What did we see in the Coliseum?
Deliverance, redemption, sanctuary!
Establishing functional control from the game’s opening drive, the Irish drove 66 yards in 9 plays for a 3-0 lead. The Irish never trailed against the Cardinal & Gold. The Irish offense repeated its November pattern, 24 first downs, 222 yards rushing, 217 yards passing on 15 completions in 27 attempts, 1 “sack” for 2 yards lost and no turnovers and, yep, difficulty scoring touchdowns inside the opponent’s 25 yard line. Fret not, lads! That is the final challenge for this, or any, maturing offense. There are 6 weeks and a New Year before our Irish play again.
The Irish October offense was better than the September offense. The November offense was the best of the three. In four games, the Irish offense averaged 23 first downs, 219 yards rushing, 223 yards passing per game. They yielded 2 “sacks” for a total of five yards lost, with 6 turnovers, three in the Pitt game.
The Fighting Irish defense was magnificent, holding SC to a season low of 13 points, and yielding just one more yard than the 280 that Stanford allowed the Trojans. That 13 points is the fewest SC has scored since November of 2010. Only three times this year, against Purdue, BYU and Pitt did the juggernaut defense allow as many as two touchdowns. Nobody scored a third.
The Irish finished 12th in Pass Efficiency Defense, 5th in Rushing Defense,6th in Total Defense, and 2nd in scoring Defense!
Rite of Passage: Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell who occasionally covered Woods and Lee in single coverage. They survived. Now, they’ll never be intimidated by any receiver again.
THE DURANKO’S DIGEST POST-SEASON AWARDS
King Kamehameha Award-named after the great King, unifier and creator of the Kingdom of Hawaii-Manti Te’o, regal, elegant, charismatic leader. A legend during his reign, an icon thereafter. Mahalo, Manti!
Princess Ka’iulani Award-Hawaii’s Diana was known for her intelligence, beauty and determination. Two awards this year, and it will never be awarded again. Notre Dame seldom makes football awards to civilians but we give one to Lennay Kekua and one to Manti’s departed grandmother.
Ziggy Czarobski award- three criteria here: (1) a great, All-America level ballplayer. (2) an ebullient, larger than life, full of joie-de-vive personality, spilling over from the football field into the student body and the Notre Dame community (3) the ability to drive the coach, a little batty: Louis Nix, and the award will be a statue of both Ziggy and Louis cast in fine chocolate by Skelligs Chocolate in Kerry, Ireland.
Irish chocolate for Irish chocolate. Carl Spackler “Hey I ain’t no caddy award”- Robby Toma, who, the evidence suggests was recruitable on his own merits, not just because he was collocated with Manti Te’o at Punahou.
Freshman performer of the year- KeiVarae Russell. He started for a 12-0 football team. Most starting minutes of any true frosh.
Freshman potential performer of the year-Sheldon Day-remarkably disciplined and knowledgeabe, an advanced player. Big enough, hyper-quick, good pass rusher. He gets this award because we estimate that he will, eventually, be the “best” player from the 2012 freshman class.
Tweedledum, Tweedledee award-Zach Martin, Christ Watt, joined at the hip on and off the field. Never surprise each other, Hiestand or Kelly.
Leon Hart/Gmitter/Creaney/Masztak/McAfee/Casper/Derek Brown/Bavaro/Fasano/Irv Smith /Rudolph/Carlson/ “We own this position!!” award-Tyler Eifert.
Gary Patterson knows talent award-Danny Spond (data obscura-Patterson recruited Spond very aggressively, and at a little noted booster event, Gary, the TCU coach identified Spond as “the one who got away.”
Swiss Army Knife-versatility award-lots of blades and each one cuts deep-Theo Riddick, comfortable at tailback or slot receiver and hyper-effective at each. Blocks, too.
Unbeaten award-Elijah Shumate. Never lost in high school. Thinks he lost back in grade school. Might be contagious.
Run, Forrest, Run award-Stephon Tuitt, for his 77 yard run to glory against Navy in Dublin, Notre Dame’s longest play of the year. Previous winners: George Gipp, Joe “Small Wonder” Howard, Tim Brown, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. Nice company, Stephon!
Semper Paratus (Coast Guard motto) award-Tommy Rees. How can he just sit there watching the game for an hour and then jump in and complete a pass?
Shakespeare “sweet are the uses of adversity” award-Kyle Brindza-missed his first field goal against Purdue, made the next two, including the game winner. Against Pitt, Kyle made his first two, missed his third, then made his fourth and final to start out the OT. Unlike the Panther kicker, he had no misses in OT.
Duranko award-for playing with brute force, for being deceptively quick, for good, clean violence on the field and for being a gentleman off it-Stephon Tuitt.
Frank Leahy fan award-Fred Leahy, the fan and poster who exemplifies the passion, loyalty and indefatigability of Frank Leahy. Fred’s passion never wavered during the lean years.
Battlefield promotion award-Zeke Motta, who thought he was going to share play call and adjustment responsibilities with his doppelganger Jamoris Slaughter. Zeke stepped up and kept the young ‘uns-Jackson Farley, Russell, aligned and enlightened.
Elmer’s Glue this guy sticks to his man award-Dan Fox-previously maligned, but even at 6’3 240 he is now outstanding in pass coverage.
Sledgehammer award-Prince Shembo. In 2014 this will be renamed the Prince Shembo Sledgehammer award.
Braxston Banks Award-Braxston Cave. Braxston’s mom and dad were in the stands at a game and intrigued by Banks’ first name “Braxston.” They named their son that way. Not a lot of “Braxston’s” in Mishawaka-or Granger.
Andre Jones award-T. J. Jones.
Meucci award-(inside baseball on Godfather III-Joey Zasa gave Michael the Meucci award when he got the papal honor)-Carlo Calabrese-in honor of threatening South Bend’s finest with “my people” Joey Zasa would have loved it. And sent some people.
Ernie Hughes, Dave Casper, my hair is red and I play like I’m on fire – Tony Springman.
Johnny One Play O’Brien Award (Johnny is an ND hero famous for one play-a 78 yard td catch that beat Army in 1928)-John Goodman-for that late, great, catch against Purdue when we needed it most.
Chrysallis award-no longer a caterpillar, not yet a butterfly, but enroute-Davaris Daniels
Charlie Ward/Ronald Curry/Tom Clements-”You’ll never understand how I play quarterback unless you acknowledge my point guard skills” If you ever played buckets with or against Clements, you’d know he belongs there.-Everett Golson.
Most Improved Player-Danny Spond (toughest one to award, as so many players improved so much)
BRIAN KELLY’S LETTER TO THE TEAM (IMAGINEERED)
Notre Dame now sends its official offer letters to recruits on special gold, embossed paper. Alford and others recommend that recruits frame it, along with their officially signed letter of intent and other key documents. This letter is printed on that same gold paper:
MEN OF THE 2012 FIGHTING IRISH FOOTBALL TEAM:
On behalf of the coaching staff, and on behalf of Notre Dame fans, congratulations on your remarkable season. As we will discuss, deeds matter more than mere words. Words are derivative, descriptive; deeds are the results, colorful, vivid and fleshy of men in full. Deeds are unequivocal, organic, they pulsate and vibrate. But yet we write to honor your deeds.
This journey, this magical mystery tour began, for most, at about 9pm Eastern on December 29, 2011, in Orlando right after the FSU loss. Many of you resolved then that 2012 would be different. Enough of words, actions speak louder than! And your eloquent actions since that date have led us to this special place. You worked, you stayed focused, you trusted coaches, staff and each other, you excelled individually, yet submerged your great individual talents for a higher good. You focused on reality, and not perception and created a shining legacy that few have shared and few can fully appreciate.
College football is amazing. Darwinian in the purest sense. Each of you in high school was a prized athlete, legendary in your home town. Yet you accepted the harsh reality that that was not enough, and you worked, in the classroom, in the weightroom, on the track, in your individual skill work, in the film room, on the field. “Effort only fully releases its rewards after a person refuses to quit.”
“Those who seek the path to enlightenment dictate terms to their mind. Then they proceed with Determination” Gautama Buddha. Paul Longo is a master craftsman at developing muscle and sinew; but only you control that most elusive and undisciplined “muscle,” your WILL. Your laser-like focus as you executed your work was both admirable and necessary for the level of achievement we now celebrate. Nothing, no distractions, could sway you. Like Sorin making his way to this little piece of heaven in Northern Indiana, nothing could get you off track.
We live in a land that guarantees freedom of speech. But it does not guarantee or legislate the accuracy of that speech. We live in a millenium that is wired, connected and anyone who can get to a computer or smart phone can post all sorts of material, true, untrue, random irrelevant, computer gaga we live and walk and work and study amid this noise. And the only way to succeed, find purpose and peace is to tune it all out. All of it. Every bit. Oh, it’s seductive. But unwarranted praise IS AS INSIDIOUS AND MISLEADING as unwarranted and hyperventilated criticism.
You are what you truly are, not people’s opinions of you. If you control and ennoble your own reality, then perceptions are not relevant. Answer to God, your spouse, and the guy you see when you look in the mirror to shave in the morning. That is portion enough. You guys have been GREAT at ignoring noise. That’s why you are who you are and you have done what you’ve done.
You’re all well on your way to a Notre Dame degree, or two, so we’ll note a few things we’ve talked about this year.
Many of you have read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. Now as good Christians and Catholics we know that Rand is an avowed atheist. And she loves Mammon and despises God, which Christians cannot do. So we read her “cum grano salis.” But the speech of John Galt, 90 pages long in “Atlas Shrugged,” is an American icon, albeit simultaneously an atheist, mammonist icon. Galt says :”whatever you choose to consider, be it an object, an attribute or an action, the law of identity remains the same. A leaf cannot be a stone at the same time, it cannot be all red and all green at the same time, it cannot freeze and burn at the same time. A is A…….all the pain you have ever endured came from your own attempt to evade the fact that A is A.”
Well guys, in a world or “public relations” and “image consultants” it’s challenging to remember that A is A.
Opinions are not facts
Good is not evil
Indolence is not effort
selfishness is not teamwork
polls are not football
perceptions are not reality
defeat is not victory
A is not B
A is A
You have honored that principle of reality, and throughout
this journey resisted the temptation to deny that A is A.
You must ignore the noise. You have ignored the noise
Back in my day, we listened to Bob Dylan. And even before the web, he described
a species of people who exist today (in large numbers)
“Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in.” From “it’s all right, Ma
(I’m only bleeding.”")
Excellence confuses and threatens people. They
are angry, confused and disoriented. They want
to “get you down in the hole they’re in.”
You must ignore their noise. You have ignored their noise.
As you students of history know, we once had a very powerful
first lady named Eleanor Roosevelt. She famously said
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”
Again, you can only find peace and success by ignoring noise
of the people that Mrs. Roosevelt discussed.
You have ignored such noise.
And here at Notre Dame we not only study atheistic classics (Rand), pop culture
(Dylan) history and philosophy (Eleanor Roosevelt) but also Christ.
Non-Christians often miss the full texture of Notre Dame. Here, after
all, his Momma sits atop the Golden Dome, so we have a special interest
in and relationship with Christ.
Christ said, in Matthew 5 11-12: “Blessed are you when men shall revile you,
and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely
for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad for so persecuted they the prophets
which were before you.”
What I love about that is that our Messiah does
not say “IF men shall revile you,” but rather “WHEN men shall revile you.”
If it’s good enough for the son of the Lady on the Dome, it should be good
enough for you and me.
Again, you have ignored such noise.
So from last January you DID the right things, AVOIDED the wrong things, IGNORED the noise.
And so it began, a victory over Navy in Dublin, a tight win over gritty Purdue at home, a dominant win over a tough Michigan State under the lights in East Lansing, and stopping Denard and Michigan in South Bend. 4-0. You worked HARD in the off week.
You went to Soldier Field and dominated Miami. In the rain in South Bend, you outlasted a tough Stanford team that has beaten USC, Oregon State and Oregon, you took BYU’s best shot and then we got on the plane to Norman, where you were victorious over OU. 8-0.
Pitt came in and you toughed it out for a win. We went to BC, controlled the Eagles and left town with our 10th win. We concentrated on football during the emotional cusp of Senior Day and pitched our first shutout. SC’s quarterback “guaranteed” a victory but only you Notre Dame players PRODUCED one. 12-0 guys. Perfect, brilliant, wonderful!
You earned it!
Sure we have a game to play and we’ll work hard to prepare for it. I trust you guys to do what you’ve done all year. But let’s celebrate this unbeaten season for its brilliance. Enjoy!
Let me tell you a story. I had just arrived at Notre Dame, and it was early June, 2010, after we had spend our first spring practice together. I looked out my office window and gazed toward the statue of the incomparable Frank Leahy on the East side of the stadium. There was an elderly gentleman there, with a cane. With him was a couple, probably husband and wife, with three teenage children. He was talking in an animated fashion, gesturing toward Leahy’s statue and, alternately, pointing toward the stadium.
I got back to work, and about an hour later strolled out onto the concourse. Well, there was the same gentleman, still with his entourage of five. He said “Coach Kelly—” and I went over to introduce myself and to meet him. He introduced me to his daughter and his son-in-law and their three well-scrubbed grandchildren, outfitted in full Notre Dame regalia. He was one of Leahy’s Lads!! I asked him what it was like playing for Leahy in that era. He lit up and began talking about the Army game in Yankee Stadium in ’46, Lujack, Leahy, Martin, Connor, Hart and Czarobski. There were four sets of wide eyes and four agape jaws, the three grandkids and me. It was magic; Notre Dame magic. You see, guys, football games are played in prose, but retold and remembered in poetry, especially here.
Well, someday, long after Paqui and I have left this mortal orb, that will be YOU regaling your grandchildren with a poetic rendering of that special trip to Dublin, a rain-soaked defense of our goalline against Stanford, a dominating, virtuoso performance in Norman and conquest in the Coliseum. You see, guys, in 2012 you made history. YOUR history. And it will be your stories.
Nobody will do it better.
I love you guys.
God bless you
Brian Kelly, your coach’”