Everyone was frustrated and disappointment with the way yesterday’s ACC Championship Game unfolded for Notre Dame – including former players. Keivarae Russell, a member of Notre Dame’s 2012 team that got blown out by Alabama for the National Championship, tweeted out his frustrations as a former player who experienced first hand games like yesterday while he wore a Notre Dame jersey.
Russell knows first hand, unlike most of us, what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a game like yesterday. As a true freshman in 2012, Russell started in the National Championship game against Alabama when the Tide rolled over Notre Dame 42-14. Russell was not on the field as a senior when Notre Dame lost to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl after breaking his tibia in the last month of the season, but he was still apart of the program then.
So Russell knows a thing or two about games like yesterday. The fact that he wasn’t able to help the Irish overcome that stignma during his time at Notre Dame isn’t lost on him either. A fan pointed out that he lost games like this too, and this was his response.
On one hand, it’s great to see Notre Dame alum continue to take such pride in the University and the program, but on the other, it’s not the best look for the state of the program when former players are questioning what the remedy is for a program that looks like it’s still not quite ready to crack the elite tier of college football following yesterday’s humbling loss in the ACC Championship Game.
Bad games like yesterday happen. Hell, Clemson did the same exact thing to Alabama just two years ago in the title game. And LSU did the same thing to Clemson last year. The difference for Notre Dame is this is a trend that’s been going on for years that has everyone involved with the program frustrated when it keeps on happening.
It’s not all talent either. There is still a gap there, for sure, but is it a 31 point gap? I don’t think so. It’s a combination of talent, coaching, preparation, and mindset that still has this program in a place where it can win the occasional big game (see November 7), but is also more likely to have a result like the one we saw yesterday.
Keivarae Russell doesn’t have the answer. None of us do. Hopefully, Brian Kelly eventually does though. Kelly will finish his career at Notre Dame after the success he’s had over the last four years, but if he doesn’t eventually win the big one at the end of a season, he’ll leave as Notre Dame’s John Cooper – a coach that had good teams, would win the games he should, but could never get over the hump.