Well, that game was an absolute nightmare.
Believe me, I know there is plenty that I should be happy about. Even non-ND folks have pointed this out and rightfully so. This team is ahead of schedule, exceeded our wildest expectations, and has a solid foundation that will keep us a contender for years to come.
There will be plenty of time to examine what this team achieved in 2012. We will have detailed analysis of where we fell short against Alabama and how to improve.
This isn’t one of those posts. This loss hurts too damn much.
The Good Book tells us that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” and right now, this certainly feels like a time to mourn. If we look at the five stages of loss and grief, as a fanbase, we are all over the map. Personally, I’m somewhere between anger and depression — yes, that would be three stages — and I need to vent.
My favorite local sports radio station here in DFW has a great way of starting the healing process after such a loss. When one of our local teams sees their season come to an abrupt end, an audio montage will lead the segment that discusses the demise. So, before I go any further, I pass this bit of audio healing on to you while I reflect on the game.
Hit it, Johnny (via):
Perhaps the biggest punch to the gut isn’t just that Alabama destroyed Notre Dame, but destroyed a Notre Dame team that we all thought was blessed by destiny. Think about it: two goal line stands, a victory using only our backup QB (who didn’t even play to his full potential) for a whole game, and an overtime opposing game-winning field goal that sails wide right.
Against Alabama, everything went wrong.
Alabama scored easily on their first drive. Notre Dame’s offense has their first drive cut short on a questionable incomplete pass ruling (note: I have yet to rewatch the game; however, replays provided in the stadium made it look like a clear reception — even ‘Bama fans around me were shocked). As if that wasn’t enough, Notre Dame gets slapped with a fair catch interference penalty which certainly appeared to be fumble recovered by the Irish. The defense that had created sparks all season was stunned and beaten.
It’s like Lucy allowed Charlie Brown to kick the ball for an entire game, but, when it came time for the game winning field goal, she yanked it away yet again.
On offense, the Irish seemingly abandoned the rushing game that helped get them to this point. While I certainly understand the desire, as well as the need, to stretch Alabama’s defense, the play-calling was simply maddening. It felt like the Irish were simply calling four verts the whole time and hoped for the best. Upon focusing on route running for a drive or two, I saw I wasn’t too far off.
However, even more frustrating was the execution, which inevitably brings me to Everett Golson who definitely played like a redshirt freshman. He continuously made poor reads and had tunnel vision on the boundary go/vertical routes. To top it all off, there were moments of indecision on whether or not to run the ball that cost him dearly.
His night was filled with all kinds of mistakes, but this time there was no magical Pitt-like comeback, nor an appearance of Tommy Rees to save the day. The later doesn’t surprise me too much as placing in the less mobile Rees would’ve been a likely death sentence against the pass rush the Irish saw. However, in the end, ‘Bama dared Golson to beat them and beat them deep. He bit and he lost.
Switching to the other side of the ball, you have a performance that depresses even more. The strength of this Irish faltered; however, they weren’t getting pushed back five yards on every play. Our D-line found themselves in the backfield. Our linebackers filled gaps properly. We had plays stopped behind the line of scrimmage on many occasions…and then everyone bounced off of Eddie Lacy as he was made of rubber.
Or, if you are Danny Spond, unceremoniously slammed to the ground.
While Lacy certainly deserves a load of credit for being a beast, as well as the Alabama line for coaxing D-line penetration away from the plays, there are no words to describe how it feels to watch your Heisman finalist linebacker simply come up short on nearly every solo tackle attempt. However, should I find them, they would also describe the pure terror I felt while watching Amari Cooper run past our DBs as if they were standing still and the sickening feeling in my stomach when I watched simple dump passes turn into easy TDs.
Then you have the punt return game which I can’t even bring myself to talk about. I wish we had simply fair caught everything after watching Davonte Neal add to the “freshmen mistakes” collection.
I watched as something beyond my worst fears unfolded in front of me throughout the entire game. I found myself in a stunned coma of hopelessness that I haven’t felt at a game in a long time. Worse was that I knew there was nothing that the Irish could do about it.
And while Notre Dame struggled mightily, every “Roll Tide” began to eat away at my soul. Every ‘Bama touchdown a punch to the gut. The “S-E-C” chant toward the end of the night practically did me in. Having one of our fans grab a security guard to get Alabama fans to set down sent me in a blind rage.
We came so close to reaching the top of the mountain only to be swatted away, finally allowing all talking heads and ND doubters to be right for the first time all season. We will inevitably hear about how the Irish didn’t belong, how all our victories were overrated, and how the game would’ve been better had anyone else been in it. These comments will inevitably re-open the healing wounds from January 7th and the hurt will rise to the surface again.
However, such pain is fuel and the hurt turns into motivation. The scar left from the 2013 title game will be a reminder of the level that ND needs to reach. It isn’t just some idea anymore, each player saw exactly what it was right in front of them. More young talent will arrive into South Bend and our current young talent will become hardened veterans and they will not rest until they hit that level.
This loss hurt. It will always hurt.
And the Irish will be more than happy to pass that pain along to every future opponent.