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Reidy: The Final Week: MLB Playoffs, Awards Updates

One week sure can change a lot. Just seven days ago, four of the six divisions were still up for grabs. Now, only one is still being contested in addition to the two final Wild Card pushes. While the final week’s dramatic element is diminished, there is still plenty of action left on the table. With October less than 48 hours away, here’s how the landscape of baseball is coming together.

American League

 The New York Yankees finally prevailed in the competitive American League East, clinching the division with Tuesday’s 5-2 win in Toronto. They are set to occupy the second seed in the AL, falling behind Houston but avoiding the Wild Card round. Meanwhile, in the AL Central, the entire baseball world waited all summer for the White Sox or Twins to leave Cleveland in the dust; it never happened. The Guardians dropped 10 runs on Texas to win the division Sunday, and they’ll likely host a three-game series against the third Wild Card team.

Toronto, Tampa Bay and Seattle — in that order — are still fighting for the three AL Wild Card positions. With a handful games separating the three teams, the tiebreaker scenarios must be noted. The Rays own the head-to-head tiebreakers with both teams, while the Mariners have taken five out of seven from the Blue Jays to gain that tiebreaker. The Orioles are still the only other team with a mathematical chance, though their odds have been stiffened based on recent performances. Seattle lost two series in Oakland and Kansas City, but Baltimore failed to take advantage and gain ground, dropping several winnable games to Detroit and Houston. Should the O’s make a late surge, Seattle and Tampa Bay each hold the tiebreaker over them, while they have an 8-8 record against Toronto with a 3-game set still to be played.

National League

St. Louis is officially back on top of the NL Central for the first time since 2019 after Milwaukee took the division last year. Fittingly enough, the Cardinals clinched the pennant in Brewers territory on Tuesday night. As the third division winner, they’ll host a three-game Wild Card series against either San Diego, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee. The Braves are already playoff-bound in the first Wild Card spot, so contention only exists for the remaining two positions. This three-team race is identically tight to the aforementioned AL version, so tiebreakers must be invoked once again. The Phillies have the edge on both competitors, while the Padres hold a leg up on the chasing Brewers.

A storybook ending is clearly on tap for the NL East. Entering Wednesday night, the Mets and Braves were tied atop the division, each with 97 wins and each already bound for the big dance. There will be no “Game 163’s” to break divisional stalemates this year, so the most storied pennant race of the year may come down to the 19 head-to-head games. This weekend, Truist Park will host the final three games of the Mets-Braves season series, which New York currently leads 9-7. Atlanta has the pitching advantage on Friday with Max Fried. However, with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer — two of the best starters in the game — closing out the weekend for New York, the Mets will almost certainly pick up one game to clinch the tiebreaker. To end the regular season, the Mets host Washington and the Braves visit Miami. Given the circumstances, New York appears to have the inside track, but anything goes in the final week.

MLB Awards

Expect to see two first-time MVP winners announced in November. Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has become the first American League player to hit 60 home runs since Roger Maris in 1961. As Judge closes in on Maris’ AL record of 61 round-trippers and continues to dominate national attention, he will take home the prestigious AL Most Valuable Player award. On the other side, Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has distanced himself from the pack with a .318 batting average, 35 home runs and 114 RBI as of Wednesday. The 35 year-old also captured headlines with a 25-game hitting streak earlier in the summer, so the NL MVP award should be all his.

The Cy Young award leaders may be even more secure than the MVP frontrunners. In the AL, Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander is barreling toward his third Cy Young, a remarkable feat at the ripe age of 39. Verlander leads all qualified starting pitchers with a 1.82 ERA, pacing a dominant Houston rotation in 2022. The NL Cy Young race requires a bit of explanation. On the surface, Julio Urias appears to have the best case with an NL-best 2.24 ERA for the playoff-bound Dodgers, yet Sandy Alcantara of the middling Marlins leads the pack with a 2.32 ERA. Why? Urias has pitched seven or more innings four times this year; Alacantara has done that on 21 occasions. Additionally, Miami’s ace leads the league with five complete games, an extremely difficult mark to reach in the modern game.

This year’s crop of major league rookies has electrified the sport, and the accompanying Rookie of the Year races have been equally captivating. Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez, despite spending the time on the injured list this month, is primed to take home the AL award. Rodriguez was the first rookie to reach 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases this year, and he carries an impressive OPS just shy of .850. He also has the advantage of national attention, helping lead a contender in Seattle and producing a runner-up finish in this year’s Home Run Derby. The NL ROTY battle is the closest major award race out there, and it’s between two Atlanta teammates. Outfielder Michael Harris has the slight edge with 19 homers and 64 RBI in just 108 games as of Wednesday. Starting pitcher Spencer Strider is currently dealing with an oblique injury and won’t be available for a signature performance against the Mets, so Harris’ lead should only expand.

Contact Tyler Reidy at treidy3@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this sports authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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‘Disciplined’ Saints scrap out 1-0 win over St. Francis

The Holy Cross men’s soccer team completed a road trip sweep Wednesday night, defeating St. Francis 1-0, days after a 2-1 triumph at Governors State. The Saints are now 2-1-0 in conference action and 4-2-1 overall since a season-opening blowout loss to Bethel. With the victory, Holy Cross now carries seven points to place 4th in the CCAC standings. The Saints started 0-3-2 within the conference last year, so head coach Omar Gallo is pleased with the early success in 2022.

“It’s always important to start strong, and anytime you get wins on the road, it allows you to have more confidence for your home matches,” Gallo said. “Anytime you can get the results on the road — especially a W — it takes a lot of weight off your shoulders as you continue to move forward.”

The match began unfavorably for Holy Cross, as the Saints were pitted against a strong wind in the first half. St. Francis outshot Holy Cross 11-6, but sophomore goalkeeper Claudio Fuentealba recorded four saves to take a scoreless tie into halftime.

As the second half began, Gallo directed several key changes that opened up the offense. Senior midfielder Marcos Hernandez and sophomore midfielder Archimed Sabu were moved toward the middle of the field. The Saints also focused on feeding the attack through the center and attacking midfielders along with the striker. When it all came together, Holy Cross turned the tables and outshot St. Francis 12-9 in the second frame.

In the 67th minute, Holy Cross struck for the game’s only marker. Sophomore forward Kevin Vidana found the back of the net for his first collegiate goal. Though the official assist was attributed to freshman midfielder Tristan Alfaro, Gallo cited sophomore defender Martin Von Thun and his throw-in as the spark plug. 

“This year, we haven’t been able to capitalize off [Von Thun’s long throws]. Sure enough, the goal came off a long throw from Martin,” Gallo said. “What impressed us the most was Kevin’s discipline to be in the right position at the right time. The ball came out to where he wanted him to be, and he took an unbelievable strike.”

Both teams played with a high sense of urgency and intensity on a chilly evening in Joliet. By the time the Saints wrapped up their 1-0 victory, the stat sheet included 36 total fouls and 7 combined yellow cards. Four of the previous six Holy Cross-St. Francis matchups had ended in draws, so the Saints’ frontman expected and embraced the physical nature of the contest.

“I don’t think there’s any problem with having our guys play at a level that involves a bit more intensity than usual, as long as we’re disciplined and doing what we need to do to get the result in a professional way,” Gallo said. “That’s what you want from your players — to rise to the occasion. The physical component is one of the pillars of the game, and we’re able to compete at that level this year, so it’s not a problem for me.”

Just like the women’s team, the Holy Cross men will return to South Bend on Saturday for an Alumni Day battle with St. Xavier. The Cougars are scuffling early in CCAC play with just one goal scored in three conference games. They were also beaten 11-0 by Rio Grande back on August 25. The Saints will then wrap up September and the homestand with a non-conference date with Calvin College on Tuesday.

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Holy Cross women earn draw with St. Francis

The Holy Cross women’s soccer team wrapped up a two-game visit to the Chicago area by tying the University of St. Francis, 0-0.

Tuesday night’s result marked the Saints’ fifth draw of the year, but this one was especially crucial in the context of conference play. Holy Cross dropped its first two CCAC matches at home, but has now secured four points in two road games after a Saturday win at Governors State. 

St. Francis entered the contest on an offensive power surge, having netted eight goals in its previous two outings to obtain a record of 6-1. However, Holy Cross was up to the challenge, holding the Fighting Saints to less than two goals for just the second time this season and outshooting the opponent 25-16. For Saints head coach Omar Gallo, Tuesday’s defensive statement was all about adjustments.

“The game plan was to defend in a mid-block, but what I appreciate the most about this women’s team is their ability to improvise and adapt with the flow of the game,” Gallo said. “St Francis’ front six is unbelievable in the attack, and, with them putting three in the back, our girls identified that immediately. We had to change our style defensively and went into a high-pressing mode, eliminating their buildup from there.”

Though little squeaked through the Saints’ cohesive back end, whatever did was managed well by sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Primack. The Illinois native made six saves en route to her fourth shutout of the season and second consecutive clean sheet. As Holy Cross prepares to enter the heart of conference play, the netminder is on her game.

“The best way to describe [Primack] is consistent,” Gallo said. “The goalkeeping position is all about confidence, and right now she’s riding the wave of her confidence. When she was called upon in these last couple games, she stepped up and made some key saves.”

Further up the pitch, the Holy Cross offense pressured St. Francis with a season-high 25 shots attempted. In the Saints’ first two CCAC losses, they were outshot 54-27 by Cardinal Stritch and Judson. Since that troubling start, they have outdone Governors State and St. Francis by a margin of 44-33 in the shot department. Senior midfielder Lauren Cernak has spearheaded the turnaround, posting a team-best nine shots on Tuesday. She also scored and assisted twice in the week leading up to the St. Francis match. Coach Gallo set a six-shot goal for her on Tuesday, and Cernak exceeded expectations.

“The conference knows who [Cernak] is, so she’ll be manmarked at all times,” Gallo said. “It’s our job as a coaching staff to find ways to be creative and put her in situations where she’s had success in the past. She’s been able to buy into that over the last couple games, and setting a target for her really paid off.”

Holy Cross now carries an overall record of 2-2-5 and a conference mark of 1-2-1. The Saints currently sit in 9th place among the CCAC’s 14 teams, but the remaining nine conference matches yield ample opportunity to climb. With September nearing its close, the Holy Cross women are poised to emerge from the pack.

“What I enjoyed about my team is that they were frustrated after the game because they wanted to win,” Gallo said. “It shows me that I have a group who’s hungry right now.”

Looking ahead, the Saints return to South Bend to host CCAC foes in St. Xavier (Saturday) and Indiana University-South Bend (Wednesday). St. Xavier, much like St. Francis, carries a dynamic offense into the contest after a 5-2 victory over Governors State. The Cougars have been vulnerable on the back end, though, allowing multiple goals in three of their last four games. Meanwhile, IU-South Bend is off to a brutal start, allowing 50 goals and scoring none in an 0-7-0 opening.

“We have to build off the momentum of our defensive work that we’ve had the last two games,” Gallo said. “If we do well defensively, we should put ourselves in position to get a W. Though the results have been great on the road, there is a sense of urgency to get three points on Saturday.”

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Reidy: Breaking down the MLB playoff race

MLB Postseason Push: Two Weeks Out

Just over six months ago, commissioner Rob Manfred lifted the lockout and gave the green light for the 2022 MLB season. What a season it’s been. Between Aaron Judge’s record-breaking campaign, Shohei Ohtani’s unprecedented skills and a magical crop of rookie phenoms, this year has been truly captivating from all angles. However, as the dog days of summer give way to the chill and thrill of autumn, the spectacle of October baseball looms. 

This year’s installment of the playoff race features a mix of postseason regulars and intriguing newcomers. The format has been altered to include three wild card spots and a best-of-three between the wild cards and the third-best division winner. The next two weeks are loaded with make-or-break matchups and endless possibilities for the 12-team field. Here’s how it all looks today.

American League Divisions

The AL West is a done deal, as Houston has already locked up its fifth consecutive division title. Having won seven consecutive series, the reigning American League champions have surged past the Yankees to put a stranglehold on the top seed in the league. The Astros need just a few more wins to lock up the AL’s best record and gain the inside track to a sixth straight league ALCS appearance. 

Even after the Bronx Bombers raced out to a 61-23 start, the East is still very much up for grabs. The Yankees led the field by 15 games in early July, but the Blue Jays and Rays are now both within striking distance after a bumpy second half in New York. Beginning tonight, the Yanks will play ten straight games against division opponents, including three in Toronto early next week. The Jays have taken four of the last five head-to-head matchups, so there is plenty of room for fluidity down the stretch. Second-place Tampa Bay and third-place Toronto meet for four games this weekend, though, giving the leader a chance to pull away while the chasers stumble upon one another.

The most intriguing division battle lies in the Central, where Cleveland and its miniscule payroll of $58 million cling to first place. The Guardians have single-handedly brought Minnesota to the brink of elimination in September, taking seven of eight from the Twins over the last two weekends. Chicago, the presumed division champion prior to the season, is now the clear and present danger to first place. The White Sox are currently engaged in a three-game clash with the Guardians but dropped the opener on Wednesday night. Over the next two weeks, the cards are lined up in favor of the status quo. Chicago will embark on a tough final road trip in Minneapolis and San Diego, while Cleveland will close with six home games against Kansas City. The Royals have not once taken a road series from an opponent with a winning record in 2022.

American League Wild Card

Toronto, Seattle and Tampa Bay actively hold the three AL Wild Card positions, and that is not likely to change. The Mariners have the clearest of paths to the postseason with the four worst teams in the American League appearing in their final five series. Ability and timing alone can propel the Blue Jays to October, as Toronto is now undefeated in its last seven series. The Orioles and White Sox have a shot at the Rays, but the field of challengers may be cut down to one within a week. Baltimore is in a downward spiral, having started the month 5-10 behind an offense tallying just over three runs per game since August 24.

National League Divisions

The book is closed in the West, as the Dodgers have reclaimed the division after a narrow loss to the Giants in 2021. The final pages could take a dramatic turn in the Central, though. St. Louis leads Milwaukee by just under 10 games, but scheduling leaves a slim window open for the Brewers to storm back. The Brew Crew has only two games remaining against playoff contenders; both are with St. Louis. On the other hand, the Redbirds head to Dodger Stadium this weekend. Their pennant hopes will hinge on their ability to close out a Pirates ballclub that is 16-10 against NL Central opponents since June 15.

The NL East race has been and will continue to be the belle of the ball. The Mets have captured more headlines than any other squad since the All-Star Break, yet the reigning world champion Braves are neck-and-neck with them. Both teams are barreling toward 100-win seasons and have guaranteed themselves a seat at the postseason table. New York has controlled the division outright for all but three days this year, but the home stretch indicates that the final result is seemingly a coin flip. Atlanta is the slightly hotter team with four win streaks of four games or more since August 13, but the Mets have an easier closing slate with series against lowly Oakland, Miami and Washington. Fortunately, these two fireballs will collide in a season-defining set in the ATL next weekend.

National League Wild Card

Atlanta will undoubtedly walk away with the top wild card spot, so this contest will come down to San Diego, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee battling for the next two positions. The Giants have an outside chance with an upcoming string of winnable series, but they are nearly ten games back of the promised land at this point. The Padres play their final nine games at home, so expect them to remain consistent upon approach to October. A setback may be imminent for the Phillies, however, as they host the Braves this weekend after Atlanta swept them a week ago.

This views in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Tyler Reidy at treidy3@nd.edu.

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Irish hope to bring the rain at Purdue

Inclement weather may very well be the only thing that can slow down Notre Dame women’s soccer at this point. Sunday’s match at Indiana was postponed, forcing the Irish to wait an additional four days before resuming their special start to the 2022 season.

Nate Norman’s team is 5-0 with a +14 goal differential, its best margin through the first five games of a season in 14 years. The next challenge is a short trip to West Lafayette for a Thursday night battle with 3-3 Purdue.

Notre Dame swept the Boilermakers in two meetings last season, prevailing 1-0 in the regular season and eliminating Purdue from the NCAA tournament with a 2-1 victory in penalty kicks. The Boilermakers lost their second-winningest season in program history (15-4-3) at the hands of the Irish, so Drew Roff and his group are certainly ready for another shot at them.

To open the season, Notre Dame has won all five of its games by at least two goals, outshooting opponents 118-17 with a 65-7 on-goal clip. The back end has been reliable throughout the first few weeks for the Irish, allowing just one goal total. The offense, however, has come alive the last two games, bombarding both Illinois and No. 22 Wisconsin for four goals each.

Graduate forward Olivia Wingate has played the starring role in the Irish attack, netting three of her team-leading five goals in last Thursday’s 4-1 thumping of Wisconsin. Very few teams have the defensive talent to shut her down, so Purdue may have to focus on limiting her supporting cast, namely senior midfielder Maddie Mercado. The San Diego native has found the back of the net four times already, and closely trails Wingate’s 17 shots on goal with 15 of her own. Notre Dame’s prime attackers may have an unusually tougher bout with Roff’s defense, though, as Purdue has allowed three or more goals just once since the head coach began his fifth season in 2019.

Purdue, on the flip side, has stumbled out of the gate this year after a historic 2021 season. After defeating then-ranked USC 3-0 to begin the campaign, the Boilermakers lost back-to-back matches to Vanderbilt and Kentcuky before closing out August with a 2-1 win over Miami (Ohio). Purdue then embarked on a two-game Sunflower State road trip that included a 1-0 loss to Kansas last Thursday and a gritty conquest of Kansas State on Sunday. The Boilermakers struck twice in the first 25 minutes of play, but were reduced to ten players for the game’s final 47 minutes due to a red card.

Even so, Purdue followed the lead of sophomore goalkeeper Sara Kile and survived by a score of 2-1. Kile made a career-high 11 saves and has been leaned upon time and time again this season. Despite playing less than 12 minutes as a freshman, Kile has stopped 33 shots and let in just five goals in five games played, as Purdue has been battered 97-57 in the shots attempted department.

In front of her, sophomore forward Gracie Dunaway has paced the offense with a Big Ten-best four goals on the year. The Boilermakers have won all three games in which she scored, so Notre Dame’s cohesive defensive unit will undoubtedly need to keep close tabs on her. Junior midfielder Emily Matthews has often been involved in setting up her tallies, quickly racking up three assists on the young season.

In order to pull an upset and hand the Irish their first loss of 2022, Purdue may have to replicate its brilliant start at Kansas State. The Boilermakers cannot expect to contain Notre Dame’s potent offense for the full 90 minutes, seeing that the Irish have potted ten second-half goals in the first five games, including four late markers against Wisconsin. Thursday will be Purdue’s final tune-up before Big Ten conference play begins, while Notre Dame will have one more home contest with Ohio on Sunday prior to opening its ACC schedule.

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Notre Dame XC starts season at Winrow-Valparaiso Invite

Notre Dame cross country got its 2022 season underway on Friday, competing in the Winrow-Valparaiso Invite just 58.7 miles west of South Bend. The Fighting Irish are no strangers to the Valpo course, having opened the season there all but twice in the 21st century (2002 and 2020). Both the men’s and women’s teams – coming off top-10 finishes at the 2021 NCAA Championships – flexed their muscles with a sweep of this year’s invite, even with a host of new names leading the charge.

On the men’s side, a seventh consecutive Winrow-Valparaiso title may be just another feather in the cap. But Friday’s triumph is especially relevant to the program’s development. Much of Notre Dame’s success this fall will hinge upon its ability to replace the star-powered core of Dylan Jacobs, Danny Kilrea, and Yares Nuguse; the performance of ND’s highly-touted recruiting class provided a strong first step toward accomplishing that. Freshman Izaiah Steury, an Indiana native, took home 1st place with a time of 17:52.3 in the six-kilometer race.

Nine more Domers followed in a pack to paint the top ten blue and gold – junior Carter Cheeseman (17:52.9), sophomore Robbie Cozean (17:59.3), freshman Ethan Coleman (17:59.6), junior Jake Renfree (18:06.3), freshman Ryan Schumacher (18:07.3), freshman Gabe Hinrichs (18:11.8), freshman Daelen Ackley (18:22.6), and junior Henry Chapman (18:29.3). Chapman also competed in last season’s invite, and his 2022 time would have actually won what was a significantly slower race in 2021. The men’s team was rounded out by freshman Luke Schildmeyer, who checked in at 18:44.2 to claim 12th place as the Irish cleared Purdue by a whopping 49 points. 

The women’s team, returning several key pieces from a late-blooming 2021 team, reclaimed the invite crown from the Boilermakers after a second-place result last September. Graduate student Katie Ryan paced the squad with an 18:10.7 in the five-kilometer race, crossing the finish line behind only Makayla Perez of Western Michigan.

Behind her, a collection of Fighting Irish runners populated the top 20. Freshman Sophie Novak (3rd, 18:16.3), freshman Charlotte Turesson (5th, 18:22.0), freshman Molly Grant (7th, 18:39.0), freshman Elizabeth Schmidt (18:44.3), senior Emily Eberhart (11th, 19:05.0), freshman Paige Grant (14th, 19:17.8), sophomore Isalina Coleman (15th, 19:28.3), and junior Catherine Coffey (19th, 19:53.6) delivered Notre Dame it’s third women’s victory in the last four meets at Valparaiso.

The Irish topped Purdue by 19 points and Western Michigan by 26 to secure a golden start to 2022. Ryan, Eberhart, and Coffey all ran there last year too when the event was comparatively faster for the women (this year’s 2nd place time would have placed 9th at the 2021 invite).

After Friday’s meet, Notre Dame cross country is already a quarter of the way through its regular season schedule. Next up are two home contests – the National Catholic Invite on September 16, and the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invite on September 30 – before a trip to Madison for the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invite on October 14.

Tyler Reidy

Contact Tyler at treidy3@nd.edu

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Debut for two: Freeman and Buchner set to join exclusive company in Columbus

Among the many storylines for Saturday’s showdown between Notre Dame and Ohio State, a rarity in Fighting Irish history will present itself at Ohio Stadium. Head coach Marcus Freeman and sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner will become just the 7th head coach-quarterback duo in the last 100 years to make their Notre Dame regular season debuts in the same game. Freeman, an Ohio native and Buckeye alumnus, will be at the helm for the second time overall; he led the Irish in their Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State last season. Meanwhile, Buchner is set to make his maiden voyage as a starter after throwing for 298 yards and rushing for another 336 in 10 games off the bench in 2021. Both men seek to write the next chapter in Notre Dame’s long-standing tradition of excellence in these scenarios.

1931: Heartley “Hunk” Anderson and Chuck Jaskwhich

All eyes were on Anderson and the Irish as the 1931 season commenced. Knute Rockne had passed away in a plane crash that March, leaving one of his former players to follow up his three national championships and Division I record .881 winning percentage. Moreover, Anderson had a fresh starting quarterback to groom in Chuck Jaskwhich. In the opener at Indiana, Anderson’s bunch resoundingly answered any questions about post-Rockne Notre Dame with a 25-0 victory. While Jaskwhich did not factor in any touchdowns, he later helped the Irish offense put up 28.3 points per game in 1932 — good for 3rd-best in the nation. 

1941: Frank Leahy and Angelo Bertelli

Before becoming one of the most dominant head coach-quarterback pairs in program history, Leahy and Bertelli debuted together against Arizona. Leahy had already experienced a championship culture in South Bend, capturing the 1929 and 1930 national titles under Rockne. The soon-to-be Hall of Famer recognized Bertelli’s passing prowess and quickly converted him from tailback to starting quarterback ahead of the 1941 season. Bertelli found midseason form in game one, completing 6 of 7 passes with a touchdown in the first quarter en route to a 38-7 throttling of the Wildcats. Notre Dame ended that season ranked third nationally with a record of 8-0-1, and Bertelli became the first sophomore in college football history to receive votes for the Heisman Trophy (2nd place). He eventually took home the award along with a national championship in 1943, as Leahy’s switch to a T-formation offense allowed the young signal-caller to flourish.

1944: Ed McKeever and Frank “Boley” Dancewicz

Following the glorious 1943 season, Leahy entered the United States Navy with World War II ongoing. His departure opened the door for McKeever to take the reins on an interim basis. The enlistment of quarterbacks Bertelli (Marine Corps) and Johnny Lujack (Navy) also positioned Dancewicz as the new commander of the offense. Pittsburgh was no match for Notre Dame’s new look in week one, as the Irish flattened college football’s second-worst defense in a 58-0 outburst. Dancewicz and fellow gunslinger Joe Gasparella smoothly filled the void left by Bertelli, throwing a combined five touchdown passes. Notre Dame started that season 5-0 with a number one ranking, but the defense crumbled at the hands of Navy (32 points allowed) and Army (59 points allowed) on the way to an 8-2 record.

1959: Joe Kuharich and Don White

After 15 years and three more Leahy championships, Kuharich and White became the next rookie tandem. Kuharich was returning to his roots; he grew up in South Bend, played football at Notre Dame from 1935-37 and landed his first coaching job as an assistant freshman coach for the Irish in 1938. White had just 92 passing yards to his name through 1957 and 1958, but he led the offense in a rain-soaked clash with North Carolina. Although he completed only 7 passes for 86 yards, the Irish outgained the Tar Heels 140-18 in first-half rushing yards to take control early and set up a 28-8 triumph. The remainder of the season was a different story, however, as the Irish struggled to a 5-5 record, and White split starts with the more experienced George Izo. Kuharich ended his time in South Bend with a 17-23 mark in three seasons.

1975: Dan Devine and Rick Slager

Just two years removed from the second of Ara Parseghian’s two national championships, Devine and his 20 years of head coaching experience took to the sideline at Notre Dame. Slager, the top singles tennis player at the school, was instantly served up a piece of Fighting Irish history; his first career start coincided with the initiation of the Holy War, as Notre Dame and Boston College were set to meet for the first time. Though Slager threw for only 72 yards amidst an inexperienced offense, his defense led the charge under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, leading to a 17-3 Irish victory. Then, for the first time in a half-century, Devine’s group prepared to play a second game in five days. The Irish comfortably took care of Purdue, as the defense yet again paced a 17-0 victory. Fittingly, the week ended with Sports Illustrated’s cover featuring a photo of Rick Slager and a headline reading, “Devine Week for Notre Dame.”

2010: Brian Kelly and Dayne Crist

Kelly took the head coaching job at Notre Dame after leading a 12-0 campaign at Cincinnati, and Crist was the first of nine starting quarterbacks he worked with in his 11 Irish seasons. Approaching 2010, the California product had a strong collection of weapons at his disposal; Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, T.J. Jones and Theo Riddick all became NFL draft picks post-Notre Dame. Crist was efficient in the opening 23-12 win over the Boilermakers of Purdue, going 19-for-26 with 205 yards and a touchdown as the Irish jumped out to a 20-3 lead. He dazzled two weeks later in an overtime loss at Michigan State, delivering 369 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. However, his season was cut short in late October when he suffered a ruptured patella tendon and Tommy Rees seized control of the job. The Irish wrapped up 2010 at 8-5, and Crist transferred to Kansas after the following season.

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Notre Dame-Ohio State: History of the Matchup

For just the seventh time in their lengthy history, Notre Dame and Ohio State prepare to meet on the gridiron this weekend.

ND-OSU, an Ever-Elusive Showdown

Notre Dame and Ohio State are two of college football’s undisputed blue bloods. Not only have both programs existed since the 19th century, but the Fighting Irish and Buckeyes also share 19 national championships, 14 Heisman Trophy winners, and over 1,800 combined victories. Such historical accolades have been backed up by recent success as well, with the two schools each picking up 50-plus wins over the past five seasons. However, despite a mere 205 miles separating Notre Dame Stadium from Ohio Stadium, Saturday’s clash will mark just the seventh all-time meeting between these giants of the gridiron. Quantity has certainly been lacking when it comes to this bout, but its quality has been undeniable.

November 2, 1935: Notre Dame 18, Ohio State 13

In a time when the Pennsylvania Railroad transported fans from South Bend to Columbus, Ohio Stadium hosted the first-ever “Game of the Century”. The 5-0 Irish faced the 4-0 Buckeyes before 81,000 spectators, and the home crowd had plenty to roar about early on. Notre Dame threw two interceptions that yielded Buckeye touchdowns, resulting in a halftime score of 13-0. As the second half progressed, the Irish were barreling towards their first blemish of the season — that is, until Andy Pilney delivered the performance of a lifetime. The Kansas native set up Notre Dame’s first touchdown with a long punt return, then threw for a second score. Trailing 13-12 with under two minutes remaining, the defense forced an improbable fumble near midfield and Pilney gained 30 yards on a run that brought him a season-ending leg injury. Bill Shakespeare finished the job, finding Wayne Millner for the game-winning touchdown. As Notre Dame fans stormed the field in elation, the series was off and running in grand style.

October 13, 1936: Ohio State 2, Notre Dame 7

The back end of a home-and-away series saw the epitome of 1930s football take shape in South Bend. Contrary to the prior season, both Ohio State (2-2) and Notre Dame (3-1) were off to troublesome starts leading up to a windy, rainy Saturday afternoon. Though weather ruled the day, the rules of the game themselves stung OSU at the worst imaginable time. In the final moments of the contest, and with the Buckeyes driving deep into Irish territory, the offense threw back-to-back incompletions in the end zone. At the time, this resulted in an automatic touchback, allowing Notre Dame to take possession and end the game. Ohio State would have a long time to mull over not one, but two heartbreaking defeats to the Irish.

September 30, 1995: No. 15 Notre Dame 26, No. 7 Ohio State 45

After 59 years of waiting, the Buckeyes finally received another shot at the Irish in Columbus. The visitors built up a 17-7 advantage behind two of Randy Kinder’s three touchdown runs, but it was only a matter of time until the Buckeye offense (36.5 points per game in 1995) flipped the switch. Quarterback Bobby Hoying hurled four touchdowns, one of which covered 82 yards in the arms of top receiver Terry Glenn. The showstopper was soon-to-be Heisman winner Eddie George, who terrorized the Irish defense to the tune of 207 rushing yards and a pair of scores. It all amounted to a 31-point second half for the Buckeyes and an electrifying rebirth of the ND-OSU series.

September 28, 1996: No. 4 Ohio State 29, No. 5 Notre Dame 16

The stakes were through the roof once again as the series returned to Indiana. Ohio State (2-0) had outscored Rice and Pittsburgh 142-7 to begin the campaign, while Notre Dame (3-0) was coming off a narrow victory over sixth-ranked Texas in Austin. The Buckeyes took firm control of the game immediately, scoring under two minutes into the affair and leading 22-7 at halftime. Ohio State’s defense finished the year with just 10.1 points allowed per game, and the Irish bore witness to their dominance, being held to 3.8 yards per play. Offensively, Pepe Pearson gave Eddie George a run for his money with 179 rushing yards and two trips to the end zone, as the Buckeyes locked up their first win over a top-five opponent in 11 years. OSU is slated to visit Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since this matchup next September.

2005-06 Fiesta Bowl: No. 4 Ohio State 34, No. 5 Notre Dame 20

To end the 2005 season, a postseason matchup finally came calling for Notre Dame and Ohio State. Both teams entered with 9-2 records and were led by sensational talents at quarterback – Troy Smith (OSU) won the 2006 Heisman Trophy and Brady Quinn (ND) finished third. However, Smith’s supporting cast made headlines in the final Fiesta Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. Wide receiver Ted Ginn exploded for 240 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns, while running back Antonio Pittman logged 136 rushing yards and put the game on ice with a 60-yard house call late in the fourth quarter. Ohio State – en route to its third Fiesta Bowl victory in four years – had Notre Dame’s defense in a daze, outgaining the Irish 617-348 in total yardage.

2015-16 Fiesta Bowl: No. 7 Ohio State 44, No. 8 Notre Dame 28

Halfway through November, Notre Dame and Ohio State seemed more likely to meet in the College Football Playoff than anywhere else. However, late-season losses to Stanford and Michigan State, respectively, shifted the sixth and most recent matchup back to Arizona. The Irish struggled to contain OSU early, as the Buckeyes opened up a 28-7 advantage before halftime. Matters were made worse for Notre Dame when star linebacker Jaylon Smith went down with a significant knee injury. Ezekiel Elliott, who had made a name for himself in Ohio State’s 2014 national championship victory, racked up 149 rushing yards and found paydirt four times. No player has rushed for more than three touchdowns against the Irish since.

Put it all together, and Notre Dame has not beaten Ohio State in 86 years. In their four losses, the Irish have struggled mightily in containing the Buckeyes’ top offensive weapons. That theme could certainly make itself known again on Saturday, as OSU boasts a Heisman Trophy favorite in quarterback C.J. Stroud, FBS single-game receiving yards record-holder Jaxon Smith-Njigba and two more highly touted wideout prospects in Julian Fleming and Marvin Harrison Jr. Notre Dame, even as a two-touchdown underdog, is looking to begin the Marcus Freeman era by putting an old narrative to bed. An Irish triumph on Saturday would snap a 14-game losing streak against top-15 teams in games away from Notre Dame Stadium, a slump that includes the aforementioned 2016 Fiesta Bowl.