So pronounced is Notre Dame's footprint on college football that some opponents mark program milestones by chances to play the Irish.
North Carolina is one of those. For many Tar Heels fans, Saturday's game in Chapel Hill will be their first opportunity to see the Irish on state soil. Not since 1975, when Joe Montana led a 21-14 Irish comeback win, has the program played inside North Carolina borders. The Irish have made one trip to Duke and have never played a game at N.C. State, East Carolina or Wake Forest. Of 17 previous games against the Tar Heels, Notre Dame has lost only once.
The most significant meeting in the series occurred at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 12, 1949. It was an afternoon that ranks as one of the most disappointing in Carolina history. Notre Dame, coached by Frank Leahy, was ranked No. 1 and en route to the school's eighth national title.
Still, Carolina fans came away from that first-ever meeting wondering what might have been. Hobbled by injuries, Tar Heels' star Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice watched the second half from the bench as Notre Dame overcame a 6-0 deficit and won 42-6.
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With a healthy Justice, who knows? Barely 175 pounds, he was among the most versatile players in college football history. A single-wing tailback, he passed, ran, caught passes, kicked and returned kicks. During his four years, Carolina went 32-9-2.