We beat one of the worst teams in the country.
I'm very excited about this, in the sense that I might have thrown myself off a cliff by now if we hadn't won yesterday. (I am, of course, exaggerating. You'd have to drive for hours to find anything remotely resembling a cliff in Northern Indiana, and who wants to waste that much gas?)
But really. I'm excited about it. I'm glad we won, especially for the sake of the seniors. (Those poor effing seniors. Especially the fifth-years. What a bomb for a season.)
Before I get to the jubilation, however, a few key points...
Hooray for a redeeming win in the stadium. More people seemed willing to form the "W" when we played the 1812 Overture this week instead of booing.
However...it was Senior Day, and we beat Duke, so perhaps "redeeming" wasn't the right word. I can give you props, but I can't give you mad kudos on this one. Actually, in light of this entire season, not sure I can really give you any kudos.
Wouldn't it be funny if we ended up 3-9 this season? I mean...wouldn't it?
So we finally managed to take advantage of some of our opponents' blunders and scored when they turned the ball over. Refreshing!
However, the fact that we almost went into halftime tied at 0 with Duke really says a lot about our consistent lack of progress over the season. I mean, yes, we won, we almost got a shutout even, and later in the game it felt good to see our offense score of its own accord. (Which, granted, they have been doing more and more often as the season progresses.)
But still..I mean...it's Duke. They had the same record we did coming into this game, with a somewhat less intimidating schedule. The fact that it flickered into anyone's mind (including my own) that we might lose to Duke is depressing beyond all reasonable explanation.
We didn't, though. So that's good.
It's still just so frustrating to see our team struggle with pass-blocking, rushing, field goals, giving it up on 3rd-and-long, and, above all, penalties.
Some of those penalties, I swear, were just the referees being blind. But a lot of the other ones were completely unnecessary. (Especially at the end of the game. But some of those don't really count because, come on, Tommy Z was in at QB and the student section couldn't get over it, and our regular starters weren't out there. And what do a couple of false starts in a row mean anyway?)
Clearly, our defense did pretty well, considering we almost got the shutout. (The last time we got a shutout win, we beat Rutgers 42-0 at home. It was...five years ago, I think. I was a sophomore in high school, and it was the first time I'd ever seen an ND game inside the stadium. And they scored all the touchdowns in the end zone opposite the one my dad and I were sitting behind.)
But still...we gave up some first downs that we shouldn't have, and a lot of our success on turnovers resulted from the slippery conditions as much as the effort of our players. Plus (okay, I know I keep saying this, but just hear me out)....it's DUKE.
I'm ecstatic that we won, I'm happy for our team, the students, the band, the alums, the coaches, absolutely everybody in the ND fan nation, but...let's face it. If it hadn't been Duke, we still might have tanked. There aren't many teams in the country you can go scoreless against for almost an entire half and then not pay for it later.
All the same, as I was watching the game, I kept thinking, "Damn. If only this was our first game of the season."
Then it wouldn't be quite so troublesome. Then we might be in, not good, but at least a mostly acceptable state to improve upon for the rest of the season. Then our team would have more confidence and we might have better chemistry/intuition/whatev
But no. Such is not the current state of things.
At least our players will be riding on a high heading out to California to face a stunning 3-7 Stanford team.
I'm convinced we're going to beat them, because they already beat USC, and we just have a knack for beating teams that can beat USC, even though we remain incapable of toppling the Trojans ourselves.
Also, it's Thanksgiving weekend, and I'd like to think it's going to be a good Thanksgiving weekend. (I can always hope, right?)
All right, well...enough lamenting. This season has been sad, but now it's nearly over and we can only hope Charlie has learned enough from it to somewhat deflate his enormous ego and prepare him for the trials of putting together a solid team next season. (Which is still going to take more than excellent recruiting and clever scheming.)
Everybody kept talking about it being a day of "lasts" on Saturday. Last home game, last game for the seniors, last this, last that... But psh, it was a day of firsts.
It was the FIRST time we've won at home all season, the FIRST time the band has gotten to play the victory clog at the end of a game, the FIRST time the freshmen experienced the utter euphoria in Notre Dame Stadium after a victory, the FIRST time the team has gotten to celebrate with instead of just merely salute the students...
It was also the FIRST time Robert Hughes (HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
Also it was the FIRST time many of the seniors have gotten to take the field during a game and play a snap or two for the Irish.
As well as the FIRST TIME WE'VE SEEN ZIBBY PLAY QUARTERBACK FOR THE IRISH!
I swear he's been a senior like three times already, but who cares, this time he got to QB it at the end. (Uh-maz-ing.) He didn't really get to do much because, oh yeah, the O-line still can't open up holes for people and we kept getting called on false start, and then Travis Thomas fumbled the ball away, but whatever, it was still SWEET.
Saturday also marked the FIRST Notre Dame game my cousin John's ever been to (which was fun), as well as my FIRST season getting a shamrock award for band.
Speaking of band...it was also the FIRST time the PICCOLOS WON SECTION OF THE YEAR! (YEAH PICCS!)
So yeah. I will miss the seniors (especially the band piccolo seniors), but how can you look back on Saturday and be sad? It was the first time all season we've had so many things to celebrate.
So rock on, Fighting Irish, and head out to California and show those losers who's boss.
GO IRISH BEAT CARDINAL!