It is no secret that the 2012 version of the Fighting Irish had their share of close calls and yet found a way to prevail in every single scenario and eventually found themselves in the BCS title game because of it. Some would say it was luck, some say it was better preparation, and others called it a case of “just getting all the breaks”. It seemed the exact opposite though in 2011, as most of the time the Irish saw the “breaks” not falling in their favor.
As Brian Kelly continues to bring in a higher quality athlete, the Irish should see the trend of things going their way continue, but that’s not to imply that it will always do so. Before we finally put the 2012 season to rest, we wanted to take one last look at some of the games in which the “luck of the Irish” seemed to play a part in Notre Dame coming out victorious.
Purdue(Won 20-17) – After allowing Purdue to tie the game up at 17-17 with just over 2:00 to go in the game, starter Everett Golson was lifted because of an injury. Kelly turned to Tommy Rees, who had just returned to the team from suspension, and led the Irish on a 12 play, 55 yard drive that would culminate with a game winning field goal by Kyle Brindza with :07 left.
- Rees 2 key 3rd down completions of 10 yards and 21 yards
- John Goodman makes a great catch on the sideline to convert 3rd down
- Toma grabs 21 yard reception to convert 3rd down and 10
- Brindza nails 27 yard field goal to win game
Michigan(Won 13-6) – The last game for Denard Robinson against the Irish was another memorable one, but just not in the way he had hoped for. In a game that saw Robinson throw 4 interceptions and for just 134 yards in the air, the
Wolverines still found a way to keep this game extremely close. Tommy Rees made another appearance, and while not spectacular, ran for a touchdown, and connected with Tyler Eifert late in the game to secure the win.
- Vincent Smith(Mich) throws interception in end zone
- Irish defense forces 6 total turnovers
- Brindza nails 39 yard FG, increase lead by 10 with 6:46 left in game
- Eifert 38 yard reception on 3rd and 4, with just 2:34 to go in game
Stanford(Won 20-13 OT) – It will always be remembered as the goal-line stand game, but there were a lot of things that had to happen for the Irish to pull this game out. Tommy Rees had to step in again for Golson, and hit TJ Jones in the
end-zone in overtime to help secure the victory. The Irish also had the luxury of facing the Cardinal with Nunes at QB, before Shaw made the permanent move to Hogan. This was simply a 12 round match between two top 20 teams, and the Irish prevailed once again.
- Irish pickoff Nunes at 2 yard line, mid 1st qtr
- Brindza hits 22 yard FG to tie game at 13, with :20 left
- Rees floats 16-yard pass to Theo Riddick to convert a third-and-8 in OT
- Irish hold Cardinal out of end-zone from 5 yard line, for 4 plays
BYU (Won 17-14) – Two of the best defenses in the nation squared off in South Bend in late October, and the Irish found a way to win again, while looking less than spectacular while doing so. Tommy Rees started his first game of the season, as Golson sat the bench injured, and Riddick and Wood controlled the game on the ground. This game had all the markings of a trap game, as BYU was the last opponent before the Irish made the trek to Norman, but the Irish prevailed – barely.
- Rees starts 1st game of year for injured Golson
- Riddick and Wood combine for 257 yards on the ground
- Irish defense hold BYU to just 66 yards on the ground
- Irish shut out BYU offense in 2nd half, and sack Nelson at Notre Dames 40
- yard line late in the game to secure win
Pittsburgh(Won 29-26 3OT) – In a game that was much closer than most had anticipated, the Irish rallied from being down 20-6 in the 4th quarter and beat the Panthers in triple overtime. Once again Golson was pulled, but later reinserted and a big reason the Irish pulled out the victory. Golson connected on two touchdowns in the 4th quarter, and also ran in for the 2-point conversion to tie the game up with just over 2 minutes to go.
- Golson leads the Irish back late with 2 TD passes, and 2PT conversion
- Wood fumbles in end-zone in 2nd over-time
- Kevin Harper misses 33 yard field goal in 2nd OT
- Golson 1 yard rush in 3rd OT to win the game
There were also other cases in which things just happened to go Notre Dames way throughout the season, and the Irish took advantage. In the Shamrock series game, Miami’s Stephen Morris missing wide receivers deep two times early in the first quarter, that would have resulted in touchdowns both times. Oklahoma starting with a frantic pace, that seemed to overwhelm the Irish, but then changed the tempo without cause or reason. Matt Barkley being injured, allowing the Irish to face a young QB who had never made a start before in his career. Alone, none of these are huge factors, but when you combine them with the above mentioned games, it truly makes you appreciate how many things had to go right and did, just for the Irish to have a shot at a national title.
Now before Irish fans go crazy and start reminding us of how it wasn’t luck, but preparation, that is not we are suggesting. We are simply curious if this trend will continue in 2013, and will the Irish continue to find ways to grind out victories in the most astonishing ways. It felt like the Irish had a decade’s worth of good luck, and incredible plays happen over the span of just one season. We are also not trying to suggest that the Irish didn’t earn each and every victory, because they did. With that said though, one of the biggest storylines for this upcoming year will be if they can continue to pull victories from the jaws of defeat, and trust us when we say that fans will be reminded of how often it happened in 2012 throughout the new season.