Sunday, October 7, 2007



The Irish win! The Irish Win! THE IRISH WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As I was running around in Stonehenge and the reflecting pool last night screaming and cheering and splashing people and trying to take pictures without getting my camera wet, it felt like everything I'd been waiting for since the Sugar Bowl had finally arrived.

There are going to be a lot of stupid sports reporters saying the Irish shouldn't get excited about 1-5, but that's because they're sports reporters, and it's their job to be stupid. Unless they've gone to Notre Dame, they really just Don't Get It.

I'm still jealous of everyone who got to go out to the game and see the glorious turnaround in person, but quite honestly there's nowhere I would have rather been last night than Stonehenge, squeezing up against strange drunken shirtless people chanting out "GO IRISH BEAT EAGLES" like some sort of crazed ecstatic zombie.

It was amazing.

I'd forgotten how the euphoria of victory tends to blur my memory of what the team did right and wrong. When we lose, all I can think about are the plays that went wrong, the glaring mistakes that drove us into the ground, or--in some cases, but not so much this season--the one play we gave up that could have turned everything around. This season there have been so many devastating games that the last month or so has been one long blur of pain. We've been able to see our team improving, inch by inch, since the blowout against the Wolverines, but the question from week to week has still been, "Will they?" ...will today be the day?

I think the answer for yesterday was an emphatic, "Hell yes!"

Before I move on, I want to give mad props to our team for bringing home an Irish victory. Los Angeles was overthrown last night (by us and Stanford...*snicker snicker*), and the only lament I have for our players (who looked happier than they have since last November) is that the band wasn't there to play them our alma mater or the fight song (five zilllllllion times). Probably, though, they were so insanely out-of-their-minds ecstatic about winning they didn't even notice.

Our Defense last night was straight nasty. We ate some people. We forcibly took the ball back on every other drive in the second half. We brought 1967 like no other.
Bethel-"My Name's Too Long to Fit Comfortably on the Back of my Jersey"-Thompson is going to be having nightmares about Mo Crum, Jr. for a month. Ben "the announcers freaked the ND fans out every time they talked about my injury last night because #55 on their team is named Olsen" Olson is going to be cursing Tom Zbikowski and Trevor Laws until his knee's back to normal.

In all sportsmanlike fairness, I hope Ben Olson is going to be 100% sooner rather than later, because as amazing as it was to see our D knocking people's brains out, one injury can ruin someone's entire career, and...good football players should have the chance to play football for as long as possible. (Unless maybe they play for USC. Then maybe I don't care. [Just kidding.] {Not really.})

And hey, Jim-may finally scored! (AKA our O-line hit some people! Yaaaay!)

I'm feeling deliriously happy about all this. Do you know what this means for our season? (You're reading this, so you probably do.) In the [hopefully] prophetic words of Will Loftus: 7-5 starts here.

The campus is electrified. (Or...they were. Right now campus is probably mostly sleeping, or at the very least walking blearily through the dining hall.)

The players are on top of the world. (Actually, they, too, are probably sleeping, or at the very least blearily thinking about how they have to watch film some time today.)

The International Bowl is starting to get really, really excited for us.

The entire legion of Boston "hey, we were raised this way so actually we don't know we're complete A$$holes!" College fans is preparing their caravan to South Bend, utterly convinced that we've got nothing on them.

To which I say...

We've got a lot of work to do to beat the Eagles.

It took me a while to remember, in the wake of the absolute bliss of winning, that yes--there were a lot of problems with our game, and yes, Boston College is a top 10 team (psh...for now), and um...let's be happy, but not get carried away with ourselves.

I don't want to be like the commentators last night who refused to give credit to the Irish players where credit is due. Our defense Woke Up The Echoes last night, and by the fourth quarter created so many turnovers and prevented the UCLA offense from getting into the endzone so many times it seemed like They Could Do No Wrong.

And they were amazing, and I love them, and let's bring that intensity every game for the rest of the season until our opponents are so sore and battered they feel sorry they ever decided to play the game of football.


The reality is, with Ben Olson in for four quarters, it would have been a different game. I'm not saying we still wouldn't have emerged victorious, but it would have been much tougher. Much closer. With, most likely, far fewer interceptions.

But the D played well even before Olson got knocked out, so that's extremely promising.

Unfortunately, we still demonstrated our vulnerability on third down. UCLA got more 3rd down conversions than necessary, and although there were no game-devastating mistakes made by the D, there were way too many missed tackles. Mo Crum (although he was one of the heroes of the game)--and there were others, but right now he sticks out most strongly in my mind--had this issue with tackling people, particularly in the first half. I mean, he would be there to make the play, he'd hit hard, but he wouldn't wrap them up and bring them down right away, so the running back would still get like five yards on the play, and often it took more reinforcements to bring the guy down. (I mean, there weren't really any HUGE breakaway plays that cost us points, except for the one that got called back--but I think that was a special teams issue. Wasn't it? Like I said, it's all a blur.)

The tackling issue might just be a commentary on the outstanding strength and athleticism of the UCLA running backs, but...I'm gonna have to say no. There isn't a single running back in the NCAA that our defensive players could not eat for breakfast. (And no, I don't care if they're the size of the Bus. Our D EATS PEOPLE.) And just hitting them and slowing them down is not going to prevent them from getting across the first down marker. I mean, what if that's the goal line? You don't want to give them a damn inch. Wrap their asses up and bring them to the ground like you're saving them from a speeding bus. (OK, maybe that's too nice of a simile, but I couldn't think of anything fiercer.)

Once again, our O-line has shown some improvement. On some plays, Jimmy had All Day Long to throw. On some plays, our running backs surged for a first down. We even completed a successful QB sneak across the goal line.

However, once again, our offense struggled mightily. Our defense won this game for us, and everybody knows it. Actually, if I was on defense, I'd be really pissed off at the offense for letting it be remotely close in the fourth quarter. The score, easily, should have been 35-6, if not more. I mean, don't take me wrong--I will take 20-6 any day. I will take 7-6, 14-6, whatever-6, as long as the Irish are on top.

But if you're on the Irish D, you have to be frustrated with the offense, especially in the fourth quarter. You force turnovers how many times, and your offense can't even run the ball to get a first down and keep the clock running so you can rest? I mean, I've never really played football, so I don't know. Maybe the defense wanted to get out there and kill some more people. Probably, though, they would have preferred standing on the sidelines and cheering the offense on to another score before they had to suit up again.

I'm really impressed, though, with the intensity the D brought all game long. They probably had so much adrenaline pumping through their systems when they realized they were going to win that they couldn't help themselves, but umm...let's do that every game. Shall we?

But BACK to the offense...
We're really, really, really going to have to get it together if we're going to have any hope of winning out. Our defense is not going to be able to single-handedly beat the next 2 teams we play. I'm sorry, it just isn't going to happen. We need to find the end zone. We need to find the first down marker. We need to find our run game. We need to find the successful deep ball. We need to never have another play ever again in which the entire offensive line ends up on its asses and Jimmy has to throw the ball away before he is completely destroyed.

And speaking of such things, here's how it's looking for the rest of the season....

BC and USC are going to be highly emotional, extremely physical, terrible, heart-wrenching, either amazingly uplifting or tremendously spirit-shattering games.

Navy, Air Force, Duke, and Stanford, the "cupcake" games, are going to be hard-fought footbawl matches, during which we cannot lose our focus, or else we'll end up like USC. (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA USC lost to STANFORD! P.S. We're not going to.)

But in the next two games, our team is going to have to grow up a lot to pull off a couple W's. The O-line is either going to cement or crumble, right now. The D has to fix the botched tackles and perfect its secondary, right now, or we will fall again.

Stanford's win over USC was like the icing on the cake last night, but this doesn't make the Trojans any less intimidating. On the one hand, Stanford did us the favor of beating them, and showing us just how to topple Troy. On the other hand...they did USC the same favor. USC is going to be fiercer, tougher, nastier, and better the entire rest of the season, and therefore much harder to beat than before. The beauty of playing an undefeated team (*cough*BC*cough*) is that after a while, they start to believe they're really invincible, and at the height of their pride and arrogance is when they have their fall. (Or you know...they win a national championship. But as we have seen, this is NOT THE CASE this season.) However...Stanford did do our team an enormous pyschological favor. SC will have made long strides to fix whatever deficiencies allowed Stanford to beat them by the time they play us, but that doesn't matter, because Stanford has already removed the little evil mental barrier telling our players and fans that we don't have a chance against the Trojans.

(Speaking of which...everyone who traded in their USC ticket so they could go home early for fall break...shame on you.)

And as for special teams--WELCOME BACK GEOFF PRICE! I missed you.
Also congratulations to Brandon Walker. Thanks, guys, for not making us look like complete morons in the kicking game. We still need to work on blocking, though, so some of our devastatingly fast returners have a chance to scamper for the endzone.

Anyway...what was I saying?
(See what I mean about Euphoria? It kills your sense of order and logic. I love it.)

Oh right. So...can we win out?
Abso - f$%@ing - lutely.

And will we win out?
Thank the Good Lord in all His wisdom...I have no business making that decision. All I have to do is show up and scream my lungs out. It's up to the players and the coaches whether or not we emerge victorious on Saturday.

But I have faith.

The entire Notre Dame legion is ready for the Irish to return the favor that BC so kindly bestowed on us in 1993 and 2002.

So bring your game face, Irish fans. It's on.


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