Despite there being no football game or national championship won, this last weekend should go down as one of the more important, if not the first ever, of 2014. As Friday became Saturday, and the temperatures in Purcell Pavillion rose on account of the nattering nabobs of the nation’s assembled media, as Saturday became Sunday, and the temperatures outside plunged and record snow whited-out the landscape, Notre Dame filled the non-weather-related headlines.
Saturday saw Coach Mike Brey’s Irish host Duke, Coach Krezyzewwksxyi and All World freak Jabari Parker in Notre Dame’s first ACC conference game. Despite the winter break, Purcell was rocking as CBS brought the circus to town. Things did not go according to script, though, as Coach Brey became the first former Duke assistant to defeat the old master, 79-77. It was an impressive performance for an Irish squad that had been painted as rudderless in the wake of losing Jerian Grant to academic issues.
The Irish triumphed on the strength of a late 20-6 run, dominating inside play from Garrick Sherman, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, and just a lights out performance from Eric Atkins, who ended the day with 11 assists and 19 points. Pat Connaughton rocked the iron twice, late, with poster-izing dunks that harkened back to the days of John Starks. The Irish even shut down Duke’s Parker, who was ultimately benched.
Sunday, amid swirling snow, rumors of Stephon Tuitt’s jump to the NFL began to crystalize and were ultimately confirmed on Twitter and online. Despite a pre-Pinstripe Bowl second round draft evaluation, Tuitt joined Louis Nix, III, in moving on to the next level. Welcome to South Bend, Defensive Coordinator Van Gorder!
How big a hole Tuitt’s absence will create remains to be seen, though it’s somewhere between yawning, cavernous, and 6′ 6″ and 312 pounds. Despite overcoming a sports hernia this season, Tuitt managed 7.5 sacks, 13 hurries, 49 tackles, and a sick interception for touchdown against Michigan. Last year, well, forget about it. Tuitt joined the pantheon of Irish defensive greats with 46 tackles, 11 sacks, 9 QB hurries, 1 blocked punt and the greatest fumble recovery and run for touchdown ever.
We couldn’t be happier for Stephon and wish him all the best on Sundays. Forever Irish, baby.