Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Notre Dame Football: Antacid Edition

Notre Dame 31, Purdue 24

Sometimes things just don't sit right in your stomach.

Sometimes your team's down late in the third quarter and your defense can't put up a stop and your run game feels like a lump of lard, just SITTING there while everything else churns around it; and after enough dropped passes and stuffed run plays, you get so queasy you start thinking nothing is ever going to settle; this feeling his never going to pass; holes are gonna get poked in your stomach lining before you can properly digest this game--and before you know it you'll have so many metaphoric ulcers you'll hardly be able to watch the games at all.

We went in as three-touchdown favorites. It seems as though it should've gone smoothly--as though the offense should've chomped up yards faster than Pac-man in pursuit of a bouncing fruit and the defense should've swarmed Purdue like a game-freezing maelstrom of Pinky, Inky, Blinky, and Clyde.

Instead, Purdue seemed to be running on a surplus of skill and extra lives, scoring points and stuffing our run game while we haphazardly turned all the wrong corners, dropped crucial passes, and couldn't travel far enough down the field to find the end zone. The first half of the game was almost as bad as a mixed metaphor involving Pac-Man and acid indigestion.

But then--after three long, fruitless quarters--Notre Dame finally pieced together a scoring drive to tie the game 10-10. Our defense forced Purdue to punt, and our offense took advantage of the momentum swing by lobbing the ball to DaVaris Daniels, who stiff-armed Purdue's best corner to stay in bounds and run the ball in 82 yards for a touchdown.

I don't know about you guys, but this was the moment I decided to pop some proverbial Alka-Seltzer and try to chill out for the rest of the game.

On the very next drive--and with a wave of relief akin to the moment your antacid kicks in--I watched Bennett Jackson intercept the ball and run in ND's first pick-six of the season. Purdue's subsequent scoring drive and Amir Carlisle's fumble (which was not entirely his fault) provided the last few stabs of discomfort before everything settled into a bleary haze of content, culminating in a 61-yard, 7-and-a-half-minute possession by the Irish to end the game. Possibly the best part of this drive was the series of handoffs to Cam "I-bled-from-the-head-but-I-ain't-dead" McDaniel before we finally took a knee in the victory formation. (Obviously would've been more exciting if we scored a touchdown instead, but whatever.)

And the Irish came home with a win.

Get tough on heartburn

Despite last week's yoke of oppression, we had the potential to come home with a win from Ann Arbor, too. We didn't, of course, but we had similar late-game surges against both Michigan and Purdue. I know nobody wants to spend the season watching last-second nailbiters with a container of Tums in one hand and a bottle of aspirin in the other--but given the choice, I would much rather have our team show the conditioning and wherewithal to keep fighting all the way through the fourth quarter than have them suffer a bruising, straight-up, all-game-long defeat.

The whole "late-game-rally" strategy doesn't work so well against teams like Alabama, which are well-versed enough in last-second comebacks to beat out even Johnny "I'm the biggest dick in" Football. But as we're not playing Alabama this season, it's probable that ND's late-game dominance could work to our advantage as the season progresses. (I continue to hope for us to dominate the entire game--but for right now, I'll take what I can get.) Our biggest challenges will most likely be MSU (because trick field goals, etc.), Oklahoma, USC, and Stanford. Oklahoma is actually my biggest worry right now, as we're playing them so soon and our secondary did not exactly look dominant against Purdue. (Although at least Bob Stoops has already named Blake Bell the starter for the ND game, so at least we know which QB to prepare for.)

However, given how spirited Temple looked in the opener and how hard we had to battle to beat Purdue, it's probably wise not to overlook any of the opponents left on our schedule. Apparently making it to the national championship game puts an even bigger target on your back than usual. (Even if you do not emerge victorious.) Who knew?

It is because of this that I refuse to develop pre-emptive ulcers while looking ahead to the rest of our games. Yes, our defense should be playing better. Yes, our lack of ability to establish a run game early is a concern. But based on how our opponents have played us thus far, we shouldn't expect to make a clean sweep of anyone--not until we've got some of our own issues worked out. So I'm gonna try not to sweat it if we get down early in the game.

BUT OUR DEFENSE, you may be thinking.

I know. I hear you. But I think things are starting to happen on defense that don't necessarily translate into what we, as fans, would prefer to see on the field. For example, Stephon Tuitt has only had, what, two tackles in the last two games? Granted, one of them was a sack against the Wolverines--but still. How is Tuitt supposed to break Justin Tuck's single-season record if he's not averaging 1.2 sacks per game?

However, after the Purdue game, Coach Kelly said in his presser:

Yeah, this is probably [Tuitt's] best game of the year in terms of just being on every play, just physically at the point of attack, two gapping, doing the things we want him to do, effort level. I really liked his play up front.
Tuitt, Nix, Sheldon Day, Shembo. An offense predicated on running the football, [Purdue] can't run the ball, your front four, those guys in particular, have to be doing something right. They played very good football for us.

Considering we've let our opponents score on 7 out of their last 8 trips to the red zone (and the lone stop was a missed FG by Purdue), it's kind of hard to think of our defense playing "very good football" right now. However, we held Purdue to just 38 yards rushing on 21 attempts--that's 1.8 yards per carry (an even more abysmal mark than Notre Dame's 2.5 ypc!). We've scored on defense two weeks in a row. And we forced Purdue to punt after ND fumbled the ball in the 4th quarter. Those are all pretty solid defensive statements, even if it doesn't quite feel like we've got a lot of dominance going on right now. (Especially considering we also let Purdue convert a 4th down for a TD in the 4th quarter.) But we're piecing things together.

Pop pop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is!

Personally, I am committed to enjoying this win. I'm enjoying having a winning record, too. And being ranked in the Top 25 for an entire calendar year. (We've been officially ranked in the AP poll since Sept. 8, 2012.) When was the last time THAT happened? 2006? Anyway, if you are for any reason feeling remotely glum about the Irish, just go watch some Purdue game highlights and replay that 2-yard DaVaris Daniels TD a couple times. See if it doesn't make you feel better about life, the universe of sport, and the gridiron in general. Some rewinds of Bennett Jackson's pick-six wouldn't hurt, either. Personally, I always find watching highlights after a win to be kind of soothing. Like an after-dinner mint.

Be sure to let this all sink in before you turn your sights ahead to the Spartans and college football's top-ranked defense (no joke). I'm expecting nothing less than the usual gritty brawl from the This Is Sparta crowd; but we've won nine games in a row at home now, and I think we're finally at a point where we can Protect This House with more than just lip service. Plus, nine in a row hardly seems like a streak when you play six games a year at home? But ten in a row--that's a start.

MSU has looked extremely solid in its first three games of the season, particularly in its 55-17 beat-down of Youngstown State, during which QB Connor Cook threw for 4 TD's and the Spartans racked up 547 yards of total offense. However, considering MSU's first two opponents were Western Michigan and South Florida, I wouldn't say MSU has exactly had a tough start to the season. ND's the first real test on their schedule, and it will be interesting to see what they make of the newly rejuvenated Irish offense--especially if the Reesus can stay turnover-free. And dagnabbit, guys, our defense better show up to PLAY.

Robert Franklin/SB Tribune
Robert Franklin/SB Tribune

Friday, September 13, 2013

Notre Dame Football: Tchaikovsky Edition

All right, fellow band nerds...this one's for you.

I decided to bust out my flute this morning (for the first time in forever), and I spent about an hour playing through random bits of music until I got to Tchaikovsky's "Marche Slave." Then I decided to give it up and listen to the full recording of "Marche Slave" while I puttered around the kitchen making breakfast. Amid what was possibly a hunger-induced delirium, it hit me: this is what football season feels like.

I'm not just talking about the obvious connection between classical music and college football game day. Snippets from "Ride of the Valkyries," "O Fortuna," the "Mars" theme from Holst's Planets suite, and the closing bars of the "1812 Overture" can be heard in college stadiums all across the country, alongside contemporary classics such as "Crazy Train," "Livin' on a Prayer," and the bass line from that one White Stripes song I can never remember the name of.

The power of music to unite--a country, a fan base, a disaffected generation of hippies, etc.--cannot be denied. It's always stirring, the moment when everyone rises to put their hands over their hearts and sing the national anthem before the game; we are all united as Americans and sports fans for one shining moment before we go back to acting like we all want to kill each other. Just as every country has a national anthem, every college team has a fight song.

Fight songs are meant to inspire, uplift, and remind us of our common bond as students, alumni, fans, and raving-lunatics-in-arms (except, of course, for the Michigan fight song, which as everyone knows is the audio equivalent of a hyena vomiting all over your child's crib). As a former band member, I can tell you that playing the fight song always felt more effective in a hostile away environment than it did at home--at least in terms of uniting the crowd. (Having four hundred screaming fans in wool uniforms standing directly behind one of the opposing team's endzones didn't hurt, either.) There were, of course, times when playing the fight song didn't seem to have any effect whatsoever on the team's morale; and after the 2007 season, there were certain pep songs I would have been glad to never play again (*cough*CELTICCHANT*cough*). But there were other times when playing the fight song felt downright giddy, almost euphoric--such as in the aftermath of the 2006 dramatic-comeback-game-in-the-rain vs. MSU.

But that wasn't what I thought of this morning while listening to "Marche Slave." Instead I thought, "Holy shit! This whole song is like a metaphor for how I feel during football season!!!"

It's not a perfect metaphor....

If you don't make a regular habit out of listening to classical music (and/or instrumental music in general), there's one very noticeable difference between classical stuff and the stuff you hear on the radio, and it's called dynamics. Pop music mostly wavers between FORTE and FORTISSIMO (aka the rockin-in-the-club strategy of BUY DRINKS! and BUY MORE DRINKS!!!). The quietest pop songs ever get is maybe a mezzo-forte. (You know, like if it's a ballad or something.)

Whereas if you put on a nice long piece of classical music, you'll probably start out thinking, "Oh man, that's really quiet--I better turn it up." And then two minutes later you'll be like, "Holy shit that's quite loud I guess I'll turn it down." But if there's a bigass crescendo going on, ten seconds later you'll be like, "HOLY SHIT THAT'S STILL TOO LOUD! I JUST TURNED IT DOWN! HOW DO THEY KEEP GETTING LOUDER?!?!"  (Because musicians are BAMFs, that's why--and don't you forget it.)

And so on.

Most college marching bands don't bother much with dynamics; when you're playing to a crowd of 80,000, anything less than forte is gonna get lost in the shuffle. (Unless, you know, you're one of those pretentious bands *cough*OhioState*cough* and you feel like playing really complex music nobody can hear.)

But there are dynamics in the stadium on game day, and it's something everyone notices--even the talking heads in the booth. (You know, when they're not distracted by the upcoming golf tournament or the latest Eminem single or whatever else it is they're being paid to sponsor instead of talking about the actual game.) The cheering thousands move through peaks and troughs of sound, like the great strains of a orchestra being conducted by the actions of the players on the field.  Like a sheet of music, the lines of the gridiron define the form and the limits into which the coaches can inscribe an infinite number of plays and combinations, drawing an infinite number of reactions from the crowd.

But it all uses the same notes, over and over again. The cry of victory. The groan of defeat. The great gasp of the almost-caught pass. The stone-dead silence of a crowd whose team has just been sacked and stripped and had the ball run back on them for a touchdown. The notes are drawn out of us almost without our consent; when the playing starts to hurt, we say, "I can't watch." But we do. We build up calluses and we move on.

There is always another game to be played.

"Marche Slave" = loss to Michigan = yoke of oppression

"Marche Slave" (also written as March Slav) is the French (and most common) title for Tchaikovsky's "Serbo-Russian March," which was commissioned by the Russian Musical Society in support of the Serbians during the Serbo-Turkish war (c.1876).

My interpretation of this piece of music has nothing to do that, in the same way that the Notre Dame Band playing the "1812 Overture" at the end of the 3rd quarter has nothing to do with Russian's defense of the motherland against Napoleon. As mentioned, this morning, my reaction to Marche Slave was more like, "Holy shit! This is how I feel during football games!"

I'm not saying I want "Marche Slave" to be piped into the stadium on game days. I'm just saying: if you were going to take my internal landscape following the loss to Michigan and interpret it as a piece of music (...like you do...), it would kind of sound like this.

And now, fourteen paragraphs later, we get to the point.

If you've never listened to Marche Slave, you can do so here:

 Or you can just take my word for it and interpret the song based upon my comments below.

Marche Slave begins in B-minor, which as everyone knows is the key you write in when you want to sound oppressed. It's slow, like a funeral march, and its downward-slipping melody skips around the orchestra in a somber refrain until everybody in the audience feels deep within their souls that We Are Being Oppressed (By Michigan)--And This Is Not Okay. But it is not the sound of true despair, or true defeat; it turns to the lyrical, almost poetic march of those who refuse to let their notes ring atonal, even in the face of skunkbear-scented defeat. Then, at about the 1:27 mark, you get the first rebuttal. The spark of rebellion. The rallying of the troops--the refusal to accept defeat. And there, at the 2:16 mark, comes the rage, the fury, the frustration--and the angry f***ing piccolo who cannot believe her defense--our defense--the f**ing just went to a national championship defense--gave up 41 points and 96 rushing yards to some punk quarterback from Michigan who isn't even Denard Robinson. I mean, come on. You have GOT to be kidding me. I CAN'T GO THROUGH ANOTHER FOUR YEARS OF THIS.

Oh, wait. Except we won't have to. Because we're not playing Michigan anymore after next year.

But in the meantime, back to our regularly scheduled oppression

It's been a long while since we've been in the frustrating position of playing catch-up all game long against a team that we are, genuinely, pretty evenly-matched with. But Michigan wrested control from us early, and--like any true oppressor--they never gave up the high ground. There were times when the Irish drew even; times when it even seemed as though we might surge forth to victory, as we did in so many last-second comebacks last year.

But we couldn't throw off the yoke this time.

Every ghost of a worry that plagued us during the Temple game came back to haunt us this game: two drives sputtered because we couldn't establish a running game early on; our defense looked porous against a mobile quarterback; we let Michigan score on 4 out of 4 trips to the red zone; our offense has not yet produced a consistent deep threat at receiver; Tommy continues to underwhelm while scrambling; and yes--the Reesus threw another turnover. We lost two of our possessions on interceptions and two on failed 4th-down conversions. The only marked improvement in scoring this week was Kyle Brindza's return to place-kicker; he made 3 of 3 field goals, two from 40+ yards.

I don't mean to be entirely bleak, of course. We did score on six of our possessions; Rees threw for over 300 yards and 2 TDs, spreading the ball out fairly evenly between Jones, Niklas, and Daniels; and once we got something going on the ground, Amir Carlisle and George Atkinson III each averaged over 5 ypc.

But any game in which you score 30 points and do not win is not a stellar defensive effort--and that, more than anything, is worth an angry Serbo-Russian ballad. Our offense is improving, but they're not good enough yet to win on their own volition. We need our defense to be the anchor, and they just aren't anchored yet. Maybe they're in the process of untying knots before the anchor can be lowered--but dang it, I wish they'd hurry up.

If you look at the defensive stats, there are some things there to be pleased about. We had eight tackles for loss, 3 pass break-ups, 3 QB hurries, 1 sack, and 1 extremely badass interception courtesy of Stephon Tuitt. But all of that amounts to bloody nothing when your opponent puts up 41 points on you. Also it doesn't help when you have a specious pass interference call against your defense on a key drive late in the game...but never mind that; what's done is done.

I also think this is something of a testament to the leadership we had on defense last year; the bend-but-don't-break mentality really only works if you're committed to not breaking in the red zone, and we don't seem to have that right now. There's no point lamenting players lost, but I do hope that as the season goes on, our team finds a way to reincarnate what made us so clutch last year. Because sometimes it isn't about the opponent. Sometimes it's just about going out there and acting like you're the baddest mother on the field--even if you're not.

And now on to zen mode.

So guys...no perfect regular-season this year. Despite the initial fiery rage, I think I'm going to be okay with that. Not only because I have no choice, but also because it allows us to fade into the background and do what we do best: be the underdog.

Of course it makes no sense for Notre Dame to be the underdog, really. We're still ranked; we're still good; more likely than not, we're going to make it to a good bowl game. And honestly, now that the monkey's off our back about making it to the national championship game, that's all I want us to do: I want us to go to a good bowl game, and I want us to beat a freaking ranked opponent. No more of this "Notre Dame being overmatched in the postseason" BS. I want us to figure out how to take a three-week break from the season, come back, and WIN. Then--and only then--can we talk about winning another national championship.

In the meantime...let us skip to 3:22 in Marche Slave and contemplate how the rest of the season might go. Let's contemplate playing Purdue, shall we? I am not saying this will be a game without peril. We only beat Purdue by 3 points last year. I'm just saying I think we can count on our guys being focused and a little angry after all of that thundering oppression in the Big House. It's going to be a hard fight against the Boilermakers (lots of angry brass, blaring trumpets, that sort of thing)--but yes, I expect us to emerge victorious without inducing any heart attacks.

Not until we face MSU at home next week do I expect we'll hit something like the 4:32 mark of Marche Slave and have some serious, blood-pressure raising anxiety. And as for the Oklahoma game the week after that? All bets are off.

But if you listen all the way to the end of the song--it builds. It gets better. It becomes more intense. More electrifying. More satisfying.

And I assure you, fellow Irish fans, it ends in triumph.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Ten Commandments of Irish Football

Notre Dame 28, Temple 6

All right, Irish revelers--my fellow Lunatic Legion--let us go forth and rejoice. The Irish have triumphed again!

It was not, perhaps, the stalwart defensive effort everybody was hoping for--nor was it as much of an all-day scoring spree as we might have anticipated based upon the first two drives of the game. However, thanks in part to a truly horrific kicking game, we pulled out a solid, non-nail-biting win against an overmatched (but still quite plucky) Temple team.

After the game, though, I had several people say to me, "Great game!" And instead of agreeing like a normal person, I looked at them like they were noodle-heads and said, "Really? I mean, we won and all, but what game were YOU watching?"

This was not a game that readily inspired me to believe I was going to be able to watch the Irish play Michigan without danger of stroke and/or cardiac arrest. I mean, did you SEE our kicking game? Did you SEE IT? And what about our defense in the second quarter? What about those Louis Nix penalties? And what about that sack we gave up? I mean, YIKES.

At which point I said to myself: Lisa, thou shalt Get a Grip.

I still experience a sense of football-induced PTSD whenever it seems like our team might possibly, marginally, in any way begin to stumble against a team like Temple (or South Florida or Tulsa or...let's not go on). I also seize up whenever it seems as though the rejuvenated Reesus might revert into the Turnover Tommy of olde. (Keep thy focus, Reesus. Convert thy third downs to firsts. Sow your passes not unto infertile soil but into thy players' open hands.) I have to remind myself that with a new and relatively untested receiving corps, not all of the missed catches are going to be the QB's fault. And a couple incompletes are no big deal when your QB is completing 69% of his passes for 346 yds and 3 TDs.

But the Crazy Irish Fan within me does not care about logic. Crazy Irish Fan wants to live in a world without doubt. Crazy Irish Fan wants perfect passes all of the time--and perfect defensive play even MORE of the time. Crazy Irish Fan wants redemption for the game against Alabama, proof that last season was not a fluke--was not all just a paragon of wild luck--was not all just an euphoric dream---and Crazy Irish Fan wants all of that RIGHT NOW. I mean, IMMEDIATELY. First game of the season, we should be smacking down our opponent 59-9. Right? RIGHT?!??!

To which I say: No, Crazy Irish Fan, you cannot have it all at once. Stop being so crazy. And maybe take a minute to remind yourself what you can expect from Brian Kelly's teams. For one thing, you can expect the team to improve over the course of the season. (Remember how no one was really sure about us last season, and then 3 or 4 games in, all of a sudden it was like HOLY SHIT THIS TEAM?) For another: you cannot expect this team to be last season's team.

No matter how much I protest that I know this year is going to be different...let's face it, I really wanted to see the defense look pretty much the way it looked last season (nvm that Manti Te'o is gone; I mean, you've still got Nix & Tuitt & Shembo & all those guys, right? The defense will just magically reinvent itself and fill that gap, because...because magic....). I also really wanted the offense to make all touchdowns look as easy as they looked on those first two scoring drives. Because then I'd be able to focus on all the ways in which we're going to pulverize the Skunkbears instead of worrying about all the weaknesses we'll have to deal with when we play Michigan this week. (And seeing as the winner of the ND-Michigan game traditionally goes on to have a pretty stellar season--considering this is the last time we're playing Michigan for who-knows-how-long--considering it's a night game in the Big House--there's enough to worry about in this game already.)

It occurred to me, as I was mulling over my own insanity, that there are a lot of things I have to remind myself of throughout the course of every season so that I do not have an aneurysm. And with all the irreverent "Reesus" references flying around, I got to thinking...why not write some of these reminders down for myself? Y'know, like commandments. For myself, for the team, for my fellow fans. Therefore--lo, I present unto you...

The Ten Commandments of Irish Football

I. Thou shalt have no other teams before the Irish.
God. Country. Notre Dame.

II. Thou shalt not make unto thy helmets any graven image, nor any likeness of any thing that is on the dome or the library above, or in the monogram or leprechaun logo below...
...and thou shalt pretend as though the Shamrock Series uniforms have been smited from the Earth, and thou shalt speak no more of them after the neutral-site "home game" is done.

III. Thou shalt respect thy opponents
and not underestimate the desire of thy foes to defeat Notre Dame; nor shalt thou laugh at thy fellows when they lose to FCS opponents* -- for he who loses to Tulsa and Navy and South Florida cannot cast stones....

*unless thou is referring to Michigan vs. Appalachian State

IV. Thou shalt not gripe about a win,
nor bring the woes of Jonah upon thyself like a scourge when there is no whale of defeat to devour the season whole. Instead, thou shalt look upon thy victories and rejoice. (REJOICE!)

V. Thou shalt not bear false witness against this year's team.
Not even if thou is obsessed with comparing it to last year's team. (Just get over it, thou. It's never gonna be the same.)

VI. Thou shalt not covet thy future opponent's box scores,
nor thy opponent's all-time win percentage, nor thy opponent's Heisman trophy, nor his ranking nor his championship rings nor his regular-season record, nor anything that is thy opponent's. Thou shalt snatch victory from thy current week's opponent and nothing more.

VII. Thou shalt honor thy coach* and thy athletic director.
Even if thy coach insists that Michigan is not a "historic rivalry" for Notre Dame and then takes it back again two days later. (Also, thou should not make such a big deal about thy coach's contract--it is not as though the contract is a guarantee of job security, as thou well knows.)

*Unless thy coach is some sort of prig like Pete Carroll, in which case thou shalt campaign for the termination of thy coach's contract immediately

VIII. Thou shalt not kill the referees.
Thou shalt settle for being righteously indignant, even if thy referees are woefully possessed by demons or blinded by cataracts or bribed by the opposing team's football boosters.

IX. Thou shalt remember the football Saturday,
and thou shalt not have work, nor baby showers, nor volunteer commitments, nor any friends nor family who choose to get married on Game Day.

X. Thou shalt beat USC.

With all that written out, I guess it's time to remind myself:
-It's only the first game
-We had zero turnovers
-After letting Temple drive into the red zone three times in the second quarter, ND's defense buckled down--Temple's possessions in the second half ended with Downs, Punt, Punt, Punt, Downs, Fumble ...and only one of those drives made it into Notre Dame territory
-Penalties are just mental mistakes and we can FIX those
-Stephon Tuitt's still a beast

Last Scent of the Skunkbears

So guys. What with Notre Dame moving to the ACC and committing to play 5 ACC opponents in football per year (despite retaining our "independent" status), we've cut our series with the Wolverines a little short. Which means Saturday night's game in Ann Arbor may be the last regular-season matchup between Notre Dame and Michigan for the next 10-15 years or so.

This seems odd for those of us who began watching football after 1978 (when the ND/Michigan series resumed), but it's not as though this rivalry hasn't taken its little breaks before--usually after one coach had a hissy fit about how the other team's coach treated him, which sometimes resulted in Michigan campaigning for the Big 10 to boycott Notre Dame for no other reason besides poor manners. So if you hear about Brady Hoke accusing the Irish of chickening out on the series with the Wolverines--don't listen to him, he's just being a little snot (na na-na boo boo).

Regardless of what one team's coach says about the other, I predict this game is going to be an absolute brawl.

Prime time in the Big House probably gives 17th-ranked Michigan the edge--except, you know, Notre Dame has that whole thing going where they play way better in hostile environments than they do at home. So who knows? Denard of the Dashing Dreadlocks is gone; Michigan's new QB, Devin Gardner, remains relatively untested after a 59-9 victory over Central Michigan (during which Central's QB & top RB went down with injury); Gardner went 10 of 15 with 1 TD and 2 interceptions. This bodes well for Notre Dame's secondary, if you ask me. And let's face it--for the past few years, the decisive factors in our games against Michigan have been A) turnovers, and B) last-second scores by Denard Robinson. Even last year's game, with Robinson throwing five straight interceptions, Notre Dame still only won by 7 points. >.< So let's hope for a positive turnover margin, yeah?

Of course, it doesn't really matter who's starting at QB for the Wolverines, or whether Notre Dame is currently ranked slightly higher in the polls; when it comes to the Notre Dame-Michigan game, all bets are off. And especially for this game--we have to win. Who doesn't want fifteen years' worth of bragging rights?

So get ready, Irish fans. It is time for one more clash of the blue-and-gold and the maize-and-blue. Bust out your "I Heart Appalachian State" bumper stickers, re-read Blue-Gray Sky's "Letter to Michigan Fans", and get ready to HAIL, HAIL, to Michigan, the Assholes of the World as we victory clog our way out of Ann Arbor for the last time this decade.


South Bend Tribune/JAMES BROSHER
South Bend Tribune/JAMES BROSHER