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History books will add fifth chapter in ND-OSU drama

Mike Gilloon | Sunday, December 11, 2005

It’s just about a five-hour drive between South Bend, Ind. and Columbus, Ohio and the campuses housing two of the most celebrated programs in college football history.

But only four times have Notre Dame and Ohio State met on the football field. And future schedules indicate the Irish and Buckeyes will not be meeting any time soon after their Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl matchup in Tempe, Ariz.

“How are we going to fit it in?” Irish coach Charlie Weis said Saturday when asked about the possibility of playing Ohio State in the future. “You don’t even know somebody who’s on your schedule seven years, eight years from now whether or not they’re going to be good or not good, or whether you’re going to be good or not good. That’s why, instead of worrying about scheduling, I leave that to the powers that be, and I worry about playing.”

But the fact that the two teams will likely meet only in bowl games in the near future seems to make the game more highly anticipated by players on both sides.

It’s a dream scenario for Irish quarterback Brady Quinn who grew up “about a 10-minute drive” from the Ohio State campus and whose older sister Laura dates Buckeyes middle linebacker A.J. Hawk.

Ohio State center Nick Mangold also feels privileged to play in just the fifth matchup between the two schools since their first game over 70 seasons ago.

“Notre Dame is a great program and playing in this game will be something special,” Mangold said. “It will be another memory added to the list of the great things that have happened this season.”

Looking back on the season, Mangold and his teammates could be preparing to play the Irish not in the Fiesta Bowl, but in the Rose Bowl for the national championship. Both schools enter the contest at 9-2 and each came within seconds of toppling the two national title contenders, Southern California and Texas.

The Buckeyes fell at home to the Longhorns 25-22 on Sept. 10 and Notre Dame lost by a similarly slim margin, 34-31 against the Trojans in Notre Dame Stadium on Oct. 15.

“If a few things turned out different[ly] this could be the national championship game,” Buckeyes free safety Nate Salley said.

A national championship-caliber game has not been unusual when the two programs have met.

The 1935 game was hyped as “The Game of the Century” by the press and saw Notre Dame rally from a 13-0 fourth quarter deficit to win 18-13 before more than 80,000 fans in Ohio Stadium.

The next season the schools met again, with Elmer Layden of Four Horsemen fame coaching the Irish to a 7-2 win.

The squads did not meet again until 1995, when the No. 7 Buckeyes stomped the No. 15 Irish 45-26 in Ohio Stadium.

Ohio State running back Eddie George, who would go on to win that season’s Heisman Trophy, ran over the Notre Dame defense for 207 yards and two touchdowns.

The most recent meeting was a matchup of No. 5 Notre Dame against No. 4 Ohio State in 1996, with the Buckcyes winning 29-16.

The loss came in Lou Holtz’ final season as coach at Notre Dame, with the former Ohio State assistant coach finishing his career 0-2 against the Buckeyes.

The teams’ fifth contest could be the last between the two in a while, leaving Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, a 1977 Notre Dame graduate, eager for the game.

“[The Irish] are a team like The Ohio State University, with history, tradition and success,” Smith said. “Let’s rock and roll and get it done.”