Saturday, October 18, 2014

Notre Dame Football: Magic 8 Ball Edition

So here's my prediction for the FSU game: Everett Golson's going to turn the ball over.

I know it. You know it. We all know it.

I am not saying we couldn't end up with another miraculous, turnover-free victory against a Top 10 team on the road (a la the Oklahoma game in 2012); Golson often has a freakish ability to play better in hostile road environments than he does when the Irish are at home. (Maybe all the animosity helps him focus. Who knows)

But every time I consider the possibility of a turnover-free game against the Seminoles, some internal, Magic 8 Ball-esque voice tells me: Don't count on it.

I still hope for the best, of course. But in an effort to brace myself for any inopportune possession changes, I've decided it's best not to simply wish for the costly mistakes to disappear. Instead, I've decided to focus on the potential outcomes of any turnover malarkey by asking myself: okay, what happens AFTER we turn the ball over?

Better not tell you now, says Magic 8 Ball.

But what we've learned so far this season is that it is apparently possible to turn the ball over five times and still win by a sixteen-point margin. And that we have a special teams unit strong enough to help us out in this endeavor, by gaining key field position, making key tackles, and blocking key kicks. We've also learned that we're capable of orchestrating a comeback--of scoring fifty points when necessary (scoring 6 out of 6 trips to the red zone), if that's what it takes to win the game.

The obvious response to all this--the one generally agreed upon by the greater college football universe and all statistical common sense--is Outlook not so good. Because obviously you can make crazy turnover mistakes against Syracuse. Or North Carolina. Or Purdue. Or...Stanford.  But you can't do that against a team like FSU. They will make you pay for it.

It makes sense. In fact, it's an argument I've made myself. Turning the ball over five times or digging a 14-0 hole in the first five minutes of regulation isn't a good idea unless you've been cast as the underdog in a heartwarming sports movie (preferably involving overcoming the odds by beating your big brother in a cross-town peewee football rivalry). And no--I don't think we can beat FSU if we make as many mistakes against the Seminoles as we made against North Carolina or Syracuse.

Because we've also learned this season that our defense can't stay on the field for 90 plays. That a hurry-up offense destroys our ability to make key substitutions and stay dominant on third down (see: North Carolina game). That our holder really needs to wear gloves during field goal attempts in the rain. And that it's more or less impossible to tell what's going on in Everett Golson's head, and we should probably abandon hope that the team (or Everett Golson's brain) will have eradicated all their stupid mistakes by the time the Irish trot out on that field in Tallahassee tonight.

But we can also say with absolute confidence that we've gotten lots and lots of practice recovering from our own mistakes. You may rely on it. The last four games have not been stellar in terms of dominance, and there have been so many obvious errors it's easy to fixate on them. But in the midst of the glaring snafu's, that when we're down--when things are starting to go wrong and the breaks are beating the boys--we go out there and WE WIN ANYWAY. Even if we miss two incredibly crucial field goals in a tight game against the top-ranked defense in the country. Even if we're watching the lead teeter back and forth like a see-saw until time finally expires.

It doesn't matter that some furious, selfish, unsportsmanlike part of me wants the team to shape the hell up and stop making turnovers, stop missing tackles, stop looking like they're a work-in-progress and start looking like a bunch of dominant mo-fo's--not because obviously they should be doing this anyway but so that people can STOP SAYING THINGS like, "Ha, well, even if Notre Dame does manage to scrape by on their suuuuuuuuper difficult schedule and go undefeated and make it into the playoffs, it's just gonna end up like this again: [post link to 2012 national championship debacle]"

Maybe I should just stop going on the internet during football season. Because I'm sick to death of these snarkastic comments and I'm sick of people saying ND has a ridiculously tough schedule at the beginning of the season and then taking it back three weeks later, and I'm sick of pre-season rankings in general; and I'm SUPER sick of the effing selection committee even though they haven't done anything yet, because HOW THE HELL is appropriating two of the major historic bowl games each season and pissing off a ton of Top-10 teams' fans by cherry-picking four teams each year instead of two ANY BETTER than the original system of "Hey, everybody just play your bowl games and we'll pick the winner from there"? (I guess that's an entire rant on its own, for another time.)

Anyway. Back to the point: I know everybody thinks we should be all quaking in our buckled leprechaun boots about the possibility of turning the ball over against the defending national champions (or whatever), but I say screw that. I will of course be a lobster-faced vision of fury should we turn the ball over three times and have it cost us the game. But I am not afraid of making mistakes. Go ahead, Irish. Give my blood pressure a spike. Do what you do.

Because even if this team DOES screw up, I don't believe it's a sign of imminent failure. Because this year, the one thing we've been really, really good at is overcoming our mistakes.

Now, perhaps this does not sound as optimistic or violently comforting as YEAH--let's go break some wooden boards apart with our faces and then go out there and smash in the faces of those Seminoles!!!!!! (

I'm afraid I don't really have a lot of face-smashing conviction about this game. Whenever I try to ask myself what I think, I mostly get a gloop gloop gloop...Try again later.

But I do know, with certainty, that we are capable of fixing our flub-ups. Even if we're just fixing them with duct tape and spackle to hold us over til the end of the game. (That's as long as it needs to last, anyway.)

And this is a new week. A new game. We get to start all over. Leave the lopsided, shoddily constructed structure from last week's caper behind and build something new. Maybe even something that will last. Something we'll look back upon--maybe even feel the urge to gild and commemorate for future generations. Because, you know, there are few things Domers love more than gilding victories for posterity.

So let's go out there and lay a new foundation. Doesn't matter how unstable the thing looks in the midst of construction; you pull this one out, and some combination of glee and nostalgia will fix that sucker right up until it looks like the friggin' Parthenon.  (Well. Or something like that. It's only the seventh game of the season; let's not get carried away.)

It is decidedly so.


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