No, they did not raise the crystal football last night. No, they did not keep their opponent out of the end zone like one writer predicted. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish did not have a memorable night and Alabama defeated the Irish to win their second straight BCS Title.
The defeat alone will be tough to swallow for the coaches, fans and especially the players but one game does not define a season. Notre Dame was unranked to start the regular season and zero prognosticators had the Irish winning double digit games let alone playing for the BCS National Title.
Overachieving might be a stretch for a program that expects greatness but has struggled for a long time but in all actuality this team did overachieve this season. The Irish had toughest schedule on paper to start the season and although by the end of the season with struggling by a handful of the opponents, the schedule seemed to be watered down and not as tough as anticipated. Notre Dame worked their way into the top 25 by defeating four ranked teams this year.
The Irish started their season 3600 miles away from home in Dublin, Ireland against Navy. The Irish were without two key offensive starters from last year’s team, running back Cierre Wood and quarterback Tommy Rees. Notre dame controlled the distractions and cruised to the easy 50-10 victory. The Irish were also successful in their other neutral site game this season against a past rival. Notre Dame played Miami in the regular season for the first time since the nineties. The Irish ground game was the story and two rushers went over 100 yards as Notre Dame ran away with the victory.
The Irish won one of a series of close games that they played this season. In years past, Notre Dame has come out at the losing end of those types of games, yet this season the Irish made their own breaks winning close games against Purdue, BYU and Michigan.
The Irish were very successful on the road this year defeating #10 Michigan State, #8 Oklahoma and rival USC. Against Michigan State, the story was Manti Te’o. Te’o dealt with personal tragedy dealing with the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend in the same day. Te’o stayed with his team and led the Irish to the emotional victory and may go down in history as the most loved Notre Dame Player ever.
Notre Dame played two overtime games against Stanford and Pittsburgh. On a rainy afternoon against Stanford, the Irish rallied forcing overtime with Rees back at quarterback. On 3rd and long Rees connected with Theo Riddick to continue the drive and connected with T. J. Jones for the touchdown that gave the Irish the lead in overtime against the Cardinals.
Stanford responded with a drive approaching the Irish goal line. The Cardinals had 1st and goal from the Notre Dame four-yard line. The Notre Dame defense was up to the challenge and shut down Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor on four straight plays from inside in four yard line en route to the overtime victory.
The Pittsburgh Panthers gave Notre Dame everything they could handle for three quarters but in the fourth quarter it was time for the Irish to show their true spirit. The Irish responded on both sides of the ball and in the second overtime Pittsburgh missed the game winning field goal. That was all the opportunity Notre Dame needed and quarterback Everett Golson scored the game winner to keep the Irish undefeated.
The Irish had a great season with a lot of unforgettable moments and well deserved accolades. Notre Dame had spirited come from behind victories, blown out wins against opponents they struggled against in the past and a sweep against the trio of Big Ten opponents for the first time since 2002. Notre Dame was woke up the echoes and returned to glory this season and the future only looks brighter for the Fighting Irish.