down conversion in the first half and the Irish fumbled the ball at the one-yard-line while going in for a touchdown.

The Irish got the ball first in the second half but were forced to punt it back to Michigan, with Carter lined up as the returner for the Wolverines.

Carter dropped back to his 28-yard-line to catch the punt, then took off and broke three Notre Dame tacklers to return the punt for a 72-yard touchdown to cut the Irish’ lead to 13-7, just 1:50 into the second half.

But the Wolverines paid the price as Carter pulled a groin muscle during the return and would not spend the rest of the game on the sidelines.

After Carter’s punt return for a touchdown, the Irish reassumed the momentum by scoring 10 unanswered points; a 41-yard field goal by Johnston and a seven-yard touchdown run by Greg Bell to give Notre Dame a 23-7 lead as the game entered the fourth quarter.

Two minutes into the final period, Michigan trimmed the lead to 23-10 when Ali Haji-Sheikh made a 42-yard field goal.

Then on their next drive, the Wolverines cut the lead to 23-17 on a miraculous touchdown when Smith throw a pass to Gilvanni Johnson, that was tipped by Notre Dame safety Dave Duerson and the ball ending up on the back of fellow safety Mike Toran.

Michigan tailback Rick Rogers plucked the ball off Toran’s back and ran it in for a 39-yard touchdown to bring the Wolverines to within six points with 7:38 to go.

After forcing the Irish to punt, Michigan got the ball back at their own 20-yard-line with 4:12 to play and a chance to win the game.

Smith lead the Wolverines to the Notre Dame 35-yard-line but the drive for the winning touchdown came to an end when Duerson intercepted a pass intended for Vaughn Bean at the Irish 30-yard-line with 2:14 left in the game.

Dave Duerson's late interception preserved the 23-17 victory for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame ran out the final two minutes of the game to come away with a 23-17 victory in the first night game played in South Bend.

The win helped Notre Dame get off to a 4-0 start, but the Irish went 2-4-1 in their last seven games to finish with a 6-4-1 record and would not appear in a bowl game for the second straight season.

The Irish would only go 19-16 over the next three seasons and Faust would be fired after the 1985 season, finishing with a 30-26-1 record during his five seasons in South Bend.

The Wolverines would win the Big Ten title to advance to the Rose Bowl but would lose to UCLA 24-14 to finish with an 8-4 record and Carter finishing fourth in the race for the Heisman Trophy.

Ever since this historic night game, the Irish have only played six games under the lights in South Bend, the last one in 1990, a 28-24 comeback victory against Michigan.

But Notre Dame and Michigan will once again make history this Saturday when they play under the lights at Ann Arbor.

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