Notre Dame Football: A Special Team and a Potentially Special Season

Photo: Ryan Meyer/TNNDN

A couple nights ago I was grateful for yet another opportunity to muse over Notre Dame football on the Under The Dome Podcast. Toward the end, it became a bit nostalgic, regardless of the fact that the season is far from over. An important game in Palo Alto and a Bowl game are yet to be played, but closure seems near–closure to a special football season that saw one of the most brilliant turn around’s in college football in quite some time.

A Personality Adjustment

A long time ago I wrote a piece entitled, “It’s about the people.” It is, and not just the fans. It’s about the guys that put on the blue and gold and play for something bigger than themselves. When they get that feeling, when they “get it,” they become a cohesive team that shines in a way that makes Notre Dame fans proud. They come to play, but it’s not a job. It’s an opportunity for a legacy to be built upon. It’s a responsibility–a responsibility that they have to themselves, God, country, and Notre Dame. This, and this alone, is why I so deeply “Love Thee”.

What we saw this year is a team that was guided by a coach that refused to let his ego go before the principles and expectations of Our Lady’s football team. He grew up a little more, and anyone that says that you’re too old to stop growing up has lost a zest for life. It’s a zest that winners cannot afford to lose. Brian Kelly saw an opportunity to learn more about what he was working with from a personnel standpoint. Diving into their routine in the weight room, training table, and more proved invaluable for a coach that has been immersed in X’s and O’s for the most partin his tenure. The fact that he let go of some friends from his coaching staff, and went after perhaps not the “best” guys, but the “right” guys to coordinate the offense and defense proved he had the “whatever it takes” attitude adjustment.

The Results

So what really happened thus far this year? I think it’s become obvious that this team knows how to win football games, with the exception of a focus and intensity hiccup in South Florida. This is a very talented team. But we’ve seen those before. In the end, though, we had a bunch of the right kind of guys that just so happened to be in the right space and time with each other to grow internally and thrive externally. There’s much work to be done though.The Stanford Cardinal pose yet another test for the Irish.

That test is to face a team that we’re a bit dinged up against. First and foremost, Equanimeous St. Brown will probably not play. Next man in? Sure, we have that kind of depth. However, it does change the way we do things with a quarterback that hasn’t gotten the handle on things yet, consistently.

We also have an issue with Josh Adams. We will, in fact, keep on trucking with him, but he’s not 100%, and any argument to the contrary is foolish. However, even in the worn in condition he’s in, he’s still the leader of this backfield, and the guy that has lead this team the last 11 games. Regardless of statistics.

As we march through article after article and show after show this week, let’s keep in mind one thing: This team far exceeded most of our expectations, and has the opportunity to continue to do so. Stanford is in the way a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl. Most of the season we have bulled through the teams that were in our way, and I expect that to happen this Saturday under the lights in Palo Alto. These young men have something to play for, and it’s not about themselves.

I would have said “it’s not about the names on the back of their jersey,” but as we all know, that doesn’t happen at Notre Dame, with very few exceptions. That’s the way it is at this special place. Fr. Sorin once said, “This University cannot fail to succeed.” I believe this team is that special kind of team that I’ll miss when graduation and the NFL come calling, that believes in Fr. Sorin’s words, on and off the field.

Love Thee, Notre Dame.

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