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Notre Dame vs. Syracuse: The history of the matchup

Whatever happens in Saturday’s game between Notre Dame and No. 16 Syracuse at JMA Wireless Dome, expect it to be crazy. The Irish have already been through more twists than turns through seven games this year than they have in some seven-year stretches in its history. The Orange are in fairly uncharted territory, at least in recent memory, with an impressive 6-1 record, only suffering their first blemish in a nail-biting defeat at the hands of No. 5 Clemson.

Since Notre Dame became a partial ACC member in 2014, the Irish and Orange have met five times — the same amount of meetings they had between then and 1914, which is how far back their history dates. Before they add another chapter to it, let’s see what the past had in store, and if can offer any hints at what’s to come.

1914: Notre Dame 20, Syracuse 0

These two squads first matched up more than a century ago in Syracuse. Jesse Harper led the Irish to a convincing shutout victory, improving the team’s record to 6-2. Syracuse, meanwhile, fell to 5-3-2. No, that’s not a hockey record — that’s two ties in ten games for the Orange.

1961: Notre Dame 17, Syracuse 15

The teams had to sit around for almost 50 years before a rematch came, but they made the wait worth it. It wasn’t without its fair share of controversy, though. The No. 10 Orange, who could have secured an Orange Bowl berth and $100,000 with a win (think of all the NIL deals that could buy 61 years ago!) made a frantic push to rally from a 14-0 third-quarter deficit, taking a late 15-14 edge. The Irish appeared to miss a last-second 56-yard field goal, but a controversial roughing the holder penalty moved the ball up 15 yards and gave Joe Perkowski a second chance he did not miss.

1963: Syracuse 14, Notre Dame 7

A crowd of nearly 57,000 fans watched the Orange, who led the Irish by about a 2:1 ratio in first downs and yards gained, break a 7-7 deadlock with 3:28 to play. The game was played at Old Yankee Stadium, although it appears the marketing department hadn’t thought of putting together the Irish gold with the Yankee pinstripes at that point.

2003: Syracuse 38, Notre Dame 12

The Orange offense broke out in a massive way against the Irish, riding a 21-point third quarter to a lopsided victory over Brady Quinn and Notre Dame. All five of Syracuse’s touchdowns came on the ground, including a 71-yard dagger from Walter Reyes in the dying seconds of the third.

2005: Notre Dame 34, Syracuse 10

Thankfully for the Irish, Syracuse’s return to Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since the ’61 matchup went much better for Notre Dame. Trailing 3-0 after a quarter, the Irish rode a balanced offense the rest of the way. A pick-six from Leo Ferrine just 13 seconds into the second half set the tempo, as Quinn got his redemption as well by throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns.

2008: Syracuse 24, Notre Dame 23

The Charlie Weis era was already starting to sputter for the Irish, who desperately needed a win at home against the 2-8 Orange. But despite stellar days from Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate and a defense that forced two turnovers, Syracuse overcome a 13-point fourth quarter deficit when Cameron Dantley found Donte Davis from 11 yards out to take the lead with 42 seconds left. The Irish offense quickly drove down the field but a 53-yard field goal at the gun did not go through.

2014: Notre Dame 31, Syracuse 15

On the surface, everything was fine for the Irish here. They improved to 4-0 with this victory at Metlife Stadium, taking a 21-3 lead through three quarters. Everett Golson set a program record with 25 consecutive completions. However, there were signals of Notre Dame’s impending downfall. The Irish turned the ball over five times and allowed 429 yards on defense. Notre Dame would win its next two games, but those issues continued to fester, leading to a 1-5 finish to the regular season.

2016: Notre Dame 50, Syracuse 33

The struggles continued for the Irish defense, as they surrendered 489 yards in this contest. But the offense set the tone with a 79-yard touchdown bomb from DeShone Kizer to Equanimeous St. Brown on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Each of the first five drives in the game ended with touchdowns, with nearly half of the game’s points coming in the opening quarter.

2018: Notre Dame 36, Syracuse 3

A No. 3 Irish team on its way to the College Football Playoff dominated No. 12 Syracuse to get to .500 against the Orange at Yankee Stadium. The defense forced three turnovers, including a pair of Alohi Gillman interceptions, and came within ten seconds of recording a shutout.

2020: Notre Dame 45, Syracuse 21

The No. 2 Irish finished off a 10-0 regular season, pulling away from Syracuse with two third quarter touchdowns before capping their regular season with a 94-yard score from then freshman Chris Tyree. Javon McKinley led the way with his first and only collegiate three touchdown game.

Contact Andrew McGuinness at amcguinn@nd.edu.