Last season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were living well and found ways to win close games in often improbable fashion on their way to the BCS National Championship. In all, they were 5-0 in games decided by seven points or less, including a pair of overtime victories against the Stanford Cardinal and Pitt Panthers. Coming into their game last Saturday, Notre Dame had won a phenomenal 10 straight games decided by a touchdown or less. But that magic ran out against the Panthers this time around as the Irish finally dropped a close one, losing 28-21 at Pitt.
Notre Dame found themselves in tight games many times because of early mistakes that they needed to overcome late. This time was no exception as the Irish turned the ball over three times but Tommy Rees couldn’t hit the big play late to save the win this time. The Irish defense was similarly unable to come up with a big play, partially due to the absence of Stephon Tuitt who was ejected for targeting in the first half of the game. When you continually play with fire, as the Irish have had a tendency to do, eventually you’re going to get burned.
But the Irish don’t have a lot of time to lick their wounds. Following their bye week, they close out the season against the BYU Cougars and Stanford Cardinal who both bring a physical, grinding style to the game. To beat either team, you have to win close. Brian Kelly needs to rally his team and tighten things up on their week off to get this team confident heading into the home stretch and prepared to handle what should be a grueling pair of matchups.
While a BCS bowl game is out of the picture for Notre Dame at this point, there is still plenty of pride to play for in South Bend. Can the Irish bounce back and rediscover their close-game magic in time to finish the 2013 season on a high note?