2004 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football
Insight Bowl, L 21–38 vs. Oregon State
2004 record6–6
Head coach
Offensive coordinatorBill Diedrick
Offensive schemeWest Coast
Defensive coordinatorKent Baer
Base defense4–3
Home stadiumNotre Dame Stadium (c. 80,795, grass)
← 2003
2005 →
2004 NCAA Division I-A independents football records
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 24 Navy       10 2  
Notre Dame       6 6  
Rankings from AP Poll

The 2004 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team represented the University of Notre Dame in the 2004 NCAA Division I-A football season. The team was coached by Tyrone Willingham and played its home games at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.

Season summary

The 2004 season began with doubts and criticism for the Irish.[1] With Julius Jones graduating as fourth-leading rusher in Notre Dame history,[2] the Irish hoped to replace him with a talented recruiting class. However, Willingham struggled in his second full year of recruiting and the new class was ranked 30th in the nation.[3] Despite signing highly sought after recruit Darius Walker,[4] the 17 man class only included three four-star recruits.[5]

The season began poorly for the Irish with a loss at BYU. Despite Brady Quinn improving at the quarterback position, completing over 50 percent of his passes for 265 yards, the Irish only managed to gain 11 yards rushing.[6] They next faced a highly ranked Michigan team at home and Willingham stated that an improved running game would be important if the Irish were to be able to beat the Wolverines.[7] Darius Walker answered Willingham in his first collegiate game, gaining 115 yards and scoring two late touchdowns to lead the Irish in the upset.[8] With the win the Irish were rejuvenated,[9] and rallied to move to 3–1 on the season with wins over Michigan State and Washington.[10][11] Some in the media began comparing Willingham to some of Notre Dame's legendary coaches and said the team would win seven or eight games in the season, and be back in national championship contention by 2005.[12]

With renewed expectations, the Irish hoped to continue their streak and beat 15th ranked Purdue, who hadn't won at Notre Dame in 30 years. The Boilermakers' quarterback, Kyle Orton, torched the Irish defense handing them a 25 point loss to end the rally.[13] The Irish got back on track and beat Stanford, making Notre Dame the second school to reach 800 wins,[14] and Navy for the 41st straight time,[15] to move into the rankings for the first time since their 2003 loss to Michigan.

The Irish didn't stay ranked for long, as Boston College once again beat the Irish on a late score.[16] The Irish had three games left, and needed one win to become bowl eligible, but looked as if that win wouldn't come in their next game as they faced the 9th ranked Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. The Irish defense, however, stepped up, and, after knocking out quarterback Erik Ainge on a sack, returned an interception for a touchdown to upset the Volunteers and become bowl eligible.[17] Once again ranked, the Irish returned home for their final home game against Pittsburgh. Losing on a late score, the team allowed five passing touchdowns by an opponent for the first time ever at home.[18] Visiting USC for the final regular season game, the Irish again lost to the Trojans by 31.[19] The Irish accepted a bowl bid to play in the Insight Bowl,[20] however, in a highly criticized move,[21][22][23][24][25] two days later fired Willingham.[26] Defensive coordinator, Kent Baer, led the Irish, hoping to "win one for Ty," however, the Oregon State Beavers, led by four touchdown passes from Derek Anderson, beat the Irish in their seventh consecutive bowl loss.[27] The Irish ended 2004 with a 6–6 record and in need of a coach.

2004 Insight Bowl

The second bowl on December 28, the Insight Bowl held at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, was the second of the 2004–05 bowl season to pit two BCS member teams. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the only independent BCS member, took on the Oregon State Beavers from the Pac-10. The Beavers never trailed in the game, and easily defeated the Irish 38–21. Beavers quarterback Derek Anderson threw for 359 yards and four touchdown passes, with no interceptions.


September 49:15 p.m.at BYUESPNL 17–2065,251
September 113:30 p.m.No. 8 MichiganNBCW 28–2080,795
September 187:00 p.m.at Michigan StateESPNW 31–2474,962
September 252:30 p.m.Washington
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
NBCW 38–380,795
October 22:30 p.m.No. 15 Purdue
NBCL 16–4180,795
October 92:30 p.m.Stanford
NBCW 23–1580,795
October 1612:00 p.m.at NavyCBSW 27–976,166
October 231:30 p.m.Boston CollegeNo. 24
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN (Holy War)
NBCL 23–2480,795
November 63:30 p.m.at No. 9 TennesseeCBSW 17–13107,266
November 132:30 p.m.PittsburghNo. 24
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN (rivalry)
NBCL 38–4180,795
November 278:00 p.m.at No. 1 USCABCL 10–4192,611
December 289:45 p.m.vs. Oregon StateESPNL 21–3845,917

Game summaries


1 234Total
Michigan 6 338 20
Notre Dame 0 0721 28


Michigan State

1 234Total
Notre Dame 14 773 31
Michigan St 7 0710 24


Oregon State (Insight Bowl)

Notre Dame vs. Oregon State
1 234Total
Fighting Irish 0 777 21
Beavers 14 7314 38
  • Date: December 28
  • Location: Bank One Ballpark
  • Game start: 6:45 p.m. PST
  • Game attendance: 45,917
  • Television network: ESPN

Main article: 2004 Insight Bowl

See also: 2004 Oregon State Beavers football team


Aftermath of the Willingham firing

In firing Willingham, the Notre Dame athletic department cited a relatively poor record of 21–15, a weak recruiting class, and three losses, each by 31 points, to rival USC.[31] However, the Irish also hoped to entice Urban Meyer, the head coach of Utah, to lead Notre Dame. Meyer had just led the Utes to an undefeated season and he had a clause in his contract that stated he could leave Utah without a penalty to coach for the Irish.[32] When Meyer instead took the head coaching position at Florida,[33] the Irish were ridiculed in the media, saying that the Notre Dame coaching position is no longer as prestigious as it was in the past.[34][35] After over a week without a coach, the Irish hired New England Patriots' offensive coordinator Charlie Weis as head coach. Weis was an alum of Notre Dame, and became the first alum to coach the team since 1963.[36] At least one sports writer stated that Weis was a choice that made sense for the program.[37] Notwithstanding, three years after the fact, Willingham's firing remains highly controversial with many believing he was treated unfairly.[38]


  1. ^ Soukup, Andrew (April 23, 2004). "The frustrations persist". The Observer. UK. Archived from the original on October 20, 2007. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  2. ^ "Two Former Notre Dame Players Selected On Day One Of NFL Draft". UND.cstv.com. April 24, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Scout.com:Team Recruiting Rankings". Scout.com. Retrieved August 25, 2007.
  4. ^ "#7 Darius Walker". Scout.com. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  5. ^ "Scout.com Football Recruiting: Notre Dame". Scout.com. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  6. ^ "Irish Fall To BYU, 20–17". UND.cstv.com. September 4, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  7. ^ "Tyrone Willingham Press Conference Transcript". UND.cstv.com. September 7, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  8. ^ "Irish Knock Off No. 8 Michigan, 28–20". UND.cstv.com. September 11, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  9. ^ Mandel, Stewart (September 12, 2004). "Hope springs eternal". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  10. ^ "ND's Walker rushes for 98 yards". ESPN. September 18, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  11. ^ "Quinn ties school record". ESPN. September 25, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  12. ^ Bradley, Michael (September 23, 2004). "Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  13. ^ "Boilermakers last won at Notre Dame in 1974". ESPN. October 2, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  14. ^ "Notre Dame rallies with 20 second-half points". ESPN. October 9, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  15. ^ "Notre Dame's dominance the longest in NCAA history". ESPN. October 16, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  16. ^ "Peterson's arm leads Eagles to second-half comeback". ESPN. October 23, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  17. ^ "Ainge separates shoulder, joins Schaeffer on sidelines". ESPN. November 6, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  18. ^ "Palko becomes 1st QB to throw 5 TDs vs. Irish". ESPN. November 13, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  19. ^ "Junior QB passes for career-high 400 yards". ESPN. November 27, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  20. ^ "Notre Dame Accepts Invitation To Play In Insight Bowl". UND.cstv.com. November 28, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  21. ^ Whiteside, Kelly (December 1, 2004). "Notre Dame football shows something new". USA Today. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  22. ^ Celzic, Mike (December 13, 2004). "Notre Dame has sullied its Golden Dome". MSNBC. Archived from the original on December 7, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  23. ^ Maisel, Ivan (December 1, 2004). "Fall From Grace". ESPN. Archived from the original on August 28, 2007. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  24. ^ Wilbon, Michael (December 1, 2004). "Notre Dame's True Colors". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  25. ^ "Notre Dame President Blasts Firing". The Washington Post. December 9, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  26. ^ "Statement From Director Of Athletics Kevin White". UND.cstv.com. November 30, 2004. Archived from the original on November 14, 2007. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  27. ^ "Anderson hurls four TDs to finish career". ESPN. December 28, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  28. ^ ESPN.com
  29. ^ ESPN.com
  30. ^ "Anderson Hurls Four TDs to Finish Career". ESPN. December 28, 2004. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  31. ^ "Kevin White Teleconference Transcript". UND.cstv.com. November 30, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  32. ^ "Meyer can leave for ND without buyout". ESPN. December 3, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  33. ^ "Meyer signs seven-year, $14 million deal with Florida". CBS Sportline. December 3, 2004. Archived from the original on February 3, 2013. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  34. ^ Dodd, Dennis (December 3, 2004). "In 2004, Notre Dame beneath top coach like Meyer". CBS Sportsline. Archived from the original on December 8, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  35. ^ Saraceno, Jon (December 5, 2004). "Irish's Urban renewal project never had chance". USA Today. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  36. ^ "Weis to be introduced as Irish coach Monday". ESPN. December 13, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  37. ^ Smith, Michael (December 10, 2004). "Patriots' Weis is perfect for Irish". ESPN. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  38. ^ Then again Ty Willingham was a major failure at the University of Washington- in fact going 0–12 in his last season. Willingham got paid for turning both Notre Dame and Washington into losers.Mandel, Stewart (September 19, 2007). "College Football Mailbag". SI.com. Retrieved September 26, 2007.