With the end of November came the end of Notre Dame’s regular season, one which will be remembered for what it could have been as much as for anything else. It was a season of loss, both on the field and off. Injuries plagued what should have been virtuouso, farewell performances by Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, III, and hobbled the Irish in the finale against Stanford. But it was the sudden preseason loss of Everett Golson to academic impropriety that likely deprived Notre Dame of any chance at a return to the National Championship.
Saturday’s 27-20 defeat by #8 Stanford in the balmy California clime was nothing to be ashamed of. Nix, Hardy, and Shumate didn’t even make the trip. Big Lou’s absence, especially, was felt time and again as the Cardinal’s Tyler Gaffney carried the ball thirty-three times for 189 yards and a touchdown. That the Irish were in it at all, and with a chance to tie late in the fourth quarter is credit to the players who were available.
As the 2013 season is dissected, much of the inquest’s ink will be spilled on Tommy Rees, whose performance was typical of his others this year. Two touchdowns, one to TJ Jones and one to Davaris Daniels, were offset by soul-shattering interceptions in the fourth quarter, the last of which dashed any hope of an Irish victory and followed a critical and unlikely stand by the defense, who somehow held Stanford and forced a three-and-out with 3:35 on the clock.
That the stage was thus set for another chapter to be penned in Irish lore was made clear when the Cardinal undid a rare mistake by Zack Martin, whose false start on third-and-four set up a difficult third-and nine. Call it fate, or luck, or karma, or the call of the phantom whistle, something made Stanford’s Josh Mauro jump offside, erasing the deficit and setting up the more manageable third-and-four all over again.
That is, until Wayne Lyon made his second pick of the quarter. With that, it was over. Questions, what-if’s and visions of the Pinstripe Bowl were all that were left to dance in Irish heads.
Stanford held Irish runners in check, with Folston carrying the most and furthest (seventeen carries for only fifty yards). While Notre Dame had difficulty stopping Gaffney, in the red zone, they held, and forced field goals where touchdowns seemed likely. Benett Jackson and Austin Collinsworth each notched an interception as the Irish defense held and gave the offense plenty of opportunities.
So that’s it. It feels different, this, from last year. Four losses, once crowed as a sign of progress, now hang as albatrosses. Is there promise in the future? Clearly. Jaylon Smith, Folston, the Lil Admiral, and Davaris Daniels have been bled and earned their stripes and run whatever other gauntlet of cliches you can find. Whether Golson’s return will be enough to return Notre Dame to the BCS and make 2013 a one-off disappointment remains to be seen.
Relive it all here: