Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o

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Shepkowski: Notre Dame's Sorry Bowl Game History

Notre Dame hasn't won a major bowl game in 25 years.

Nick Shepkowski
December 29, 2018 - 4:29 pm

DALLAS ( -- What were you doing to bring in the New Year in 1994? Finding inspiration from “Hero” by Mariah Carey, which was No. 1 on the music charts that week? It was seemingly forever ago, which is part of the reason there was so much at stake for the Notre Dame football team nearly 25 years later.

Much talk this week in Dallas has concerned whether Clemson really is 13 points better than Notre Dame, as the point spread for Saturday's Cotton Bowl -- a semifinal game of the College Football Playoff -- would indicate. Notre Dame's recent history and big-game reputation -- as opposed to Clemson's postseason success this decade -- are part of why it's such a large number.

New Year's Day 1994 is the last time the Fighting Irish won what is considered a “major" bowl game. A last-minute field goal and late interception helped them get by Texas A&M en route to an 11-1 campaign. Many thought that would be good enough to earn a split of the national title with Florida State. It wasn't. The Irish finished the season ranked No. 2.

What Notre Dame has done on the biggest stage since the first day of 1994 has been embarrassing by any standard.

A 41-24 loss to Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl to close the 1994 season. A hard-fought 31-26 loss against Florida State in the Orange Bowl to end the 1995 season, playing with a backup quarterback.

Now, look away if you’re a Notre Dame fan: a 41-9 loss to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2000 season.

Five years later, an upstart Notre Dame was ready to reconquer the college football world. Until Ohio State dominated 34-20 in the Fiesta Bowl. A year later, LSU embarrassed the Irish, 41-14, in the Sugar Bowl.

It would be six more seasons before the Irish would get back to a huge postseason stage -- the 2012 national championship game. It's hard to forget the 42-14 beating that was put on them that night by Alabama.

Finally, the Fiesta Bowl following the 2015 season in which star linebacker Jaylon Smith was injured and lost millions of dollars in future NFL earnings. That game was hardly competitive. Ohio State rolled Notre Dame, 44-28, that afternoon.

Add it all together and you get an average final score of 39-19 for Notre Dame in major bowl games since the 1994 Cotton Bowl.

If the Irish don't buck that trend Saturday afternoon in Arlington, it will be just the latest chapter in a long story of big-stage disappointment. 

Nick Shepkowski is the executive producer of the McNeil & Parkins Show on 670 the Score in afternoon drive. Follow him on Twitter @Shep670.​