May 16, 2013 // Notre Dame Football

My Final Reflections on 2012

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Manti Teo, Navy 2012

Sep 1, 2012; Dublin, IRELAND; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te’o (5) celebrates after Notre Dame defeated the Navy Midshipmen 50-10 at Aviva Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

As most Irish fans are eager to turn the page from last season to the new upcoming one, we thought it would be prudent to reflect back one last time on the memorable one that the 2012 squad provided for ourselves and all Irish fans across the nation. I was lucky enough to grow up in the Holtz era, when winning was just expected. Oh sure, I vaguely remember the Faust years, but somehow avoided the emotional scars that most who watched Irish football during that time period had to endure then and still do to this day.

There are a contingency of fans who think that last season was a disappointment because of the debacle that was the BCS championship game, and while that game will not be making my top 10 Irish games of all time list, I still truly do appreciate the journey that last year’s team allowed us all to take part in.

Just like most fans, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the team that hit the field against Navy, in Dublin. Let’s be honest here, it seemed the Notre Dame football program had found more ways to lose games in 2010 and 2011, than to win them. There were signs of improvement over the last 2 seasons, but after 15 years of mediocrity, were fans really ready to jump back in with both feet? I know I was hesitant to say the least, and extremely skeptical at worst, and it depended on the day, as to how I viewed their chances.

So the Navy game came and went, and while the score seemed acceptable, it felt like the offense was average (other than running wild) and the defense created easy opportunities for them. Still, if you didn’t watch the game, and saw the score, you would have to feel good about the outcome. One game, one win, can’t really complain about that – but we still did.  Enter in Purdue, and I have never been so close to getting a Kyle Brindza and Tommy Rees tattoo in my life. A much closer game than I had anticipated, but subconsciously – it’s what I expected. A win is a win, and the Irish left week 2 behind with a record of 2-0.

It is now week 3 and my beloved Irish head up to their personal house of horrors in Spartan stadium. I just knew this was going to be a loss, and it would suck in the way it happened. I was positive that Le’Veon Bell was going to win the Heisman Trophy just on this nights accomplishments alone, and based off his effort the week before against Boise St., I wasn’t alone in that feeling. Little did I know that Notre Dame’s defense would show the world that they were legit, and the Irish’s young quarterback had more game than he showed in the first 2 games. Notre Dame left East Lansing with a 20-3 victory, a 3-0 record, and defense that was starting to be noticed nationally, and I couldn’t be happier!

As happy as I was being 3-0, who would dare come along to ruin said happiness? The Wolverines of course. Denard Robinson had averaged 1000 yards a game on the ground against the Irish the past 3 years, and there was no way he wouldn’t double that on this night. As my doubt grew stronger though, it seemed the Irish defense actually got better. They would eventually force 6 Wolverine turnovers, and in the process, finally scrape the “S” off of the front of Robinson’s jersey. The Irish had found a way to actually stop a late Michigan drive, and finally held on for a late game win, 13-6. Holy hell, we are now 4-0 and have won against Michigan and Michigan State.

So now the Irish head off to Chicago for the Shamrock Series game against Miami, and so did I. Sitting at the top of Soldier Field, I was certain I would never feel my fingers or toes again, but it could have been worse – I could have been a Miami fan who had to suffer through the cold and their team’s miserable performance, as they were demolished by Notre Dame 41-3. I think the ticket broker who I ordered my tickets through hated Notre Dame, as he placed me right smack in the middle of what felt like a 100,000 Miami fans. If it weren’t for the fear of being stabbed or shot, it would have been a great time to gloat. After the game against Michigan, Irish fans needed an easy game like this and Brian Kelly and his squad delivered.

Now sitting undefeated at 5-0, the Irish came rolling back into South Bend to take on what most considered their toughest challenge to date, the Stanford Cardinal. In my head I was thinking if we can just get past these guys, the Irish really only have two tough games left, in Oklahoma and USC. This game was one for the ages, and damn near put me in the hospital. I can’t count how many times I had to push pause on the DVR in the 4th quarter because I thought my heart had either stopped, or was about to shoot through my chest. I watched so many key plays in slow motion, just knowing that if I watched it like that, the Irish would succeed on each play. My phone was blowing up with calls and texts asking “did you see that?” – Of course I saw that, what the hell else would I be doing? As everyone knows, it took one of the best 4 play goal line stands in the history of Notre Dame stadium to preserve Notre Dames undefeated season, and all Irish fans dream of going unbeaten.

After the previous week’s game against Stanford, I needed an easy game and was hoping that BYU would provide that. Somehow I knew deep inside that Notre Dame would suffer from “letdown syndrome” and boy was my intuition right. I could have grabbed 10 of my buddies at the bar and been more competitive than the Irish offense was in the 1st half. One lousy touchdown in the first half, and we give up 14 points in the 2nd quarter and trail by 7 going into half. Thankfully the defense came to play in the 2nd half, shutting out the Cougar offense, and the Irish prevail 17-14, and stay undefeated. So much for a week off, and by now I am contemplating therapy just to try and make it through the rest of the season, but 7-0 is 7-0, and now I had about 42 minutes to relax and enjoy the win before I started to worry about the trip to Norman, and the match-up with the fighting Stoops.

Now the Irish squad was starting to seem like one of destiny(if that’s a thing), but still had roadblocks in front of them, and how they performed in Oklahoma could play a large part in determining their fate towards the end of the season. Sure there were plenty of stats that explained why the Irish would win, but I was having none of that. Honestly, I was just hoping the guys would have a good showing, and keep it close. Irish fans have had enough embarrassments over the last 10 plus years when it came to nationally televised high profile games, and I didn’t want to hear about another one the morning after.

Stoops game plan was brilliant early in the game, as the Irish looked confused on defense and couldn’t keep up with the frantic display of speed and decision- making. The game seemed so fast, that I was certain I had accidentally pressed the fast forward button on my remote control. Than something happened, and it all slowed down, and I am still not sure why. The Irish defenders started to regain their sanity and understand where they needed to be, and all the work they put in over the week had started to show on the field. Maybe this Brian Kelly guy might know what he is doing after all. It was a close game until the  latter part of the 4th quarter, when the Irish killed all Sooner hope, as Kyle Brindza nailed a 46 yard field goal to give the Irish a 10 point lead. They eventually won 30-13, and walked out of Norman still undefeated.

Now in walks a 4-4 Pittsburgh team that had lost to Youngstown State early in the season, but that didn’t matter, because every Irish fan knew they were going to play Notre Dame like it was for the national title – and they did. This was just another game that fueled the fire of all the doubters out there who claimed that Notre Dame had lucked into being 8-0, and how could a top team need 3 overtimes to beat a team like Pitt? Trust me when I say it made me no happier or stress-free to have to sit through this nail biter, as games like this were becoming the norm, and not the exception. What I do know is that for about 10 minutes I loathed Cierre Wood, and was never so excited about another man’s failure – yes I am talking about you Kevin Harper. Regardless, the football gods had smiled on the Irish again, and they now stood at 9-0 for the first time since 1993, and had just 3 games left.

The next two games actually went as planned for Irish fans, as they took care of Boston College and Wake Forest, by scoring 59 points and only giving up 6 points over this 2 game stretch. Don’t get me wrong, I was positive the ghost of Boston College kicker David Gordon was going to haunt the 2012 Irish, just as he did in real life back in 1993, but alas, it never happened. The offense looked extremely lethargic, and that’s being kind, but still the Kelly led squad won the game against the Eagles, and easily took care of Wake Forest the week after. They had made it to 11-0 and the last team that stood in their way was arguably their most hated rivals.

A nationally televised night game in Southern California is not exactly the perfect scenario for the Irish to finish their undefeated season, and have a shot at a national title. Oh sure, these were not the same Trojans of 10 years ago. Hell, they weren’t even the same USC team from 2 years ago, but it didn’t matter in my mind. I was sure that this magical season was going to end tonight, and amp up my hatred for the team that dons the cardinal and gold to dangerous levels. It didn’t matter that their defense was pedestrian at best, they had no depth, and had to pull a kid from the local high schools J.V. team to play quarterback. , an Irish loss was inevitable.

The Irish took an early 10-0 lead over the Trojans, but I knew it wasn’t going to be this easy, and it wasn’t. USC fought back and as halftime approached, the Irish had a slim 16-10 lead. The 2nd half would be no easier, as the Irish offense could only muster another 6 points, all off the leg of Kyle Brindza. As much grief as most Notre Dame fans gave him throughout the year, he sure seemed to come though an awful lot. Of course it came down to another defensive stop by Notre Dame, and of course it happened to be at the goal line again. The Trojans had four attempts from Notre Dame’s one-yard line to punch it in, and the only thing that got punched was them – right in the mouth by the Irish defensive line. That’s correct, the Irish defense had dug deep again, and with a trip to the BCS title game on the line, unleashed 15 years worth of frustration on the Trojan offensive line.

As I sat there in my chair, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel. I had only seen the Irish go undefeated in the regular season just once, back in 1988, and I was sure someone or something was playing a joke on me. Before the season started I would have been happy with an 8-4 record, and maybe if things had gone right, they could reach 9 wins. If someone would have told me the Irish were going to go undefeated before the season started, I would have assumed they were a fringe fan, or one of their hobbies was recreational drug use. The facts are though, they did go undefeated, regardless of what I thought, what the media thought, or anyone else actually.

The 2012 season has been talked about, rehashed, and in some case pushed to the side, in anticipation of the 2013 season, and I found myself guilty of this also, but have since changed my perspective. Instead of trying to rush to the next greatest installment of the Fighting Irish, I have decided to pull the reigns back on that, and reflect often on what this 2012 squad gave me, and all Notre Dame fans. The 2012 Fighting Irish football team gave its fans a perfect regular season, a team that never quit, a team that played with heart and one that never doubted itself, and some true football moments that will be remembered 20 years from now

So before you rush off and start counting the days before kickoff against Temple on August 31st, make sure you step back and understand what a gift Irish fans were given last year, regardless of what happened on a dark January night in Miami. There are fans of 122 other FBS schools that would have traded places with us in heartbeat, and we shouldn’t cast it to the side with such carelessness.

Comments to this Article

  • ChrisJ commented on May 16th, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Great article, Bob! It was a special season indeed. I have watched many YouTube highlights of last year. Go Irish!

    [Reply]

  • VicPaul commented on May 16th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks for the great read. I was fortunate enough to get to witness two games in person this year. I too was up in the nose bleeds at Soldier Field.
    The game was exactly what I needed, close at halftime and then a blow out in the 2nd. As my buddy and I chanted ‘BCS, BCS’ with thousands of other fans, my mind turned to what I was going to get to do the following week…..See my first ever game at Notre Dame Stadium and a chance to go 6-0 with a victory over the Cardinal.
    Stepping on the campus for the first time will be something I remember for the rest of my life. With so much to see and do I was like a kid in a candy store. We had gotten tickets in the North end zone, which for that particular game, was the best you could have asked for as all the scoring including the goal line stand for the ages was right in front of us.
    In the pouring rain, and I mean pouring rain (if you weren’t there, you have no idea how wet it was) seeing my first game in one of the greatest stadiums in all of sport I was the happiest and luckiest man in the world. After singing the alma mater my friend and I rushed the field to celebrate with the students. I actually got to leave the field through the tunnel. I may never get back there and if I don’t, I will be completely content with my Notre Dame experience.
    Sorry for rambling on, but I too wanted to recap the 2012 season from my perspective. It was the greatest ND year of my life. (I was a little young in ’88 to remember much of it) And while it didn’t end the way we all would have liked, I look forward to many more years like this past one.
    Beat Temple and as always….Go Irish!!!!

    [Reply]

  • dinglewood commented on May 16th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Great article. To add to your thoughts … having watched ND from the mid fifties think this was the best coaching job I have ever seen. Started the season a host of issues from lack of depth to a lot of unproven players. The end result was good to excellent performances everywhere but the return games. However, what put this at the top of the list was an uncanny knack for the right call, the right substitution, etc. I do not think coaches will be able to maintain this focus but the results maybe almost as good as we have a good bit more talent, experience, and depth (knock on wood re injuries).

    BTW my previous best performance by the whole coaching staff was Ara and company in 1964. As a Spring practice junkie I saw them evaluate everyone for best fit (John Huarte got worked out as possible DB), install completely new systems on both sides of the ball, etc. On the field for the most part they gave the talent the chance to shine including coming up with a formation that completely confused a MSU defense lead by one Bubba Smith and a host of other upcoming players that made them excellent for the two years thereafter culminating in the 10-10 game.

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  • Jack W commented on May 16th, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Wonderful article and look back at how I felt. I could have written that article since its exactly how I felt. Over the years you get used to disappointment. When the talent pool gets deeper as it is, this will become the norm with BK led teams. Look at his record, in the last 5 seasons he has coached in 3 BCS games. I wonder if there are any other coaches that can say that except for Saban. With real talent, and his talent, BK will be a regular at BCS games and hopefully get a few NCs in there during the next 5 or 10 years.

    I just hope we start landing some 4 and 5 star corner backs and keep recruiting strong on the defensive side of the ball as we all know D wins championships.

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  • Toulmin H. Brown commented on May 16th, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Notre Dame is far from finished.

    [Reply]

  • Shazamrock commented on May 17th, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Since we are reminiscing, how about some random thought’s,

    Kind of surprised we haven’t heard much about the proposed upgrades to ND stadium. I do find it interesting that a few short months after collecting a rather hansome paycheck from playing in the BCS championship game, the University announces these proposed up grades. Coinsidence? Maybe, but it is refreshing to see that the proposed upgrades will benefit the entire student body and faculty, and not just the football team.

    Couldn’t help but wonder what the media, and fan reaction would have been like, if it had been Brian Kelly who called Michigan chicken?

    Speaking of fan reaction, in today’s world, whenever you read a on-line sports story, there is always space provided for fan reaction and opinion.
    Any time one of these stories concerns ND, the haters come out of the woodwork. Nothing new there. But reading through them there seems to be a re-occuring theme. Many hate ND because they feel that ND and their fans put off the image that they are better than everyone else.

    I thought about that.

    While humility might not be one of our most endearing traits, the fact that ND runs it’s sports programs by the rules, display class and good sportsmenship on and off the field, graduate their players, who have earned real degrees, taking real classes, and maintained real GPA’s, while also going 12-0 on the football field during the regular season is no lie either.

    So are we better than most? I’ll let you answer that one for yourself.

    [Reply]

    C-Dog replied on May 19th, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    I think people hate Notre Dame because they think they know what Notre Dame fans have thought and said. Many have never directly encountered a Notre Dame fan or alum. They pile on because they think it’s cool and will win them points in blogger land. What is sad is the fifth they write without knowledge.

    Who are Notre Dame fans? We are a collection of people. Some are idealists who long for the days of a Mickey Roonie movie when people said” gosh and golly, or I’m in the pink! Or that’s swell. “. Some are Irish and/or Catholic and have a chip because we know there is still bigotry against us. Some see Notre Dame as representing all minorities and underdogs, a truly American trait.

    But one and all, we have high expectations. For our team, our school, ourselves, and one another. We set the bar high. We hate underachievement. We hate cheating. We don’t think we are great but we expect great things.

    We will never go out of our way to demean and opposing schools. But we won’t back down from insults. We will fight for what is right. That’s why we are called the filing Irish.

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on May 20th, 2013 at 7:06 am

    Now there’s a REAL ND fan!

    I Salute you sir!

    [Reply]

  • Duranko commented on May 17th, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Bob wrote a good article about the reason most of us, not all of us, are here: Notre Dame Football. Those twelve Saturdays, the unforgiving moments when deeds are recorded and archived. Really, it is all that counts.

    The media does not count.
    The fans do not count.
    polls do not count.

    This board, and articles like Bob’s, are truly in sync with Notre Dame football when they hold up a magnifying lens, a mirror, to the reality of Notre Dame football. Bravo, Bob!

    Then we have Shazamrock, recidivist princess on a pea.

    And I’m about to express my grievances, Shazamrock. First, what some coach says in a booster meeting has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE REALITYOF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL.

    This is not Gossip Girls. REAL NOTRE DAME men ignore both media praise and criticism. Each is insidious and gratuitous.

    Our outstanding football coach knows that he has to coach his team, and is resolute about recruiting, coaching the coaches and player development. He understands that the media’s praise or criticism is equally irrelevant.

    Notre Dame alums, for the most part, have some Christian loyalty. And if you have Christian loyalty, you follow the rules Christ set forth about 2000 years ago.

    First you do not lord it over others. Cf. Luke: 18:13 That’s the way a Christian acts.

    Second, you follow the strictures of Matthew Chapter 7. REAL NOTRE DAME MEN and WOMEN busy themselves with doing their thing and should have blinders on about the deeds of others. That’s for the heathen and the gossip.

    Third, real Christians follow the rule of Matthew 5:16. Light shines.
    some grasp it, the darkness never does. And it’s been that way for 2000 years.

    [Reply]

  • Shazamrock commented on May 17th, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I admire, and encourage the freedom of expression!

    I also certainly do agree that what a competing coach has to say at a booster meeting about ND does not define the reality of Notre Dame or it’s football program.

    Whether you consider this gossip or not, or choose to ignore or acknowledge it, is purely of personal choice and opinion only.

    I agree that our coach is outstanding, he is resolute about proper recruiting, and is truely gifted in player development and motivation.

    I also agree that he understands the media, but not in the sense that their praise or criticiam is irrelevent, and should be taken as such. On the contrary.

    To understand this, look no further than the coach he replaced.
    That man had no clue as to how to approach the media, how to get them work in his favor, or how get the most out of every opportunity in front of them.

    He couldn’t sell the school, the team, or himself.
    The “Fighting” Irish of Notre Dame is a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
    Finding the means to connect with all of them is very important.

    Yes, we all understand that Notre Dame is a private Institution, but to think that the media, the fans, and the polls, do not count seems a bit conceeded.
    I see consideration of those variables, in those terms, as somewhat narrow minded, self serving, and lacks of modern reality in today’s ultra competitive college football world.

    Lastly, I for one can’t fathom our almighty father truely wanting ALL of His Childern scurring about in our daily lives like blind moles with little thought other than to do our own thing.

    In my opinion, real Christians try to follow all the rules, set forth by all His Disciples, and not just the one’s that happen to suit them at the time. But then, it’s probably been that way for 2000 years as well.

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on May 18th, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    First, why did you hijack this thread about Hoke when it was on
    as previous thread, in which you had participated? Riddle me this: What necessitated your fouling up this thread with the Hoke issue when it was on another? Impatience? indifference? Disregard of Kollars article? Or something else?

    Second you need to define “we” as in your phrase “So are we better than most? I’ll let you answer that for yourself.” The quoted phrase is what you wrote.

    Please define.

    For now, I am pluperfectly clear that I am not part of your “we.”

    Second, the phrase “Are we better than most” is jejune, self-indulgent.

    Third, the answer would probably be in the negative.

    At Notre Dame, football teams play football, not shill for the press.
    Results control.

    Realities control.
    Perceptions don’t.

    No man can serve two masters.

    pick one.

    I have

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on May 20th, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Man,you got a lot of rules.
    You would make a great dictator.

    Actually, it seems you already are.

    My apologies, I must not have been here the day you stormed the castle and took over.

    Firsts’… seconds…. Thirds,?
    Only 3 today?
    (thanks for going easy on me!)

    Perhaps you could list all your rules at one time so there will be no misunderstandings in the future amoung us common folk?

    Better list all of your qualifications for anyone wishing to participate, and all your superior opinions as well .(Wait, my bad, you have already done that)

    Now, I expect you to know this material by Friday… there will be a quiz!

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on May 20th, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Ah yes, another cogently “princess on a pea” attack by our resident REAL ND MAN and perfect Christian!

    Stop flattering yourself duranko. Bob always writes a superior article to your schoolmarm and self-deluding solipsism. I suggest you practice what you preach Mr. Clean: “First you do not lord it over others.” Your avowed, unapologetic and phony christian “Teo” sermonettes are well documented on this site.

    So who is the real heretic here? Stop the pungent hypocrisy and demonization, your personal contrivance of salvation is definately at risk. Howbeit, I know you would like to blame it on some-timers! How old are you? 80?

    Here come our beloved Irish! Foxsports 1 – Regis & Lou

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on May 20th, 2013 at 9:17 am

    JC,

    I normally just skim over his usual blabber.

    But one of his posts in particular caught my eye
    a couple of weeks back. Perhaps you remember it?
    He was self-promoting again as some great instructor
    of some “nobody gives a damn” Sales training class.

    Do you believe it? SALES!

    “Now” everything makes sense!

    Believe me, I have nothing against salesmen.

    But just like the other 99% out there, I take what they say with a grain of salt.

    I enjoyed Bob’s artical same as everyone else, but his Divine Eminence just needed an excuse to take to the soapbox agian.

    The guy is a damn used car salesman! A carpetbagger! A store front preacher!

    You have to admit, it’s pretty Damn funny!

    With one hand he’s preachin, while the other hand is reachin!

    Spends his entire adult life devising ways to separate hard earned money from
    hard working people.

    Heaven forbid you should be in any way different than him, he’ll take the Good Word,
    roll them up like yesterday’s newspapers, and beat you over the head with them.
    Very Christian,, very Christian indeed.

    Well ,I for one ain’t buying from Friendly Freddy and his trunk full of junk.

    The way I see it, I really have no use for his new and improved deluxe cheese straightener that was made in China!

    Pa always said “never trust a Hog-waller”

    -Delmar-

    [Reply]

  • bj commented on May 20th, 2013 at 8:09 am

    welcome alex bars-play like a champion today every game!

    [Reply]

  • C-Dog commented on May 20th, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Bob’s article and Shazamrock’s posts are extremely related. The trogs on other sites, especially ESPN are just vicious and most know absolutely nothing about how ND really did last year. If is unfortunate the Teo’s incident while mild certainly has embarrassed the program. And if it wasn’t ND, it would have blown over so much sooner. The game being so one sided has indeed been a tough one to stomach. And to read the continuing filth is also difficult and takes some energy to avoid.

    So to put in perspective where the program is and what is at stake, asks that we remember how Irish were treated up until perhaps the 1960s. Many might not be aware but the KKK came to South Bend to deal with those Catholics in the early 1920s, but the boys from Notre Dame kicked some tail and sent them back south. The need to prove ourselves once again is upon us and there is unfinished business at hand.

    Shazamrock reminds us never to forget that behind the sports insults there is true hate and in different times, we might have rocks hurled at us or worse.

    Bob’s article gives us hope and lifts us up. After 20 years of our own coaches and ADs failing us, we now have hope. It’s good to realize and understand that this is for real and Notre Dame is going to content for a while. We have unfinished business and it appears that Kelly and company will take care of it. We can hope.

    [Reply]

  • Tom Horn commented on May 23rd, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    It has been a long dry spell since Coach Holtz left. Looks like we finally have he sports back in order.
    2012 was a great season, e can now look forward to good season for a while. I suspect things continue to improve with AD Jack Swarbrick and Coach Kelly at he helm.
    Go Irsh

    [Reply]

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