ND, OSU set for rematch 10 years after last meeting
Greg Hadley | Monday, December 7, 2015
Nine years and 364 days later, Notre Dame will be back, and it all seems oddly familiar.
In 2005, Charlie Weis was in his first year with the Irish and had guided his squad to a 9-2 regular season record, marred only by last-second losses to Michigan State and USC. Notre Dame was, as current head coach Brian Kelly would put it, only six points away from a perfect season.
Then, Jan. 2, 2006, at Sun Devil Stadium, with a 13-year-old Joe Schmidt in the stands, Ohio State topped the Irish, 34-20, to claim the Fiesta Bowl title.
Almost a decade later, the Buckeyes and the Irish will meet again in Glendale, Arizona, on Jan. 1, 2016 for the Fiesta Bowl. It will be only the sixth meeting all-time between two of the most successful programs in college football history.
Between the two squads only one coach remains from the last time they met in that 2006 game: Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickle, who was co-defensive coordinator at the time. But all the same, a healthy sense of rivalry still exists.
Off the field
While Ohio State and Notre Dame have not clashed on the gridiron anytime recently, Kelly said Sunday the programs have confronted each other on the recruiting trail, as Notre Dame has tried to establish itself in Ohio, with varying levels of success.
“Well, we think, and I know from experience that in the Midwest there are some great recruiting areas,” Kelly said. “Ohio is one of those great areas that we like to have a presence in, and we target certain areas. We’re not quite as good in Columbus recruiting. But there are some geographical areas that we’ve had some success in.”
Since Kelly took over in 2010, the Irish have landed 18 recruits from Ohio, but only three have come from the Columbus area, where Ohio State dominates.
“You always have to deal with Ohio State, and so it’s inevitable that we’re going to run into Ohio State in those areas,” Kelly said. “But we think that we have some distinctions that carry some strength in those areas.”
Besides recruiting, there is personal history between Kelly and fourth-year Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. While Kelly coached at Cincinnati, Meyer’s alma mater, he became close with the Meyer family.
“He certainly was accustomed to what the program was like at Cincinnati having been there, and I leaned on him for some advice at the University of Cincinnati and got to know his dad and got to know his family a little bit, so there was a personal connection there,” Kelly said.
“But we’re just two football coaches that are trying to coach our football teams, so we don’t spend a lot of time talking back and forth. But got that opportunity when I was at Cincinnati to get to know him, and then obviously from there just have a lot of respect for him and what he’s accomplished.”
While Kelly was at Meyer’s old school, Meyer won the national championship with Florida in 2008. A year later, both men were linked to the head coaching vacancy at Notre Dame following the firing of Charlie Weis. It was not the first time Meyer’s name had been mentioned in the search for a new Irish coach. After Ty Willingham and Notre Dame parted ways following the 2004 season, Meyer was considered a prime candidate for the job.
Both times, nothing came of the rumors. But that doesn’t mean some fans don’t think Meyer might still land at Notre Dame, something he once called his “dream job,” a sentiment Kelly addressed Sunday.
“We’re going to wrestle, arm wrestle before the game, and whoever wins gets the Notre Dame job,” Kelly said.
“No, I mean, I think that’s just great talk for the fans, and Urban is a great coach. Who knows; I’m not going to be here forever. Maybe he’ll get a chance one day to coach at Notre Dame if that’s what he wants.”
Although Meyer never coached the Irish, several members of his staff have ties to Notre Dame and Kelly. Buckeyes offensive coordinator Ed Warinner, running backs coach Tony Alford and tight ends/fullbacks coach Tim Hinton all worked with Kelly at Notre Dame, while cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs assisted Kelly while he was at Cincinnati.
“We’ll probably have to consider it and look at maybe what we communicate on the line of scrimmage and be cognizant of it,” Kelly said of the possible disadvantage of having so many former staff members on the opposing sideline. “You know, I think it’s something that we’ll consider certainly on the offensive side of the ball with former coaches that are there. So I definitely think it’s something we’ll look at.”