These are the games that Notre Dame just doesn’t win. Close, late, on the road, overtime, it’s all a lethal combination that leads to one thing – heartbreak. The coach can change, the players can change, the style of play can change, but the results don’t. Saturday night was the type of game that fans have been begging Notre Dame to win for years. Heck, if Charlie Weis had won of these “statement games,” he’d still be roaming the sidelines, sour puss and all. But time and time again, it’s been the same formula. Notre Dame comes tantalizingly close, so close that you can feel it, and in a flash, it’s gone.
At this point, the helmets mix together in some sort of insane blitz of Irish agony. Maybe it’s Syracuse with a lame duck head coach and an awful offense getting one of the most improbable road win you will ever see in your life. Or it might be the feel good story of Uconn parading the jersey of a fallen teammate across Notre Dame Stadium. Or Navy doing something that just never happens – win in Notre Dame. Or Pittsburgh fighting back from a two touchdown deficit on the road. Or Michigan ….twice. Or maybe it’s the mother of them all – The Bush Push, a game that still gives me night sweats. After a while, it’s all the same game, just repeated.
Saturday, a new term entered the Notre Dame lexicon of agony – the fake field goal. A 46 – yard miss would have turned into one of the best Notre Dame wins in years and the first of Brian Kelly’s (hopefully) long Irish tenure. Instead, it’s just another entry on the cruelest of lists. Normally, it would be frustrating to get victory slapped away like that. But now, it’s more of a numb feeling. How could it not be?
As the clock ticked down in the middle of the fourth quarter, I thought “Notre Dame just doesn’t win these types of games.” Maybe that’s why my first reaction after the game was over was a hearty chuckle. The chuckle, of course, was one of exasperation. One that said, “I can’t believe it happened again.” But then again, I wasn’t surprised.
Sometimes it seams like the Irish are the Washington Generals. No matter what they do, they can’t get out of their own way. Strangely, it didn’t seam like they played all that poorly, which was the opposite of some of those other heartbreakers listed above. Those games, it was clear that the Irish would be lucky to get into the parking lot with a win. You understood the loss. This wasn’t like that.
While the defense didn’t play great, they made stops when they needed to at the end of regulation. They forced Michigan State backward on the overtime drive, not forward, or even stationary. Everything on that final defensive series went as planned, except of course, the final play. You can blame the defense for leaving a receiver that wide open on the last play, but when a field goal ties it, is anyone besides Mark Dantonio thinking fake field goal? If it doesn’t work, that’s one of the dumbest calls of the season. But it did, so it’s one of the best. That’s just how this game is.
The defense even let Brian Kelly off the hook late in the game. If not for a quick three and out, this column could very well be bashing Kelly for going for 4th and 1 in Notre Dame territory in a tie game. That’s a dumb call. But, like defenses are supposed to, they made it a moot point.
Dayne Crist stayed healthy and, yet again, showed the tremendous promise he has. But Crist needs to play better overall. In each of the last three weeks, Crist has disappeared for a period of time within the game. It isn’t too long, a quarter or less, but it may be the difference in the game. Notre Dame wasn’t good offensively in the second quarter. Crist looked suddenly confused, maybe overwhelmed. He came back and played great in the second half. That consistency will come with time. Notre Dame hopes its sooner rather then later.
Overall, its remarkable how quickly Crist has picked up this offense. For a young quarterback (in terms of games played), he makes great reads. Jimmy Clausen went to Michigan State two years ago and couldn’t stop throwing interceptions. Crist threw one on Saturday. He also had four touchdown passes.
Finally, Crist has figured out that Michael Floyd is pretty good. You can throw him anything and he’ll catch it. No word on why this took so long. The two have never looked more in sync then they did on Saturday. Not to mention, Theo Riddick. Riddick caught ten passes and might be the “Floyd’s triple covered safety valve” that hasn’t yet been pegged yet.
A big nitpick with the offense, one that is probably in vain, is the running game. Airing it out may be Kelly’s bread and butter, but when Crist heads into his weekly in – game lull, he should put it on the ground more. Armando Allen averaged over five yards a carry, but only got 13 of them. Cierre Wood looked great against Purdue and hasn’t gotten a sniff since. He and Jonas Grey got a combined six carries tonight. By no means should this become a ground and pound team, but Armando Allen should be getting at least 17 carries a game.
Way too much good was seen in this one to go home losers. In the end, teams that allow over 5 yards a carry on the ground don’t win games. That fact is almost universal. They stand 1-2, but only seconds away from 3 – 0. When you lose this many of these type games, it can’t just be bad luck. But, at the same time, it gets to a point where it has to change at some point doesn’t it?
Yet, it never does.
About the Author
Written by Jordan Lauterbach
Jordan Lauterbach began his career in sports media when he was just 15 years old at WKWZ - Syosset. He hosted a sports talk show for nearly four years before moving on to WCWP - Brookville in 2006. Lauterbach currently hosts a sports talk show every Wednesday night from 9pm - midnight (eastern) and a College Football talk show on Saturday mornings from 11am - 12:30 (eastern) (can be heard online at wcwpsports.com and on Long Island on 88.1fm). Follow me on twiiter: jlauterbach1