Noie: Remember these 10 Notre Dame football wins during Brian Kelly's tenure?

Tom Noie
ND Insider

With Brian Kelly becoming the next head coach at LSU, here’s a quick look back at 10 of his more memorable wins during his 12 seasons at Notre Dame. 

Some hold special meaning than others, but these all deserve a spot somewhere in a Kelly/Notre Dame history book that’s seemingly now closed. 

► Mammoth move:Kelly breaks a long-held promise to himself in chasing new dream at LSU

This list works from most recent way back to the early days. Kelly’s first days. 

► Notre Dame 45, Stanford 14 (November 27, 2021) 

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly leaves the field after the Irish defeated Stanford Nov. 27, 2021 in Palo Alto, Calif. It would be the last game he coached for Notre Dame after 12 seasons.

What made this one so special? Pretty easy. It was Kelly’s last game and last win at Notre Dame. From the sounds of the post-game locker room celebration, the Irish really enjoyed capping an 11-1 regular season. Kelly even guzzled Gatorade from whatever trophy the teams play for. He was loose and relaxed and downright funny during his post-game press conference. Did he know then that he was leaving? 

We’ll never know. 

Whatever the case, 48 hours later, after having earlier outlined his West Coast recruiting plan, he was out the door and headed to the Bayou. Strange times. 

► Notre Dame 41, Wisconsin 13 (Sept. 25, 2021) 

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly after Notre Dame drubbed Wisconsin, 41-13, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The numbers get kind of cloudy after Notre Dame had to earlier vacate victories because of NCAA infractions, but on this Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago, Kelly passed legendary Knute Rockne as the winningest coach in Notre Dame history with career Irish win No. 106. 

Kelly was awarded a game ball by athletic director Jack Swarbrick afterward. 

Notre Dame 47, Clemson 40 Nov. 7, 2020 

Notre Dame, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly enters Notre Dame Stadium for an interview on a live broadcast of ESPN College Gameday from Notre Dame Stadium before the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Clemson Tigers. Mandatory Credit:

Kelly got his team to finally climb that No. 1 mountain and beat big, bad Clemson, which had tormented his team for too long. Yeah, it was a COVID-19 year and Trevor Lawrence didn’t play and there wasn’t a sellout crowd in the Notre Dame stands, but this was big for Kelly. Big for the program. Big. 

►Notre Dame 21, LSU 17 (Jan. 1, 2018) 

1/26/2018: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating LSU 21-17 in the Citrus Bowl Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla. AP File Photo/JOHN RAOUX

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating LSU 21-17 in the Citrus Bowl NCAA college football game, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. Notre Dame won 21-17. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Coming off the heels of a 4-8 season, Kelly had to reinvent himself, otherwise, he might not last much longer in South Bend. This comeback win capped a 10-3 season and proved that Kelly could change for the better — and the Irish could be better. Both were as a string of double-digit wins followed. 

► Notre Dame 31, Michigan (Sept. 6, 2014) 

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly runs out of the tunnel with his team before the Notre Dame-Michigan game on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2014, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN via FTP

The rivalry series was set to go on hiatus, so shutting out the Wolverines sure was sweet, even though it came during a rather forgettable 8-5 season. At least the Irish had this one to cherish for a few years. 

► Notre Dame 22, USC 13 (Nov. 24, 2012) 

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly looks on prior to their NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles.

Beating a rival is special enough, but beating a rival in their building to clinch a trip to the national championship game for the first time since 1988? A memorable night in the City of Angels ended with Kelly wondering aloud in the locker room who wanted to go to South Beach? 

Go back and watch the clip on YouTube. You’ll still get chills. 

► Notre Dame 30, Oklahoma 13 (Oct. 27, 2012) 

South Bend Tribune/JAMES BROSHER Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly talks with quarterback Everett Golson (5) during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Norman, Okla. via FTP

A special season has to include a special night on the road where nobody really gives your team a chance, and then they deliver. On all levels. That was this night in Norman, when Notre Dame looked the part of potential national championship contender while taking apart the Sooners. It really wasn’t that close. 

After this one, you got the sense the season and the program was going places. 

►Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3 (Sept. 15, 2012) 

South Bend Tribune/JAMES BROSHER Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly yells to a player during a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich. via FTP

Yeah, Notre Dame could win games at home and win games against overmatched opponents, but what would the Irish be under Kelly in big games on the road against ranked teams. 

On this Saturday night, we found out. Notre Dame could go into hostile places and win big games. 

► Notre Dame 20, USC 16 (Nov. 27, 2010) 

ND Insider: Nov. 23, 2012:

Notre Dame's Brian Kelly walks off the field after defeating USC, 20-16,  at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Saturday, November 27, 2010.

Kelly won only eight games his first year, but he wrapped the debut season with a win over USC in Los Angeles. That’s always a good way to endure yourself to the fan base. Many more wins over USC followed. Each one was sweet.  

►Notre Dame 23, Purdue 12 (Sept. 4, 2010) 

ISR: Purdue's Danny Hope and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly don't battle head-to-head in recruiting very often, in part because their home recruiting state is not considered a hotbed for talent.

Notre Dame's Brian Kelly and Purdue's Danny Hope after the game at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, September 4, 2010. Notre Dame defeated Purdue 23-12.

Your first time has to be there in somewhere, right? No, it wasn’t THAT memorable to the point where fans walked out of the stadium swearing that they’d swear they were there 10 and 20 years later, but Kelly winning his first game after arriving from Cincinnati was a good first step for the new guy.

And now, it seems, the former guy. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI