Can Notre Dame’s Luck Continue in ’13?

Malik Zaire 2013 ND Spring Game
Apr 20, 2013; Notre Dame, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Malik Zaire (8) slides in the third quarter of the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Key Moments

  • 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.

Key Moments

  • 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.

Key Moments

  • 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.

Key Moments

  • 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.

Key Moments

  • 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.

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  1. dinglewood,

    Why? We are not chiseling grave stones here. Every ounce of football is subjective in nature and receives more than it’s fair share of ardent critical review. 12-1 is all that matters moving forward with respect to shoulda-woulda-coulda outcomes. Every spring we have the same old dogmatic concerns and disappointments.

    All teams have wins like the BYU game during their season. Bama had their Texas Tech. As to the context of your concerns of “bad-luck,” many examples of “bad-luck for the opposing teams could be as simple as they looked good without sharp focus, and a comedy of BYU errors by your account allowed us to win. So what? Will a season laced with these kind wins you exclusively describe for history lessons must be known? I highly doubt when the Crystal Football is back home at ND, no one will worry about the non-dominate games.

    Finally, all dominate teams have seasons just like we just had to get to ‘super-dominace’ as you put it. Rarely, is there ever such thing as super dominace right out of the blocks. So, chin-up, stick around, you’ll see real dominace this year.

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

  2. Need to fix the write up for the last bit of luck in the BYU game.

    As an attendee I never thought we had control … it was really a pretty even game as all the rushing advantage did not translate into the good scoring opportunities. The big play save once (see below) was not there.

    More importantly left out Riddick’s miracle breakout from a bunch of perfectly positioned BYU defenders turning a very short yardage play into something like a 60 yard run completely changing field position leading to a score. Was there and had a good view … still could not believe he got away even after seeing it on replay.

    Also a play BYU did not make. Their QB was scrambling (good steady pressure game long) looked up and saw (as I did) a receiver standing right in front of him 20 yards downfield without a defender within sight. He threw poorly but if just lobbed it in at best they would have been in FG range but we would have probably given up a TD.

    Anyone who watches FB long enough realizes unless a team in super dominant there are going to be 4-5 plays a game between the teams that could reasonably have gone differently and changed the flow if not the outcome of the game. This past year seemed to me we were way over on the positive side of this “ledger.” The previous year it went the other way … how many times does a near certain reception not only turn into a interception (Jones not alert) that gets run back nearly 100 yards or a blocked xtra point that gets converted for 2 by the defense. Hopefully our talent level is and will continue to be so “bad luck” like this gets into history as just blips on the way great seasons.

  3. Another aspect of ‘luck’ is injuries. In the recent past, an injury to a first-string player often meant a wide-open vulnerability. Under Kelly, there is depth we have not seen since Lou the Great. Losing a key player no longer means losing a game.

  4. Hell yes Bob,

    Shoulda-coulda-woulda was CW! BK has this mojo thing going on right now! This man is not a boring-bean-counting-fluff-n-puff-marketing-introvert!

    BK is without question, a leader of men, an independent creative thinker and a captivating motivator with his eye on a National Championship! BK has now arrived, look out whiners and wussies, this-is-the-year!

    Well, if Alabama can do it year after year with 100 recruits. Mark my words, BK can do it with less THIS YEAR! High quality leadership counts and carries the day!

    I too, like Shaz, believe BK is a proven “Elite” Head Football Coach!

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

  5. I think ND will be more solid this year ( not as many close games)’ don’t think they will go undefeated, but absolutely a BCS Bowl game.

  6. There’s an old saying that goes like this, “Good teams win close games.”
    Just how good may be in question. No doubt 12-0 or 12-1 is impressive but can they duplicate it or at least go 10-2. Real greatness is based on longevity, as far as I’m conerned, and ND looks to be going in the right direction. The second time around is always tougher due to many things such as change in personel and the fact that ND will not be able to sneak up on anyone this season. Injuries also play a huge role. Will they again go undefeated, I doubt it. But if Golson continues to improve and the running backs come through, the defense steps up, it could be another banner yaer. Go Irish!

    1. Another old saying is, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” And the 2012 Irish were both, and the “luck” was, as has been noted, long overdue. Keys are Golson’s continued development and some of the other potential stars coming of age could lead to another great season- whether it’s 13-0 or 11-2. I said this last year and I’ll say it again. I will be looking less at the record than making those critical big plays that turned this program around last year. Kudos to the coaching staff and players for making it happen. Now, it’s in the hands (and hearts) of whomever emerges as this year’s team leaders and surprise superstars.

      I remember the Bulls of the 90’s who even when they lost showed an effort and drive unequaled in competitive sports. It was more than Michael Jordan. I believe this program is developing that determination and commitment to excellence, and look forward to this season, even if it turns out to be less than perfect.

      1. Some of the ancient wisdom of college football deals with the potential shibboleth of “luck.”

        Frank Broyles used to say
        “Luck is infatuated with effort”

        Other coaches have said that
        “Luck is the residue of design”

        And others still that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

        There are, give or take, about 160 plays in each college football game. Each team has roughly that number of opportunities to make winning plays and avoid losing plays. And if you focus on one or two plays you ignore the other 158 or so
        When your squad to impose its offensive, defensive or special teams will on the opponent.

        There’s another possible factor. It is the team that has great unity, that sticks together in adversity, that imposes its collective will in the clutch moment.

        Like Michael the Archangel I too will be “looking less at the record that making those critical big plays that turned this program around last year.” Absolutely!

  7. Usually what seems like luck is, for the most part, good defense.

    When your defense holds opponents to 10 points per game, your offense is always in a position to win – no matter how many bad breaks it suffers. All it takes to win is a lucky break or two.

    And when your offense takes a lead, your opponent has a steeper mountain to climb. Lucky breaks can move the ball but a single bad break against a great defense can stall a drive.

    So… will the Irish luck hold? The defense should be stronger and deeper. Opponents will struggle to score. If Everett’s development can compensate for inexperience in the backfield, games will not be as close as last year, and nobody will be talking about luck.

    So my answer would be yes.

      1. Alabama was the better team. Luck would not have been enough to tip the scales.

        Alabama is the team we must measure our success against. The 2012 Irish were only half-built, and they overperformed – until Bama.

        The nice thing is that there is a new season each year. There is no Final Exam. We will know when the Irish have returned to the Elite.

  8. “Can Notre Dame’s Luck Continue in ’13?”

    Y.E.S.(it isn’t luck in its entirety at least) Coach Kelly could weigh the additional power special teams improvement would afford “Our Lady”…

  9. When you make it undefeated, things must go your way. No team out there is going to just destroy every team they play all season. Luck is definitely involved, and we had luck on our side after what felt like a couple decades of bad luck. I’m from Ohio and I can’t stand Ohio State, but remember their championship season from 02’…that was the luckiest team I’ve ever seen. Everything went their way and they got a NC because of it. Hopefully luck will stay on our side for a few more years before going back to the dark side.

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