Notre Dame Football: A Wild Night Ends With Irish Number One

By Tom O'Toole
Matt Cashore-US Presswire

As they took the field on this unseasonably warm November afternoon, the plan for Notre Dame was to take care of business against Wake Forest and then hope for the best.

Little did the Irish know that they would not only take care of “Wake” that day, but wake up the next day ranked #1.

First, though, they had to defeat the Demon Deacons, hopefully with some style points attached. And for once, the Irish used the home field (not to mention the Senior Day sentiments) to their advantage, storming out of the gate for three touchdowns in the first ten-and-a-half minutes, coasting to a 31-0 halftime lead, and emptying the bench in the third quarter after settling on the final 38-0 score.

Basically, nearly everything went right. There was Tyler Eifert catching six balls and setting the all-time reception record (130) for Notre Dame tight ends, and good ol’ John Goodman making yet another circus catch for a touchdown.

There was Cierre Wood (11 carries, 150 yards) breaking yet another long touchdown run, and making the case for more playing time. But there was also Theo Riddick, with several more spectacular catches out of the backfield, making a case why the running back slot should still be his.

There was Manti Te’o, more a maestro than a monster in this game, conducting the defense and joining in on the hit when necessary. And being Te’o, he somehow left his spirit on the field after an early fourth-quarter exit, ensuring that the subs would not allow a garbage-time TD and thus preserve the shutout.

But mostly, their was Everett Golson, finally mastering the quarterback position, using both his accuracy and escapability to throw for three hundred yards and three TDs in the first half alone. And yet, almost on cue, it was Golson who was also responsible for the day’s one downer, an end zone INT into double coverage that bordered on cocky.

It was almost as if the pedal to the metal red-shirt freshman was a kid again, and, after having mastered a new magic trick, decided to push it, by trying to pull off the same trick blindfolded.

But the players and the students on the Notre Dame campus were far from blind as to the potential impact of the dual BCS games going on Saturday night. After the suddenly defensive-minded Baylor Bears began to blow away the remarkably flat Kansas State Wildcats, remotes switched over to a game where a team known for defense, the Stanford Cardinal, pulled a “Notre Dame” by holding Oregon, the best offensive team in the country, to two touchdowns while scoring just enough points to edge out the Ducks in overtime.

“OMG” tweeted “Irish Chocolate,” also known as Irish nose tackle Louis Nix, “the Campus just erupted. We’re #1.” But back home, in the aftermath of the Stanford-Oregon game, I was thinking about how this classic back and forth game was decided by inches; by a Stanford OT field goal that stayed just inside the uprights, and an Oregon OT kick attempt that hit the uprights and bounced out.

How just a few weeks ago, I was sitting in the Notre Dame end zone stands watching a Pittsburgh OT field goal that came so close to ending the Irish championship hopes that half the stadium and the Panther sideline thought it was good—but I and the other half knew it was not. And, with that second chance, Notre Dame came back to win that game—and now sat at #1.

The luck of the Irish? Perhaps.

And yet, for the second season in a row with a second chance to play for the championship, the one-loss Alabama Crimson Tide must consider themselves the luckiest team of them all.

 (Subscribe to RSS)

Hey ND fans! Follow this link to get to Tom’s latest ND features. Follow him on Twitter, visit him on LinkedIn, and email him here. And for you diehard fans, check out Suffering Irish too.

You May Also Like