The BCS title game has come and gone, and obviously not with the results Irish fans were hoping for. The Irish were overmatched on the field and out-coached off, but that doesn’t mean that players, coaches, and fans, have anything to be embarrassed about. The 2012 Irish team was , by all indications, a year ahead of schedule. Before the season started if anyone claimed that Notre Dame would have gone undefeated with a freshmen quarterback, it’s best receiver in Michael Floyd playing for the Cardinals, and a secondary that was depleted due to injuries, a person would have called Dr. Phil to get the over-zealous prognosticator some help. Amazingly though, that is exactly what happened.
Fans of Notre Dame football have not had much to cheer about in recent years, but that all changed in 2012. They were treated with some very special and touching moments both on and off the field. From the maturation of its young quarterback, incredible goal-line stands, and personal triumph and over-coming of tragedy. There are memories and moments that will remembered for years to come, and although fans are truly disappointed from the title game, that same disappointment will fade and appreciation will soon replace it.
If you follow the Irish closely, than you know that Brian Kelly has positioned this team for what seems to be a long run of success. Through hard work, discipline, and solid recruiting, Notre Dame has proved it can be an elite program again. The blueprint has been created, and as long as the players and staff remember what brought them to the pinnacle of college football, then Notre Dame should find itself there consistently for years to come. Although winning a BCS title is what every team strives for, if a program wants to remain at the top, and not a one hit wonder, then a smoke and approach is not the path to take. Gimmick offenses and trick plays may work for a year or two, but great talent, good depth, and hard work, will never be replaced. Some may think that the way Alabama rebuilt their program, and the same way Brian Kelly is attempting to do with the Irish, is an antiquated process – but they would be wrong.
As of right now the Irish have the #1 recruiting class in the nation and that is incredibly important as Notre Dame looks to not only add front-line starters, but strong depth also. This program is still in the infant stages of learning how to reclaim its position at the summit of college football, but took huge strides this year in doing just that. Kelly and Co. have removed the stigma the Irish had rightfully been associated with, of simply being average. Now the next step is to find success in BCS bowls games and eventually a playoff. It requires an attitude that permeates not only the players and staff, but fans and media alike. It’s an attitude that Alabama has right now, and it requires players to feel that no one is beating them on any given Saturday, and they can overcome any mistake on the field and still win. The 2012 football team finally understood how to win as a group, now they need to expect to win as one.
Disappointment is a valid and obvious reaction from the debacle in Miami, but feelings that should not be carried into next season for Notre Dame fans. You have a defense that could be as good or better than its predecessor, and an offense that will be better and more creative. A coaching staff that understands what it means to be truly elite, and hopefully a recruiting class that should bring excitement for the foreseeable future. You have a team that is returning from being embarrassed on the field, and hopefully understands now what it takes to be great. The bludgeoning the Irish took will be a constant reminder next year, that there is huge difference between being very good and being great.
There are a lot of positives to enjoy and negatives to learn from this season, and we have a feeling Coach Kelly with utilize both as learning tools in the upcoming 2013 season. Perspective is always important, and Irish fans will have to remember that, as they enter a new season. We understand it is hard to let go of the recent memories of Irish failure and mediocrity over the past 15 years, but if you expect the Irish football team to do that, than fans need to also. This a new era of football in South Bend, and one that is to be appreciated. To quote a great line from a movie my child watches often – “The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is gift – and that is why it is called the present”.