Unfamiliar No More

team usc 2012b
Nov. 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly hugs an assistant coach as he is showered with Gatorade after Notre Dame defeated the USC Trojans 22-13 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly hugged an assistant coach and Irish players stormed the field in celebration over ND’s 22-13 victory against USC, cementing a spot in the national title game in Miami.  I watched the scene transpire in silence.  I would say I had envisioned a more animated response upon the realization the Fighting Irish would be playing for a national championship, but that would imply I had entertained the notion previously.  I hadn’t.  Instead, I watched in a shock that has yet to dissipate.

Heading into USC weekend, anxiety was high.  I believed in the 2012 Notre Dame squad and knew the Irish’s rise to 11-0 was no fluke or one-hit wonder, but there was still ample room for concern.  Could ND truly sneak by two demons – a 24 year title game drought and a decade-long pummeling by the Trojans – in just one game?  After all, disappointing season or not, Southern California was preseason #1 for a reason.  The Fighting Irish decided sneaking was too inefficient, instead opting for an “as the crow flies” approach, kicking down the doors to the Coliseum and running amuck amongst the natives.  While the score was close and USC had its opportunities, the real story is in the numbers, something even USC’s players concede.

Notre Dame dominated the line of scrimmage, opening up enough holes that senior running back Theo Riddick appeared set to run to Miami and wait for his teammates to join him in January.  Riddick had 146 yards on 20 carries with one touchdown for an almost incomprehensible 7.3 yards per carry.  But the domination wasn’t relegated to just the offensive side of the ball.  Big play wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, though both had their moments, were largely contained, and the Irish defense held rival USC to less than 100 rushing yards and a paltry 3.6 yards per carry average.  While pundits may once again bemoan style, USC’s players were too busy moaning about their bruises.

“They let you know you’re not coming through the middle,” USC running Curtis McNeal said after the game. “We were trying. It just wasn’t working. Our linemen were doing the best they could. We only had five linemen on the field. It was like they had about nine D-linemen on the field.”

Trojan superstar Marqise Lee admitted to the media post-game that Notre Dame was worthy of its number one ranking, and he wasn’t alone in that opinion.  USC linebacker Hayes Pullard also informed a member of the media that the Irish deserved to be number one, and he took it a step further.  When asked if Notre Dame was even better than Oregon, Pullard answered in the affirmative.  “Yes.  Better.”

The hours since Saturday night’s events have been a chaotic mix of celebration and disbelief.  As a relatively younger Notre Dame fan that was too young to comprehend or recall 1988, true understanding of the significance is a gradual progress.  No longer do I have to hear the only way I’ll ever see the Irish win is to turn on my Xbox and play the NCAA football series.  I no longer have to watch Notre Dame’s “greatest games” DVD box set I received as a gift several Christmases ago with underlying resentment toward glory I have never witnessed on my own.  While I appreciate, respect and love the history of Notre Dame (with its uniqueness shining as brilliantly as its golden helmets), I was tired of the ghosts – it was time to focus on the living.

So this is what number one feels like?  The hatred that goes along with Notre Dame atop college football – something I was warned about – has begun to surface, with the likes of ESPN’s Bryan Curtis having written recently, “The new way to hate Notre Dame is not to hate them at all. It’s more like disappointment that they aren’t worthy of hate.”  Or ESPN writer Rick Reilly tweeting before the USC game that he was so confident the Irish would lose that he would paint Notre Dame’s helmets gold himself should they win.  To most Notre Dame fans, comments such as these would spark instantaneous outrage.


I’ve waited my whole life for that hatred, the biased accusations and cheap shots that have no bearing on reality.  I hear the criticisms that Notre Dame doesn’t belong, that they played a weak schedule, that the officials offered games on a silver platter, and the increasingly loud cacophony of opposing fan frustration is some of the sweetest sounds to have ever reached my ears.

There will be a lot of negative talk regarding the Irish over the next several weeks, and I plan to welcome it with open arms.  I’ve been waiting to hear it for far too long.

You may also like


  1. I’m an old fart … 70 years old to be exact … the Sisters of Notre Dame taught me in grade school … I had no chance or option when it came to rooting for Notre Dame. I have rooted for the Irish since I was 6 years old. I have lived and almost died listening to or watching each game for 64 years. My proudest moment was when my son graduated from Notre Dame in 1995. So … this season is special. We whipped Bama in 1973 … we will do it again in 2013.

  2. joeyd, Wow! My condolences. Totally agree with you. This is why I posted previouasly that Richt and Murray were much questioned (in Georgia and nationally) for their big-game performances. Richt blew up at a reporter in his post-game press conference and refused to answer his question when asked about this.

    Richt’s response to the question about why he didn’t clock the ball was just stupid. The Dawgs could’ve gotten 2 plays off had they done that. Plain and simple.


    You just cost me a trip to Miami to watch Georgia/ND in the championship game. Had a ticket locked up from an UGA alum at face value and a weekend of golf in Tampa ripped out of my hand because you don’t know to stop the clock on first and goal with 15 seconds left!!!

  4. oops i that is NOtre Dame our Mother-not out –such sacrilege not intentional—Ive been drinking LOTS OF COFFEE–not a drop of the sauce-promise—watching all these games and high school games in our state on TV has my nerves on high test–and I need to get out of of he high test and get it out of the system-
    sorry boys ( and ladies)
    Im wired after that SEC game–
    I STILL think bama despite the immortal status they have been given and assumed and all is not infallible– I saw strength and speed but not perfection and I’ve checked a lot of clips out –they can be beat–ND just bring the best game you can and we are hoping for the best and another win over the tide diminishing into a puddle–at least a pond or small lake– it won’t be easy–BUT –THINK THIS WAY GUYS–The BULLDOGS DID NOT NOT NOT get blown out 50-7 as some assumed they would because of bama “near perfection” they are beatable—(is that a word?) We can do this–and when I say We I mean those who LOVE ND –alum or not–plenty of room for those who want to wear the gold and blue with a dash of green–come on in—my wife has assigned me to my man cave until Sunday night because i’ve been like this all season long aftger each game–LOL–Crazy for the Irish-watch the DVR and the improvements are there –( and room for it) It is interesting to note the tone and demeanor of the talking heads from Sept until now—LOL—GO IRISH–I BELEVE MEN–It is SUnday Morning –DO I HAVE A WITNESS??? GO IRISH!!! ( thank God there is Mass with the option of the 5PM time on the first Sunday of Advent) WHEW—think the coffee has to go–CAN WE DO THIS??? YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    WE ARE ND!
    Believe, pray, hope, Irish, legacy, mystique,, it is real, we have ALWAYS been relevant, we are in–we have waht it takes on and certainly by far off the field
    Notre Dame Irish
    Pray and believe folks —
    It can happen!!!

  6. I can talk theology with most. Let’s do that later.
    On a lighter ( but important) note–if anyone gets this
    Im watching * ( we all are I’m sure)
    who DOES ND want?
    Bama or the Dawgs of Red and Black?
    Goergia or Tide?
    I have my thoughts.
    With all respect to those who REALLY know the game–what say all of you?
    Tuscaloosa or Athens, Ga? GO IRISH!!

  7. JDH:

    Right on: Faith without good works is dead faith!

    In the words of Lou Holtz: God (incarnate in Jesus Christ) may not care about the outcome of a ND football game, but His (Jesus’) Mother sure does!

    Let’s hope our dear brother Duranko doesn’t read your post and lecture us on Mormonism. I would agree with him in theory even if I elect to overlook his facts in light of Manti’s testimony, which is Christian regardless of what I or anyone else believes about his faith.

    Moreover, many Evangelical Christians believe that Catholicism and Mormonism are both cults anyways, so that means that Catholics and Manti (as well as Robby Thoma, Chris Badger, and I think Kona Schwenke) share that in common also.

  8. SFR,
    Your words aren’t strange to me at all. And I am indeed a VERY blessed man. God has been very good to me. For that, I owe and I make certain that I serve those around me through regular charitable endeavours. I use the gifts and talents that He gave me to lift others up through service to them. I say this not in any way to glorify myself, but to simply say that I do that as a matter of course. Sometimes I wonder if this ND football season may be more “blessed” than many people realize. I am not going to pretend to know God’s mind, but I doubt He cares too much about football. Although the Bible tells us that God always favors us worshiping Him through our good activities, and I believe sports certainly fall into that category. But when you have a group of kids like this, led by a Christian warrior like Teo, is God perhaps using them as an example? An example of how to glorify Him and do things the right way? That you can be GREAT in many ways at once and you don’t have to choose between furthering yourself spirtitually, academically, physically/athletically etc?

    I think there could be something to this and my wife and I choose to see this team as more than just a great football team. They may be a guide or a lightpost for alot of people who never stopped to think about such things. These young men have inspired me, particularly Teo.

  9. JDH,

    What a blessed man you are! Know that. Not only do you, sir, have a wonderful and loving family to father (and share your passion of ND with them!), but you also have the example to follow and memory of your own beloved father.

    Your dad knows his baby grand-daughter, JDH. His love for her and all of you is so infinitely greater in Heaven than it is here. His watching over you and care for you is more effective as well. I know you know that.

    Perhaps if you are a non-Catholic Christian some of my language may seem strange or even heterodox. I assure you that the catholic or universal Church (and not just the Roman Catholic Church) has since the beginning affirmed and taught the things I say. (Not even the early Reformers like Calvin or Luther could bring themselves to denigrate the saints and most especially the Blessed Mother!) The prayers of those beloved departed are heard by God. The saints in Heaven aren’t dead; our God says of Himself that He is a God of the living and not of the dead!

    I’m not trying to proselytize anyone or start a theological debate with our Protestant brothers and sisters on this board. I just want JDH and all of us who have had loved ones who died in Christ to have hope (in the biblical sense of the word) that they are still with us and partaking of all our joys and even sorrows, although they themselves will never again experience doubt, fear, pain, suffering, sin, or death!

    How Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Dan Devine, JDH’s and Ghost’s dads, and all the other beloved sons and daughters of ND who have gone on before must be enjoying ND football’s return to greatness!

    Here Come the Irish!

  10. I agree, everyone is assuming Alabama is going to win. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find Georgia facing ND.

  11. Why is everyone worried about the ND vs. Bama match-up?? Georgia is going to pound them this weekend, so the Bulldogs will be playing the Irish in South Beach.

  12. I hear the “fallacious football media pundits” (as JC very adroitly characterizes them) say that we match up better against Bama than Georgia.

    Thoughts anyone?

    I think that while this may be true on paper, I like ND’s chances better against a Mark Richt coached team than against a Nick Satan (oops, meant Saban) led one. Plus, Georgia has gained a reputation for choking in big games under Richt (we’ll see how they do in the SEC title game). Yes, it’s true that Georgia has a better QB and WRs than Bama does. But ND has played some good QBs and WRs this season, let’s not forget that, even though the know-it-alls at ESPN will certainly overlook that.

    Regardless, given the opposition ND has faced and defeated this season, the “fallacious football media pundits” should not underestimate the Irish. I hope that Bama or Georgia do!


    1. SFR,
      I honestly think I’m at the point where I can say I don’t care. This ND team is so special and so mentally and physically tough that Georgia and Alabama should be worried. I really believe that.

    2. Steel Fan:

      Where ya been?
      Glad to see you back here.
      Alabama is very good.
      Georgia is very good too.
      This game -like many this year could have gone either way.
      Irish now play Bama.
      Last time I looked–Notre Dame is very good too.
      Bama ( like many) is NOT flawless
      ESPN can have their idols and worship the Elephant and Crimson and the body of Bear Bryant– —
      I think Bama is good but they are not perfect–* ( nor are we) but bama will get the nod in being the favorite–that is just fine by me and many Im sure—there are sixty minutes of good football to be played—SIXTY minutes

      1. irisheye62,

        Always good to talk with you!

        Totally agree with you. Bama isn’t as dominant on D as in the past few seasons.

        Look, the Tide ran for almost 360 yards and barely hung on to win. I don’t know if Bama beat Georgia or the Dawgs beat themselves.

        My analysis of the NC game is very simple, irish. Don’t let Bama run for 360 yards!

        Hold the Tide to about 200 yards rushing, about 200 yards passing, and no more than 21 points, and ND will be in this game until the very end.

        On O, ND needs to continue to be balanced. EG needs to run, not only scramble, but actually run on the zone read to slow down Bama’s backside pursuit as well as open up play-action passes.

        And, of course, no TOs and score TDs when inside the redzone.

        If this scenario holds, my friend, then I can see our beloved Fighting Irish winning 24-20, 24-21, 27-20, 27-21, 28-20, 28-21, something like that.

        Go Irish!

  13. Fallacious football media pundits and adversarial NON-ND football fans share the same drink of psychodrama. Love-it! Bring-it!

    Here come the Irish 13-0 National Champions!

    1. I have an old “friend” who hates ND that now has taken to posting article after article (albeit 3 year old articles) about the Declan Sullivan tragedy. His modus operandi is to cut and paste things others have written (how intellectual!) and say, “ND is 12-0 but Brian Kelly killed a kid. So there.”

      It’s really quite something. But logic, facts and salient points bounce off of some people’s heads like bbs.

  14. After the game, my wife came into the room ( she lets me watch my Notre Dame games in peace because I buy her OU season football tickets every year for our anniversary)and she asked me if I was O.K.. She did this because I sat there watching the celebration in stunned silence and I really did not know how to react. I told her i was fine but really just did not know what to do after a game beating USC to go to a National championship. I having been living on air since N.D. beat OU down here and it just kept getting better. Loved your article and it struck a note with me.

  15. Great article…on a similar note, I couldn’t help but laugh tonight while watching Mike Bellotti on ESPN talk about how Notre Dame doesn’t match up well at all with Alabama. He said the front seven will not have faced an offensive line like Bama’s all year long and will get worn down. He went on to say that Bama would throw so many different defensive looks at ND that they could be in trouble. If you give Saban over a month to prepare for a game then Bama’s opponent will be in for a long night. OK, so nobody ND has faced has a great offensive line…not Michigan State, or Stanford, or SC, or Michigan. And ND clearly didn’t face any great running backs either. And of course, Brian Kelly and his staff will only go through the motions for the next 38 days and expect to lose. I love the fact that ND is once again relevant, and is once again being doubted by the “experts”. Hell, my son’s baseball coach said “When Notre Dame moves up from the JV squad they can play the Varsity squad Alabama has.” As always…Play Like a Champion. Go Irish!

    1. Is it really that difficult for these high profile experts to acknowledge that the lone loss for Alabama this year came agianst Texas A&M… A team with a legitimate duel threat QB?

      (By the way… the starting QB for ND also happends to be a legitimate duel threat QB)

      I guess The Aggies going into Alabama and winning on the road was a fluke?

      So A&M’s 23 first downs to Bama’s 17, that was a fluke too?

      As was A&M going 11 of 18 on 3rd down (61%) ?

      Or rushing for 165 yards and passing for another 253 agianst the vaulted Tide defense? Fluke??

      It would seem that if the experts say we have no chance with our Red Shirt Freshmen, and duel Threat QB versus Alabama at a neutral site game, then Texas A&M, with their Red Shirt Freshmen, and Duel Threat QB should have been shut out and beaten soundly on the road by Bama and had absolutly no chance at winning as well.

      If that’s what they are saying (and it appears that it is)Then I guess it would also be the responsibility of these same experts to fully inform the Heisman voters that the preformance that “Johnny Football” put up agianst the Mighty Tide was indeed a Fluke and should be totally discounted.

      Yeah, Right. Good luck with that one!

  16. I miss my Dad. He passed away in December 2003. He was the one that indoctinated me to Notre Dame football in the early 70’s. He was always a fan of the “spinner” a running back who would spin and change direction and stay on his feet after he was first hit. My eyes smiled and I was reminded of him immediately watching Theo Riddick last week making my Dad smile in heaven as he alluded the USC defenders with his tremendous runs!

    They say history repeats. I remember like it was yesterday when my Dad asked me to help clean the “red room” – our back room on Holmes Street in Erie Pa getting ready for the Sugar Bowl in 1973. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame were playing Bear Bryants Crimson Tide for the championship! All his friends were coming over and he was rightfully gleeming knowing his second born son was following his brothers footsteps and was now attending ND. We were a Notre Dame family and the entire neighborhood knew it because that was no small feat – a man with his minimal means having two sons as ND graduates, his first son a 2nd round professional baseball prospect who got a free ride playing for the Irish!

    The stage was set as the Strohs beer flowed, the smoke from his Camel unfiltered cigareetes hung like a fog and the laughter and great company of my Dad and the boys filled the house. It was the first time he called me aside and asked if I wanted to watch the game with him and his friends. The smile on my face resonated a positive response!

    We watched and cheered and groaned in unison during the whole game. We had heard how it would be simply impossible for the Irish to beat such a formidable foe in Alabama and the great Bear Bryant. Nobody gave the Irish a chance and it was then in the 4th quarter when things looked real dismal for Ara’s boys when my Dad said out loud – “No matter how it looks –
    never ever bet against the Irish!”

    Soon thereafter with everyone watching on 4th down at the very end of the 4th quarter – when all of America including Alabama just knew Clements was going to go to Dave Casper to run out the clock. Instead Clements throws to Robin Weber for the first down enabling the Irish to run out the clock and secure a 24-23 win over the unbeatable Crimson Tide!

    I never heard it louder in all my life residing on Holmes Street in Erie Pa than I did on that night!

    It has since dawned on me that should Alabama beat Georgia this weekend and play against the Irish in the NC game 1-7-13 – it will be 40 years exactly that a similar Irish team will go up against a team that none of the pundits and a lot of college football fans think has a chance in hell of winning. Saban isnt Bear Bryant but he brings a pretty similar pedigree to the game.

    It simply could not be so similar but here we are – in spades!

    Yes Dad, I still hear you. Never ever bet against the Irish! Here is to you Dad and here is to this years Irish! GO IRISH! Just believe in yourselves and in the rich tradition of ND football and play like champions! That is all as fans that we can ask!

    1. Awesome post indeed!
      I was very moved.
      We have many changes in our family and I miss so many people. Your post touched on a lot of things similar to mine. Your words are far more eloquently stated than mine. God Bless you and your family.
      GO IRISH!

    2. Great post. My dad was a huge ND fan. He passed almost 3 years ago and is missing many amazing blessings.

      May our fathers RIP and GO IRISH!

      1. JDH:

        Sorry, but I disagree with you. You’re beloved father isn’t missing a single thing!

        From what I know of you from this board, it seems he raised a very decent and good person. I’m assuming both you and your dad are/were Catholics/Christians. If so, you both have eternal blessings. In fact, JDH, I believe (as do all true Christians!) that the saints are more alive in Heaven than you or me are here on earth.

        Therefore, your dad’s joys are greater than they were here. He’s an even better intercessor in terms of his prayers for you and his family now than he was when he has with us. If the prayers of the righteous man avail much, as Scripture says, then how much more so the prayers of the beloved saints!

        So, sorry, JDH, but I think you’re dear dad is having a blast following Our Lady’s School’s football team, and also having a blast following you and yours having a blast following the 2012 Irish!

        May all our loved ones who have gone before us to behold the Beatific Vision pray with and for us!

        Notre Dame Our Mother, Pray for Us!

        Here come the Irish!

        PS: I lost my mom, who was the dearest thing to me on earth, in August 2011. God rest her immortal soul!

      2. Sorry for the “you’re” when I clearly meant to say “your”. I got carried away with my theological thoughts. But I really do believe, JDH, that your dad is really having a blast this season! Why wouldn’t he?!

      3. Thank you very much for your kinds words SFR. And I know exactly what you are saying. I am indeed a Christian and I do believe are loved ones can see us. We all have (or will have) some regret that those who have passed can’t enjoy certain things with us now here on earth- such as a baby granddaughter my dad never saw, his grandsons grow up, and an undefeated and ND national championship team!

        But indeed, these are not things for me to decide. I have the absolute FAITH that it, and everything else, is in God’s hands. I always remind myself that as a human being, I may want answers NOW, but that I’m not always entitled to them. And God will provide me with answers when He wants. And that is a positive step towards inner peace.

        Again, I thank you.

    3. If you think it was loud on Holmes street that night, you should have been where I was sitting, above the end zone that Tommy Clements threw out of to Robin Weber. I think Notre Dame has always done pretty well against Alabama in big games. Let’s hope for the chance to prove it again in Miami. We beat them by 2 points in the Orange Bowl the year after our championship Sugar Bowl. Maybe we can beat them by three this time. Go Irish!

  17. This article is brilliant!

    “There will be a lot of negative talk regarding the Irish over the next several weeks, and I plan to welcome it with open arms. I’ve been waiting to hear it for far too long.”

    I love this! I am FIRED UP!

  18. Today I was in a store dedicated to selling Michigan/Michigan State sports wear, for my wife, who is a Michigan grad. Between the three sales clerks not a postive word was said concerning ND. Plenty of negative words like “lucky” or “luck of the Irish”, “don’t deserve to be number one” and “just do not like them”.

    I paid my bill and left without saying word. I figured if any other school had wandered in the desert for twenty years and found success after much hard work they would have been as pleased as punch for the team’s success -think Butler.

  19. The Stanford/ND OT (no TD for SU call) was the only referee decision I took issue with as unfair. The callback TD at Norman was a holding offense and therefore stands as legitimate IMO. Notre Dames two points of concern in the BCSNC are:
    1. Everett Golson’s health. You’ll recall the freshman has played through a shoulder/grpping strength injury, turf toe (painful), concussion, cramping (2nd qtr of SC)..

    2. Special Teams.

      1. Not to mention that the head of NCAA officials reviewed the play and call in depth the week after the Stanford game. His judgement was that the call the officials made was not only correct, but ROUTINE. Taylor lost his forward progress more than once and was down. The line judges waived their arms over their heads and ran to the pile signaling the play dead while Taylor was horizontal and twisting. NO TD.

    1. Tomline Brown,

      Special teams do not worry me as much. ND faced one of the best return specialist in the country and shut him down. Field goals at times bother me, but Brindza hit 5-6 field goals and a 52 yarder. I will take my chances. I am worried about the offense and if they can score enough points. This is why they play the game.

  20. As a Michigan fan who has paid pretty close attention to Notre Dame this season, I can say that I don’t think it’s a fluke at all that they are where they are. There’s no hatred coming at ND from here. I like ND’s style of play and the fact that they’re a testament to doing student-athletics as close to the right way as you can these days (just compare ND’s graduation rates to that of any given SEC school!). I’ll definitely be rooting for them in the BCS title game – anything other than an SEC champion will have me thrilled!

    1. Your words are as classy as your university. I went to the Big House five years ago and grew a real appreciation for a great football community.

    2. Michigan was my second choice for school. I have always loved Ann Arbor and the University. I have respect for the SEC but a new chapter would be great. I have a much greater respect for the University of Michigan in ALL things when compared with most of the SEC schools
      ( save for Vanderbilt) Thanks Steve –good luck to your Maize and Blue! Go Irish!

    3. Steve,
      Thanks for the kind words. When I was at ND in the 80’s there was about an even split in games with Michigan. We never hated Michigan and I’ve always brisstled at the so called rivalry trumped up by ESPN. We knew Michigan to be a program like ours, a throwback to a better time.

      I’d like to see less hate in sports. That seems so prevalent today and not how I was brought up on sports. Yes there are truly evil people cheating the system, but to hate a team or school, just because isn’t right.

      In fact I cheer for Notre Dame’s non revenue sports almost as much now as football. I also cheer for several other schools, especially in Division III where the athlete is most definitely a student.

      Let’s hope ESPN’s grip on sports loosens and also that 24 hour coverage goes away. Then we can be inspired again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button