Second things second--there's an excellent post over on Her Loyal Sons that covers the players' reactions to Charlie's firing. There are some excellent press conference snippets in there, and it really sheds light on how mature the players have gotten, how dedicated they are to the program, and how much they really GET Notre Dame. Which is an excellent reflection on Charlie and the work he's done off the field these past five years. (Which, in some sense, is sort of shocking to realize, isn't it? Because we just expect these things to immediately translate themselves to the field, and when they don't....)
UConn 33, Notre Dame 30
This is my basic reaction to the UConn game, Jimmy's black eye, and everything else that's been going on in the world of Notre Dame football for the past few weeks.
Regarding JimmayJimmayJimmay and his shiner, let me just say this....
Although I have been waiting for someone to punch Jimmy in the face for approximately three years, and although I can think of dozens of personal reasons why I might want to slug him personally, he got punched out because of a football game, and that pisses me off. I know there were other factors involved, but seriously--after three years of this kind of shit, can you really blame him for declaring for the draft?
Anyway. I feel like I never really made myself sit down and work through the end of this depressing, depressing season, so I am going to do that now. If you don't want to sit here with me and rehash the utter agony of the UConn game or the absurd bumblefuck that was the Stanford game, you should just walk away right now.
But if you're a masochist like me, then by all means continue.
What the effing EFFER, you effing little EFFERS? How are you going to go out on YOUR field on YOUR Senior Day and lose to UCONN?
I thought we were past this, guys. No seriously. All season long I have been saying how far this team has come since that awful, frigid day on which my fingers froze to my piccolo and you broke my heart and made David Bruton cry. (Yes, I am going to keep bringing this up until it stops being painful. Oh wait--that would be never.) And as bad as last season's home finale was (and I can't BELIEVE I'm going to say this), this season's was worse. You know, I know UConn had that whole "avenge their fallen teammate" thing going on, but I don't care. That didn't stop all their opponents leading up to Notre Dame from beating them, and no way in hell should it have stopped us. What happened to Jasper Howard was horrible--it really was--and as much as I'm a believer in intangibles, they are called INTANGIBLES for a reason. No freaking way should a team be able to come in and kick us around on our home turf during hte last home game of the season. Not when we've got an NFL-worthy QB-WR combo and a bafflingly experienced offensive line (the baffling part being why they aren't the best damn line in all of college football) and a whole bunch of seniors standing on the sideline, waiting for something they've been waiting for for four years and now will never get.
See, THAT is what breaks my heart. It is bullshit that those seniors didn't get to play. Bull. Shit.
There are moments in life that you cannot redo, that you cannot take back--opportunities that, once they're gone, are gone forever. And to work that hard, to come that close, and only get to run out of the tunnel....
I mean, that in itself is an experience worth having, trust me. And not that I ever wore a football uniform, but, you know--just to put on that uniform is special. And to stand on the sideline--that's something, too.
But, um, I get the sneaking suspicion that that is NOT precisely what those young men broke their backs for for four years, and they deserve better than that. They deserve better than to watch helplessly from the sidelines--all suited up at last but still unallowed to go out on the field and actually help their team win a game--and watch as we lose to some mediocre-ass team whose school hasn't even been playing Division I football for a decade.
What the HELL?
I mean, it's one thing to listen to obnoxious non-Notre Dame fans whine on and on about how Notre Dame's not even good anymore, not even relevant, can't win a bowl game, has seen its last glory days, is only clinging blindly to its past, is soooo overrated, has no real place in the elite of college football anymore, and blah blah blah blah blah...... I mean, whatever, right? Because by constantly whining about Notre Dame, all those people are doing is keeping Notre Dame relevant.
But it's really another thing to watch you prove them right. That's really NOT COOL.
I thought we'd gotten past this, guys. I really did. We had such confidence this season. Such...swagger. (Apparently Jimmy really did rub off on the rest of the team.) We had such heart, such grit, such determination. Such Golden Tate. We were this close--THIS CLOSE--to being undefeated.
But um, we were also equally close to being 2-8.
So that puts us right where we belong, at a nice even .500. And that burns.
I mean, is it just me, or does it seriously feel like we're just carrying around all these things that Notre Dame is supposed to stand for, but that it doesn't anymore, because we are in the drought of droughts, and we can't win a national championship to save our lives (and/or coach)?
NOTRE DAME is still there. The spirit, the energy, the tradition, and...everything. It was there before the USC game. You could FEEL it.
But it did not manifest into the much-needed win, and that's what has me worried.
You'd think I would be more optimistic, what with the coaching change and all, but if you have read my previous post (which probably you didn't, because mostly I feel like I am writing to myself these days, but that's okay because at this point it's mostly therapy anyway), you will see that trying to find a new head coach has me more worried than anything. Because if it's not the right guy, we are so SCREWED again, for another five years. And I just can't take much more of this.
So...about the actual game
Right. Well. If you did not catch the UConn game / have already erased it from your memory, it was all bonbons and gumdrops and lollipops until the second quarter. We were up 14-0, and it basically looked like the game was going to be a repeat of the Washington State game.
And then. Then the personal foul.
Sergio Brown's late-hit penalty kept alive a UConn drive that would eventually give them their first score of the game. And after that...the momentum changed. New life for the Huskies. Bad news bears for the Irish.
And in the second half...a bigass breakdown on special teams that allowed UConn to return a kick for a touchdown. More bad news bears.
Let's pay the blame game for a second and blame lack of fundamentals for the fact that these two plays occurred at all. Either one of these plays doesn't happen, and Notre Dame doesn't have to go into overtime on Senior Day. Theoretically.
But then, of course, you can't blame this game on Sergio Brown or the special teams. First of all, that's not fair, because football is a team sport, and there were plenty of chances for the entire TEAM to make sure UConn did not win the game. Second, by all reports Sergio Brown was found crying in Coach Weis's office after the game, trying to apologize, which Coach Weis would not let him do, because Charlie insisted on taking all the blame for this loss (and every other loss) on his own shoulders.
Which, actually, is a good sign. In a way. I mean, these guys care about the team. They really do. They try. I mean, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a guy who tries harder than, for example, Golden Tate. And, you know, they've got (or they had) a head coach cares about the team, too--and more importantly, he cares about the individual players; so much so that he has consistently taken all the blame upon himself, tried to shield all his players from as much of the media BS as possible, and turned his entire head of hair gray in the process.
They are so much more of a TEAM than they were last year, and that is what makes all of this so upsetting. Because you KNOW they're good enough to rise above all this crap and execute well enough to win every game...but, um, they weren't consistent enough to actually DO it. And we can all sit around and point fingers and blame who we want to blame--the coaches, the players, the refs, NBC, or my personal favorite, lack of fundamentals--but at the end of the day it is not one person or entity that makes or breaks a game. (No, not even Golden Tate. Although I'm sure the Heisman committee would have you believe otherwise. You tweak the outcome of say, three big plays this season, and suddenly the Irish are 9-3, and sure as shit you'd be finding Golden's name near the top of the Heisman pile. Which is SUCH a crock of shit, because one player should not have to take the ENTIRE game into his hands so that his TEAM wins so that he can be considered for an INDIVIDUAL trophy. Although if the Heisman committee were actually fair, the winner every year would probably be some random-ass player from the WAC or the Sun Belt or some other conference no one cares about, who does crazy shit on both sides of the ball but who no one's heard about because, again, he plays for some conference no one cares about. But whatever, my point is--you cannot point blame at one single aspect of a team.) That's not what does it. It is the whoooole package.
And this here package we've got is starting to look a little beat up. Is it not?
So we're getting a new box (aka coach). That's what we're doing. We're chucking out the old box and we're getting a new one. And in T-minus three years, we'd better have some shiny new rings in that box, or somebody's gonna have some explaining to do. (Just in case you weren't aware, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine, and Holtz all won national championships in their third year as head coaches. So clearly it stands to reason that if the third season doesn't produce a new banner in the tunnel, we're doomed. I think J.J. should wait until at least the third season this time before renewing the contract. Just a thought.)
Stanford 45, Notre Dame 38
As for that other game we played to close out the season...
Well, it was not a banner night for either defense, let's just say that.
But it was the same damn story we've seen from the Irish all season. So close--so close--so close--down to the wire--and then ahh--aw--not so much.
Although, I have to say, mad props to Sergio Brown for playing harder than I've ever seen him play. He was clearly trying to make up for the UConn game, and dude, I think he succeeded. For the first time all season, he was right up there with Kyle McCarthy and Manti Te'o (11 and 10 total tackles, respectively). Check out these stats for Mr. Brown: 7 solo tackles, 3 assists, 2 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and 1 sack. Best individual defensive stats of anyone on the team. I tip my hat to you, sir.
But, unfortunately, the 31 combined tackles of these three players was not enough to stop Stanford's offense / human hippopotamus Toby Gerhart from scoring 45 points. (Again with the whole "it's a team sport" thing.)
And what's really depressing is--even if we had won, would it have made that much of a difference?
In the grand scheme of things, Charlie was getting fired anyway. And with Charlie gone, no head coach and no offensive coordinator for the postseason, so...no bowl game. And without Coach Weis, it's really not surprising that we're saying bye-bye to Jimmy and Golden. (Although, you have to admit, it's a little selfish. I don't care who we have has head coach next year, that quarterback spot is going to be hurting. C'mon Dayne--HEAL! You too, Michael Floyd. Get your collarbone back in the game. XXXOOO.)
So...6-6, 7-6...the end of this season was so depressing I feel like I would hardly have been able to differentiate between the two. And it's not even remotely cheerful to think that we played better against Stanford than USC did, because USC is a crock of SHIT this year, and it's absolute BS that they're even still ranked in the BCS poll. What kind of crack are those computers SMOKING?
It is a long, bleak off-season, with no more Golden and no more Kyle and no healthy quarterbacks (anyone know when Nate Montana's rich little legacy ass is supposed to show up on campus again?) and, at the moment, no verdict on a new coach. Plus we've got next year's thrilling line-up of Tulsa, Utah, Western Michigan, and Navy to look forward to. (Except Navy...oh wait. Oh, we lose to them now. I forgot.)
And I'm not even really looking forward to this year's bowl games, because I'm pretty much counting on 'Bama to smoke the national championship (no offense Texas--I'm not messin' with you, I'm just sayin'...), and I'm only vaguely interested in watching Cincinnati, because if Kelly's not coaching for us next year who cares, and if he IS coaching for us next year but not coaching them in the bowl game, then...again, who cares?
You see? You see what this season's done to me? I'm so morose. I didn't even watch the Colts keep their unbeaten streak alive last Sunday, or the Bears (finally) play some defense and win an ugly game. (Of course, odds are those games weren't even broadcast in my area, but the point is, I didn't even look to see if they were ON. And although I watched most of the first half of the SEC Championship last Saturday, I was also, you know, flipping back and forth between that an episode of Gilmore Girls. Further proof that I should never actually be a sportswriter. When my team's not in the mix, it is SO hard to make myself actually care. Because I love football, and I love sports, you see, but mostly...I love Notre Dame.)
Thus concludes the 2009 Irish football season. Mad props to Golden Tate for making All-American. (You hella belong there.) Good luck with all your other award nominations, and with the NFL Draft.
And to you, JimmayJimmayJimmay....I still can't believe you said you'll miss NDSP.
GO IRISH BEAT BOILERS!