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Dec 31, 2010

Sun Bowl Prediction


The Notre Dame vs. Miami Sun Bowl matchup might very well resemble Notre Dame’s last regular season game against the Trojans of Southern Cal. Notre Dame will try to pressure the errant Jacory Harris into his habit of poor decision making, and will need to focus on stopping the dominant, diverse running game that the Hurricanes will try to tire the Irish defense with.

Offensively, Irish fans should expect to see a tough, physical defense, with a Miami front 4 that may be even stronger than that of the Trojans. Miami also boasts the nation’s #2 passing defense, holding opposing quarterbacks to just under 50% completion rates. Tommy Rees has shown good composure and remains confident even after tough series, so one should not be worried about the imposing defense getting into the young starter’s head. The USC game was a solid warm-up for Rees who has had a month to work on his mistakes and improve his game and vision. The recent dominance of rugged Robert Hughes will allow Notre Dame to set up the pass with his hardnosed downfield runs, taking some of the pressure off of Rees.

In the end, Notre Dame will pull out a strong 34-27 win and have some solid momentum going into Coach Kelly’s second season as the commander of the Fighting Irish.

Dec 29, 2010

The Irish Enter Their 16th Big East Season with an Attractive Facelift

Like most Hollywood plastic surgeries, Notre Dame's new form of team-play is a recognizable difference from their appearance on the court in seasons past. Off to one of their most impressive starts in their 106 years of basketball, the #15 ranked Fighting Irish (11-1) will find out over the next week if they can continue their hot streak and hang with the best, as they face 3 top ten teams in 7 days, beginning with #9 Georgetown tonight.

Despite not receiving much love in the pre-season, the Irish have exploded to a #15 ranking, as their unselfish play has allowed all of the team members to shine and for different guys to step up when one of the others is down. This collaborative synergy began last year when star player Luke Harangody was injured, the Irish were sitting at 6-8 in the Big East, and all hopes of the post season were gone. Led by Abromaitis and Hansbrough, the team rallied to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament, and they have been an outstanding 17-3 since. Abromaitis’ post-season struggle and the loss of Harangody and four-year point guard Tory Jackson left bleak thoughts for many about the upcoming season, however, each player has utilized their special skills to redefine themselves or add a new characteristic to their existing game.


Tim as a Rebounder

Photo courtesy of Maggie Kate O'Brien '13

Bouncing back from post-season struggles, Abromaitis has not only been the team’s leading scorer with 16.1 ppg, but has also added a new, greatly appreciated element to his game. Tim has a team-best 90 rebounds, with an average of 7.5 per game. This includes 4 straight games of grabbing at least 8 boards, tying his season high with 11 last game against UMBC. Abromaitis brought down 8 or more rebounds only 4 times last season, but he has eclipsed that mark 7 times already this year. After ending last season shooting only 3-31 from behind the arc, and 4-24 to start play this year, Tim has since hit 20 of his last 45 3 point attempts, bringing his season average to 34.8% from behind the 3 point line. Tim is also shooting 84.1% from the free throw line so far this season.

Carleton as a Top Scorer

Photo courtesy of Maggie Kate O'Brien '13


In addition to his size and inside defensive prevalence, Carleton Scott has found a consistency and strength in his offensive scoring game. Averaging 12.8 points per game, Scott holds the longest double-digit scoring streak for the Irish this season, having put up double figures in each of the past 10 games. Scott has put up 20 or more points twice on the season, and has a team-high 3 double-doubles on the year. Scott has put his wingspan to use as well, with a team-high 23 blocks heading in to the Big East season.


Ben as Starting Point Guard

Photo courtesy of Maggie Kate O'Brien '13

Having been a master from behind the arc last season, Ben has adjusted his game to move from shooting guard to the team’s starting point guard this season. This adjustment has helped him dish out a team-high 48 assists (4 per game) while also being the team’s second leading scorer with 15.3 ppg. Ben has put up double figures a team-best 11 times so far this season, and continues to be a strong defender with 11 steals on the year. Continuing his performance from 3-point land, Hansbrough is shooting 48.5% from behind the arc and has made at least one 3 pointer in his last 16 games.


Nash finds Consistency

Photo courtesy of Maggie Kate O'Brien '13

Nash finds himself in the middle of the pack when it comes to statistics, but his improvement is clearly noticeable and his presence undoubtedly felt on the Irish squad. After shooting 60% from the free-throw line last season, Nash has become more comfortable at the line this season netting 73.2% of his attempts. Nash has increased his points-per-game average from 7.8 ppg last season to the team’s fourth best average of 10.2 scores per game. Nash is also third on the team in assists (35) and rebounds (72). Most impressively, Nash has a team high 27 offensive rebounds, a statistic with which the outside-shooting Irish struggle each season.


Cooley as a Cleanup Man

Photo courtesy of Maggie Kate O'Brien '13

When Cooley comes in off of the bench, Irish fans know that the team’s leading sixth man is about to contribute. Jack is netting an impressive 66.7% of his shots from the floor, including two double-digit scoring games on the year. When one of the starters need a breath, Cooley keeps the offensive rhythm intact while also making his defensive presence known, as he is third on the team with 7 blocks.


Martin Finds the Floor

Photo courtesy of Maggie Kate O'Brien '13

After sitting out his transfer season and being out with an ACL injury for the entirety of last year, Scott Martin has finally been able to contribute to Notre Dame Basketball. Martin is heading into the Big East season on a high note, coming off of a career high 3 three-point makes on 5 attempts against UMBC. His last performance matched his season high with 15 points in the game, eclipsing double digits for the fourth time this season. The Irish will look for Martin to continue his recent successes and hopefully become the fifth Irish player to average in the double-digits in points-per-game.


Atkins Came Ready to Play

Photo courtesy of Maggie Kate O'Brien '13

Freshman point guard Eric Atkins has made his presence known right away as he is averaging 7.2 ppg and is second on the team with 42 assists. When Hansbrough needs a breath or the Irish need him to concentrate on his 3-point game, Atkins picks up right where the senior starter left off. Averaging 27.4 minutes per game, Atkins has a team-best 3.0 assist to turnover ratio, and even tied Carleton Scott for top-scorer against Wisconsin. The freshman is continuing to gain confidence in both his distribution and shooting with each passing game, and it will be interesting to see who will be the starting point guard at season’s end.


Unselfishness

Notre Dame's new unselfish play can be seen in many forms, including four starters averaging double-digit points in every game, with four different Irish players leading the team in scoring in a game this season. The Irish also boast an average 18.7 assists per game, a mark that is third in the Big East and seventh in the nation. The Irish play as a team in all aspects of the game, even on the boards, where the players embrace Tim Abromaitis as the unexpected leader off the glass. Tellingly, the Irish have only been outrebounded once this season, and that resulted in a loss to Kentucky.


Keys to Success

Although sharing the wealth and “ham-and-egging” it really well this season, the Irish will need to focus on consistency from the free-throw line and on the boards if they want to have a successful Big East season. In seasons past, the Notre Dame's lack of success in rebounds led to many second, third, or even fourth attempt shots that kept other teams in games that the Irish should have run away with. So far this season, the Irish boast a +10.2 rebound margin, including a 152-117 edge on offensive boards. This statistic needs to hold true against the Big East big men if the Irish want to continue their winning ways.

The Irish have made 74 more free throws than their opponents have had attempts so far this season, shooting 73.8% from the line. This is a statistic that needs to hold strong and hopefully improve as the Irish enter Big East play, as their will be a lot of fouls called on both teams, and the leading free-throw shooting team will often come out victorious. As seen against Kentucky, the one time the Irish let themselves be outrebounded the Irish returned to South Bend with their only loss of the season. By controlling the game, especially in aspects completely in one’s control (free-throw shooting) the Irish will find themselves victorious more times than not this season.


Georgetown

Despite holding a 14-12 series lead over Notre Dame, the Hoyas have lost the last two times they have faced the Fighting Irish. Last season, the Irish won 78-64 in D.C. In a similar matchup in 2009, the last time the Hoyas traveled to South Bend, the #13 Irish defeated the #9 ranked Georgetown team 73-67 in Purcell Pavilion. Let’s hope for similar results tonight, as the Irish look to win their fifth straight Big East opener.


Note:

Keep in mind, the Irish have quite possibly the hardest beginning to a Big East season that anyone has ever faced. Winning one out of the next three games should be considered a victory in every fan's mind, and winning any more than that is an incredible sign for the rest of the season. As seen last year, the Irish can close the regular season strong, and every early win is just positive momentum and extra confidence for this strong Irish team.

GO IRISH!

Dec 28, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering: Hyundai Sun Bowl Edition



Thanks to Subway Domer for taking charge of the Irish Blogger Gathering: Sun Bowl Edition. The original questions posted by Subway Domer, links to answers written by fellow Fighting Irish bloggers, and an interactive poll that allows all fans to weigh in can be found here.


Q1: What is your biggest “FEAR” going into the bowl game?
a.) Tommy Rees will look like a freshman QB.
b.) Our running game gets shut down.
c.) Jacory Harris decides he is a good player, and proves it.
d.) Losing to a coachless team.
e.) Other.


A1: b.) Our running game gets shut down.

Unless Tommy Rees has aged dramatically over the past month, he will still look like a 12-year-old instead of a freshman QB. All joking aside, he played like a freshman at U$C and we still won when our defense bailed us out. Remember the game winning drive of that game? Kelly "put the fight back in the Fighting Irish" with some good old smash mouth football featuring Robert Hughes as he ran over Trojans left and right. As Kelly has already said, we will need a similar effort in order to beat the Hurricanes, who boast a defense that is ranked second nationally against the pass and first in tackles-for-loss.


Q2. True/False: Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph will enter the 2011 NFL draft.


A2: Other

Assuming there will be an NFL draft in 2011, there are still far too many variables to choose a definitive answer at this point. I believe Floyd when he says that he is 100% focused on beating Miami right now, and will weigh his options after the bowl. As for Rudolph, campus rumors have it that he did not enroll in spring classes. Even so, I’m holding on to hope that he will be back in Blue and Gold next year.


Q3. True/False: Duval Kamara did not make the trip for personal reasons. This is very bad.


A3: False

Whatever personal reasons are keeping Kamara out of the game are by definition personal and none of our business. The recently resurgent receiver will be missed, but TJ Jones and Johnny Goodman will be able to step up in his absence.


Q4. Which senior will have the bigger game?
a.) Brian Smith
b.) Harrison Smith
c.) Robert Hughes
d.) Ian Williams


A4: a.) Brian Smith

Not to take anything away from our other senior leaders, but I ran into BSmith at Jamba Juice (best thing to happen to ND since Brian Kelly) and I can tell he is primed to leave a lasting impression in his last game playing for the team and university he has loved his whole life. As Kelly said after the win over U$C, he is also coming off the best performance of his career. Look for #58 to make sure we all remember his name.


Q5. Vegas has us as a 3 point dog.
a.) That’s about right.
b.) They are horribly mistaken.


A5: a.) That's about right.

Nothing good ever comes out of being the slight favorite in a bigtime game. The Notre Dame Football legacy was built off of big wins against favored opponents, and it wouldn't be right to have it any other way as we renew our rivalry with Da U. Plus, Clashmore Mike, our first mascot, was a dog.


Q6. Does Notre Dame NEED this bowl win for a good start to 2011?


A6: YES

Our defense is rolling right now. Our whole team is brimming with confidence. If we can add Miami to our recent kill list of Utah, Army, and U$C then our momentum will carry over into spring practice and fall camp. With this win, the Fighting Irish might never look back.


Q7. Notre Dame will:
a.) win big
b.) win close
c.) lose big
d.) lose close
e.) other


A7: b.) win close

With 15 practices under his belt since the win over U$C, Rees will have learned enough to manage the offense throughout what should turn out to be a tough battle. Look for the Fighting Irish to take control if we can establish the ground game with a one-two punch of Hughes and Wood. Overall, our rejuvenated defense will carry the day with clutch performances out of Brian Smith and Ian Williams, who will both be suited up in Blue and Gold for the last time.


Enjoy the building hype as the Hyundai Sun Bowl approaches, and check back with Irish Creed on December 30 for our final game-notes and score predictions. If you are looking for a great read in the mean time, check out Jeff Carroll's book Perfect Rivals: Notre Dame, Miami, and the Battle for the Soul of College Football.

Dec 27, 2010

South Bend v. South Beach: Sun Bowl Preview



Notre Dame WR John Goodman recently tweeted"Yall could be kings but ya'll chose acamademics!" -quote from a Miami player. And yes, that's how he pronounced "academics." Hahahaha.

Those are bold words coming from a player on a team that has recently found it increasingly difficult to fill the seats of Sun Life Stadium, borrowed from the Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins for home games.  The 2010 Miami Hurricanes finished with a 3-3 at home, including the first loss to USF in program history which swiftly prompted the firing of head coach Randy Shannnon.  That particular Miami player might need to reconsider his statement since his teammates don’t even seem to be kings of their own castle.  Needless to say, this currently coachless Miami squad is a far cry from the thug-filled teams of the late 80s and early 90s that gave rise to the thug-image associated with “The U” as featured on ESPN’s 30 for 30 series.

Not that Notre Dame coaches, players, or fans should be satisfied with the state of our program considering our own prolific past.  With losses to both Navy and Tulsa, head coach Brian Kelly came under fire from some of the more zealous, irrational, and impatient members of the Fighting Irish fan base during his first year at the helm.  Those same fans seem to be singing a different tune after November wins over Utah, Army, and U$C now that Kelly has his lads poised to ride a swelling wave of momentum to a bowl victory.  A win over Miami in the Hyundai Sun Bowl will be essential to maintaining that momentum throughout the offseason, spring practices, and into next year.

In a press conference on December 18, Kelly commented on the state of Notre Dame Football at the conclusion of his first regular season.  Despite all of the controversy and adversity, much of the same confidence he showed when he first appeared on campus remained.  The most admirable characteristic of his tenure so far has been the unwavering vision he has provided through focus on player development, winning in November, and “getting the defense right.”  In terms of player development, he pointed to the tremendously improved play of almost-forgotten seniors Robert Hughes, Brian Smith, and Duval Kamara.  With only one year under Kelly’s system, these players elevated their games out of the ruts they had previously been stuck in and all three have contributed significantly to our November winning streak.  Just imagine the type of players they could have developed into with four years under the Kelly system.  There is no limit to the potential that can be unlocked by our current players with 2, 3, or 4 more years of eligibility, as long as they come to play every day for the right reasons.

Kelly’s most telling quote during the press conference came during his discussion of offensive tackle Taylor Dever and his passion for the game:  “Let me put it this way, we have some guys that play because there’s 81,000 in that stadium.  Most of our guys would play if not one fan showed up for the game.  Those are the guys that I want… We had too many guys here that were interested in the walk from the Basilica, wearing the Notre Dame helmet, and running out before 81,000.  That can’t be your prime reason for being at the University of Notre Dame.  Now, we’ve changed a lot of that…”

If that quote, reminiscent of the “Irish Creed” that Kelly posted on the wall of the locker room when he arrived, serves as an indicator of where Notre Dame Football is headed, the Fighting Irish Faithful should start preparing now for one hell of a return to glory.

Even though the South Bend v. South Beach matchup on the last day of 2010 does not have the flare that it did during the height of the Catholics v. Convicts rivalry which peaked in 1988 with the “Brawl Miami” game in Notre Dame Stadium (brilliantly recalled by Rocket Ismail here) it represents a first-look at the rejuvenation of our program and a prelude to a reshaped rivalry.

The announcement that Notre Dame and Miami would begin a three-game series two years from now in Chicago’s Soldier Field brought much attention and excitement when it became official this past summer.  Not only does the Sun Bowl provide a prequel, but it also presents tremendous opportunities for both programs.  For one, both teams have been awarded with 15 bonus practices between the end of the regular season and the bowl.  For the Hurricanes, it’s a chance to show off a defense that ranks second nationally in pass efficiency and first in tackles-for-loss.  For the Fighting Irish, the prospect of building upon the confident play of our newfound defense and adding an impressive win to a schedule that was recently ranked by the NCAA as the toughest in the nation (with every opponent besides Purdue and U$C appearing in a bowl) has coaches, players, and fans more than excited.  For those who will be travelling to El Paso, and the millions more across the nation watching on CBS, hopefully it will offer a great way to welcome in the new year with a victory celebration.

Dec 22, 2010

The Fall of Troy: Revisited

Wow… They weren’t joking about that whole law school finals thing.  A lot has happened in the land of the Fighting Irish since I last had a chance to put together a real post, so before we jump into hype for the South Bend v South Beach matchup on New Year’s Eve (not exactly Catholics v Convicts anymore) I feel like I need to celebrate the fact that NOTRE DAME FINALLY BEAT U$C!

The October 2009 loss, agonizing as it was,
made the November 2010 win so much sweeter... brah.


Enough has already been written about “what this win means,” or how lucky we were (I prefer to think of it not as a dropped pass, but a pass deflected by God, who was finally sick of seeing his Mom’s team lose) so I will resort to sharing my own opinion on the matter as a fan and former leprechaun:

What does this win mean?

Tommy Reese, the first Notre Dame quarterback to defeat the mighty men of Troy since Carlyl Holiday did so in 2001, described the win in the only way he could by saying "Words can not do it justice."

In words borrowed from Lou Holtz, Brian Kelly talked about taking pride in the fact that his lads "didn't flinch" against a rival that has tormented all of Notre Dame Nation over most of the past decade.  According to Kelly, "We put the fight back into the Fighting Irish today."

I’d love to say that a win over the Trojans has been a long time coming, but I personally can’t.  Even though it feels like an eternity, the misery only began for me in 2005 with the Bush Push (which, Ironically enough… never happened). 

That legendary game between #9 Notre Dame and #1 U$C was the first college football game I watched after applying to college, and my first experience as a Notre Dame fan.  I’ll always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing during that game.  Actually, I was on a double-date at a bowling alley and I was attempting (unsuccessfully) to divide my attention between the amazing spectacle on TV and my date.  I remember jumping up and down screaming when it appeared as though the Fighting Irish had won, since the students had begun to rush the field and there was no sound on the TV at the bowling alley.  I then watched in disbelief as the officials ushered fans back into their seats and added time back on to the expired clock.  Let’s just say what transpired next ruined the rest of the night not only for every Notre Dame fan watching, but for my date as well…

As a student at Notre Dame, I lived through 3 brutally embarrassing defeats before finally feeling the tide begin to change direction during my senior year.  The stars seemed like they just might align in 2009.  The entire campus breathed “BEAT SC,” and loyal students spent more time hanging up posters, writing on sidewalks, and building a Trojan Horse than they did studying for midterms.  At the Friday night rally, I burst out of the horse sporting a mohawk and Tommy Trojan’s sword (which I broke over my knee) and tens of thousands roared as Rocket Ismail delivered a gospel-like speech that none in attendance will ever forget.  I had never been more amped in my life, and the energy coming from the greened out student section during that game lifted our team to come soaring back within striking distance of our mighty foes late in the second half.  Alas, my dreams of standing atop the north-endzone goalpost as the students tore it down flew out the window when our fourth-and-goal pass fell incomplete.  At that moment, in agonizing pain, I vowed that I would one day witness the fall of Troy.

I did what any traumatized recently-retired leprechaun would do when I decided to live in Southern California with fellow Irish Creed writer FightingIrish1313 during the summer of 2010.  While living behind enemy lines, not only did I visit the soon-to-disappear Heisman trophy belonging to Reggie Bush, but I also left behind a small Irish charm somewhere on their campus, thus putting the dreaded Curse of the Leprechaun on the University of Spoiled Children. (You can read about my SoCal adventure here).

Flash forward to this November, as I arrived in Huntington Beach for Thanksgiving by the ocean where the sign at my hotel read “The word of the day is: STOKED!”  Stoked I was, possibly even hella-stoked, to spend a few days soaking up some cosmic rays in the OC before venturing into a quaint neighborhood known as South Central LA for a rivalry showdown featuring backup quarterbacks starting on both sides.  Hella-stoked for a win… brah.

I must admit that I was impressed with the tailgating scene prior to Senior Night in the Coliseum (whoa… totally sorry for spoiling your big night… brah).  Some creative Californians even hanged an effigy of a leprechaun from a tree, which was lovely.

Once inside the Coliseum, I discovered that most Fighting Irish fans had been relegated to the cheap seats that are literally nowhere near the football field.  Not to worry, because the Trojans failed to fill their own house as expected.  It didn’t take long before we created a cheering section of our own in the corner of the endzone.  More than once, our celebratory cheers and jeers could be heard on the field over the lifeless din of the SoCal crowd.  While the Irish Tricolour flag upon which I had spray-painted “KILL SO CAL” did not amuse those around us, it did spark some energy when I joined the crowd-surfing students in the fourth quarter.  Our small band of faithful fans shared tremendous highs and lows throughout the game, and as the clock hit 00:00 an overwhelming sense of relief swept over us all.  An army of security guards surrounded us to make sure any attempts to rush the field would be thwarted, but we were perfectly content standing arm in arm singing our Alma Mater with smiles on our faces.  As we exited the friendly confines of the Coliseum, we thanked our gracious hosts for the win, and echoes of the Notre Dame Victory March reverberated throughout every hallway.

In reference to the thousands of Cali brahs who showed us the real meaning of the term “fair-weather fan” when they left the game early in droves after finding the blustery 50 degree night far too frigid for their liking, I guess revenge actually is best when served cold (pun intended).  I do respect their loyal fans who stuck it out in a losing effort on Senior Night though, because I’ve been there and done that.  


I left the game excited for the future of the “Greatest Intersectional Rivalry” in college football.  It takes two to tango in a true rivalry, and we haven’t shown enough fight to even make the games interesting as of late.   As one of about 3 Notre Dame fans (and the only one decked out head to toe in bright green) at the 9-0 (the CJ’s of SoCal) after the game, I was a bit surprised at how many Trojan fans approached me with toasts “to the rivalry” (and even more surprised that I escaped with my life after half the SC football team showed up).  If Coach Kelly was right, and the Fall of Troy was a sign that we finally put the fight back into the Fighting Irish, then I’d like to join those Trojan fans by raising a glass “to the rivalry.”

All in all, my ND v SC experience has been an eventful journey, and I am hella-stoked for its continuance now that the drought is over and Kelly’s reign has begun (also hella-stoked to have the Jeweled Shillelagh back in the JACC... brah).

Dec 6, 2010

2010 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS

FIGHTING IRISH WOMEN'S SOCCER NETS THIRD NATIONAL TITLE

From the opening whistle of the College Cup Championship, it was anyone’s game. Despite the seeming edge of a #1 ranking, Stanford held little advantage over our Irish; who fought and clawed their way to even standing with the Cardinal. As stated by coach Waldrum, “Please have the courage to write that this was the best team in the country, that this wasn’t an upset.” This was the fifth consecutive College Cup appearance for Notre Dame and the third for Stanford; the pressure was on for both teams to finally secure the title. The teams’ performances didn’t disappoint.

Throughout the first 62 minutes the Irish and Cardinal each traded quality looks, only to hit the pipes, send a shot just wide, and witness a few miraculous saves. In the sixty-third minute, the Irish were finally able to capitalize. Junior Melissa Henderson initiated the play with a hard-changing attack up the left side, but got caught up in a few defenders and found herself near the left post without a shot. Trusting her teammates, Henderson dished the ball back near the penalty mark. Freshman forward Adriana Leon pulled out of her run to the far post and looped back to hit a left-footed strike over the outstretched hands of Stanford’s helpless keeper; finding the top of the net with a satisfying swoosh. 

Prior to the match, coach Waldrum prophetically told Leon she would get the game-winner and the team would win the National Championship for the first time since 2004. With the only goal of the match, Leon proved her coach correct and established the Irish as the top team in the nation once again. What did it feel like for the freshman? "I don't think words can describe the feeling," she said. "Best feeling in the world."

With three freshmen in the starting lineup (including Leon) this young, skilled Irish squad has the potential to not only appear in the championship to defend their title next season, but in the many years that follow. Notre Dame Women’s Soccer has officially become one of the strongest, most consistent, and talented programs in the NCAA. With coach Waldrum remaining at the helm, it’s likely to remain that way, with this title being only the third of many to come.         -IrishGirl10

Nov 18, 2010

Army v. Notre Dame: More than a Game

Clashmore Mike refuses to back down to Army's mule in Yankee Stadium
(Notre Dame Archives, 1947)

This Saturday when the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame meet the Black Knights of the United States Military Academy in New York City, they will be continuing a tradition that is not only central to the identity of both schools, but to the overall history of our nation.  The awe-inspiring history behind this rivalry is far too vast to fit into a single article, but a quick overview should shed some light on its relevance for the casual fan:

Army v. Notre Dame in New York:

1913 – In the first-ever meeting between the small, unknown school from South Bend and the fearsome football giant from West Point, the Catholics made a name for themselves by practically reinventing the game.  Quarterback Gus Dorais led an offense that was the first of its kind, relying on what was until that point known as a trick play (the forward pass).   His favorite target?  You may have heard of the undersized end named Knute Rockne who hauled in a 25 yard touchdown pass for the first score in a 35 – 13 win for Our Lady’s team.  As they say, the rest is history…

The 1913 upset of a thousand lifetimes initiated an annual rivalry that was played in West Point every year until 1923 when the overflow of fans forced the popular matchup to Brooklyn, where the yet to be named Four Horsemen led Notre Dame to a 13 – 0 victory on Ebbets Field.

1924 – The pivotal game in Notre Dame’s first national championship season was relocated once again as the crowds continued to grow, this time to the Polo Grounds in New York City.  The spectacle of a Notre Dame backfield, the likes of which had never been seen, as they galloped to a 13 – 7 victory in front of a record 60,000 fans inspired Grantland Rice of the New York Herald-Tribune to write the most famous piece of sports journalism in history.  It’s opening stanza:

“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky,
The Four Horsemen rode again.
In dramatic lore they are known as
Famine, pestilence, destruction and death.
These are only aliases.
Their real names are Stuhldreher,
Miller, Crowley, and Layden.”

1925 – In the aftermath of the 1924 game, the national championship, and Rice’s poetic praise, the series was finally moved to a worthy venue inside Yankee Stadium.  The black Knights carried the day 27 – 0 in the first of many games to be played there.

1928 – Locked in a scoreless tie at half-time, now head-coach Knute Rockne delivered what has since transcended sports and popular culture as the Golden standard of all locker room speeches when he told his boys to go out there and “Win one for the Gipper.”  The Fighting Irish did just that, stalling Army at the half-yard line as time ran out on a 12-6 victory.  Not only did Rockne’s speech propel Our Lady’s loyal sons onward to victory, but it also launched a budding actor named Ronald Reagan into stardom some years later.

1944 – Top ranked Army, dominant during the WWII era, embarrassed #5 Notre Dame by running up the score 59 – 0.

1945 – Army delivered the second straight slaughter of the Fighting Irish by the score of 48 – 0.  The Fighting Irish would not forget the two-year 107 – 0 domination by the Black Knights.  At the end of WWII, when Leahy and his lads returned from active duty to rejoin their team, the old ball coach reminded them that Army may have beaten up on the boys over the past two years, but the men had finally returned.

1946 – “The Game of the Century” – The matchup between #1 Army and #2 Notre Dame, both 6 – 0 at the time, still stands as quite possibly the most hyped college football game in history.  Over $5,000,000 was placed in bets on the game (a lot for what ended up as a push – especially considering it was 1946).  Mind-blowingly, the game featured four Heisman winners (Blanchard ’45 and Davis ’46 for Army; Lujack ’47 and Hart ’49 for ND) on the field at the same time.  As the fates would have it, the actual game failed to live up to expectations and ended in a 0 – 0 tie.  The score was much more meaningful than it now seems though, as it signaled the Post-War arrival of the Fighting Irish.  After going toe to toe for four quarters with the mighty Black Knights while literally the entire sports world tuned in, Leahy’s lads knew they could play with anyone.  In fact, they wouldn’t lose another game for four years, picking up three National Championships and two Heisman Trophies along the way.

1969 – After a 23 year drought, Yankee Stadium witnessed its favorite historic matchup once again, this time between # 15 Notre Dame and unranked Army.  The 0 – 0 score at half-time triggered talks of the ghosts still lingering from the Game of the Century, but the Fighting Irish opened the floodgates in the second half en route to a 45 – 0 victory.

2010 – Saturday’s return to Yankee Stadium marks the continuance of a tradition that transcends sports.  Both teams will honor a shared history that changed the college football landscape forever.  For Notre Dame fans, returning to New York presents a unique opportunity to honor the birth not only of the forward pass (thanks Rock), but also of the never-say-die spirit that formed the identity of the university we all know and love.  Finally, as you board the train on your way to the Bronx this weekend, give special thanks to the past generations of immigrant New Yorkers who gave rise to our fiercely loyal fanbase by adopting Notre Dame as working-class America’s favorite university.

Nov 17, 2010

Irish Creed Exclusive: Fighting Irish in the Ring

Four years before he led the Fighting Irish to their first national championship on the gridiron, head football coach Knute Rocke started a tradition that has since taken on a life of its own and become a central part of the Notre Dame experience.


Two Notre Dame men fight during a recent Bengal Bouts tournament


Beginning in 1920, boxing quickly became a favorite pastime for the collection of “tough gentlemen” that exemplified the ideal student at Our Lady’s university.  In 1931, boxing coach Dominic “Nappy” Napolitano brought the burgeoning popularity of the sport in line with the mission of service that Notre Dame had inherited from the Congregation of Holy Cross.  Since then, the annual amateur boxing championship known as the “Bengal Bouts” has trained countless Notre Dame men to become fighters in the name of charity in order to fund Holy Cross Missions that provide education and serve the poor in Bangladesh.  The official motto of the Bouts, a quote from Nappy himself, boldly states: “Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished.”  In today’s world of sports, where little if anything at all remains sacred, Notre Dame Boxing represents competition in its purest form.  Each year, a new band of fighters contribute their blood, sweat, (not tears), tenacity, and toughness, not in the name of glamour, but out of the deep respect they have for everything at Notre Dame worth fighting for.

Throughout their history, the Bouts have not gone without recognition.  Described as “what boxing can be like at its honest best” by SI columnist Bud Schulberg in 1955, the tournament has seen its fair share of talented fighters along with the occasional guest appearance from the likes of Mohammad Ali and Rocky Marciano.  A long line of distinguished champions has come out of Notre Dame, and many have gone on to great accomplishments at the next level. 

Recent Notre Dame alum Mike Lee, a Bengal Bouts captain in 2008 and 2009 and three-time champion, has already amassed an impressive resume as a professional fighter during the short time since graduating in 2009.  He was crowned as the Chicago Golden Gloves Champion that same year, and has since earned a 3-0 record with two KOs as a 175lb Light Heavyweight.  He is currently trained by Ronnie Shields, who once worked with the likes of Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Pernell Whitaker, Arturo Gatti, and Juan Diaz. 

On November 13, Mike defeated Keith Debow by KO as an undercard to the Super Welterweight World Championship in Cowboys Stadium on a night which featured an impressive victory by the biggest name in boxing right now, Manny Pacquiao.  I recently had a chance to ask Mike about his impressions of the fight and his days at Notre Dame:

TheNDleprechaun:  What fighting experience did you have before boxing at Notre Dame, and how did the Bengal Bouts influence you as a fighter?

ML:  I was brought to a boxing gym in Chicago when I was 16 but most of my boxing career began once I got to Notre Dame.

TheNDleprechaun:  What did it mean to play such a prominent role within a tradition that began during the days of Knute Rockne? 

ML: Being a part of the Bengal Bouts was incredible and becoming a three-time champion was an honor because the program has had so many great fighters and a strong tradition that I'm just glad to be a part of.

TheNDleprechaun: What one moment stands out as the highlight of your boxing career at Notre Dame, and in your career in general?

ML: The highlight of my Bengal Bouts career was winning the 175lb championship my junior year. I fought another Bengal Bouts captain who was the best fighter I had faced so far, so winning was a big deal for me.  Coming out in front of over 75,000 people in Cowboys Stadium was a dream come true and honestly pretty difficult to describe.  I remember feeling really loose, relaxed and strong.  I came out to "Good Life" by Kanye West and just fed off the energy of the crowd.  Fighting in front of large crowds in the JACC at ND definitely prepared me for moments like that.

TheNDleprechaun:  On the same day that your Fighting Irish upset Utah in Notre Dame Stadium, you were rocking the Blue and Gold along with a Notre Dame flag during the biggest fight of your life. What influenced you to rep your alma mater like that on Saturday?

ML:   I have always worn the blue and gold gear from head to toe for all my professional fights. Notre Dame was such a huge part of my life and the amount of ND fans and alumni who have supported my career so far has been amazing, so it's just my way of showing my appreciation. Plus the gear looks great, so that doesn't hurt.

TheNDleprechaun:  Glad to see that you’re staying Gold and Blue through and through.  Finally, what are your plans for the future?

ML:  I plan on having a huge year next year, continuing to learn and get better every fight and finish out the year 10-0 and highly ranked in the Light-Heavyweight Division. The boxing world/writers have been very complimentary of my style and performance so far so I plan on keeping that up.

Many thanks to Mike for taking the time to catch up with Notre Dame nation.  Congrats on your latest KO and best of luck as you continue to represent the Fighting Irish in the ring.  Follow Mike’s career at www.mikeleeboxing.com

Nov 15, 2010

Bringing Down the Horse

#7 Notre Dame defeats #22 USC
in second round of NCAA Championship

Mounting the Trojan Horse
This Saturday, while most of the Fighting Irish faithful were packing marshmallows, shot-gunning beers, and praying to the powers that be for a Senior Day victory; the ladies of Notre Dame futbol were taking it to our traditional football rivals inside the walls of Alumni Stadium. After playing “our most complete 90-minute performance of the season,” (according to coach Waldrum), the Irish left the field with a sound 4-0 victory emblazoned on the scoreboard.

ND began their domination early; with a goal by senior Rose Augustin recorded at 7:12. Just 74 seconds later, senior Lauren Fowlkes struck a low shot from the top of the six, finding the inside of the right post. In the fifty-eighth minute, Fowlkes tallied an assist with a cross to junior Melissa Henderson, who connected with the net on a low shot to the left. Henderson contributed her own assist off another cross from Fowlkes, with a quick flick to freshman Adriana Leon who connected from inside the six. On the defensive end, senior keeper Nikki Weiss managed to shut down the Trojan offense with three saves over 83 minutes, until sophomore Maddie Fox relieved her – the Irish defense remained strong, however, and keeping USC scoreless until the final whistle without Fox registering a save.

This win finds the Irish in the Sweet 16 Round of the NCAA Championships for the seventh season in a row and the fifteenth time overall in the program. The fourth-seeded Notre Dame squad is slotted to face the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill at 5:00 on the twentieth. The Tar Heels have claimed the NCAA title for the last two consecutive years and hold an all time 12-4-2 record over the Irish. Despite this seeming disadvantage, ND is 3-1 against UNC in Chapel Hill and managed a 1-0 win on their last trip in 2008. After elimination at the feet of the Tar Heels in the Quarterfinals last year, however, the Irish are ready to wreak their revenge. This motivation, combined with their experience and exponential talent, gives Notre Dame a competitive edge over North Carolina – an edge that will hopefully land the Irish in the Quarterfinals, and pave the way to another NCAA Title.

Senior Day Celebration


Notre Dame: 28  Utah: 3
Ask any current Notre Dame senior, and odds are they will tell you how differently they feel about the looming prospect of graduation after Saturday's 28-3 victory over #14 Utah.  When it comes to Notre Dame Football, fair-weather fans have found it hard to sing her glory and sound her fame as of late.  None have been tested more deeply than the loyal sons and daughters of the Class of 2011, who have remarkably remained strong of heart and true to her name despite becoming the losingest class in school history.  Saturday's matchup with Utah was literally their last chance to be part of a meaningful win at home, and our team could not have picked a better time to play inspired football.

On a day when, as Coach Kelly put it, the Fighting Irish "just flat out played," the senior class enjoyed Notre Dame Stadium at its finest.  The team was flying around the field, the crowd was buzzing, and the combination of a marshmallow fight followed by a party on the field capped off a perfect day for the Fighting Irish Faithful.

Marshmallows fly in the senior section at halftime
Coach Kelly was proud of the way his seniors led the team, describing the game as "the culmination of what we've been working on since December," but also just a small step in our overall progress.  Brian Smith spoke for the seniors after the game when he said his goal was to "keep on digging" to ensure that our future teams will have a strong foundation to start from.  Congratulations to the senior football players and every member of the Class of 2011 who can now graduate knowing they were part of what will be a glorious return to the top.

Students pour onto the field after the win
Waking up the echoes inside the tunnel
Banner #12 coming soon...

Nov 10, 2010

Senior Day Reflections

As Senior Day approaches for the Fighting Irish, all of us at Irish Creed are finding it hard to focus on game predictions, football analysis, or other usual matters that now seem so trivial when considering the big picture.  The recent tragedy on our campus has left many of us stunned, forcing us to take a step back and refocus.  As tough it is to put our feelings into words in wake of the shockingly traumatic events that cut our brother’s life short, it is almost equally difficult to describe the uplifting and inspiring ways in which so many of our family members have responded.

The Basillica overflows with thousands of Loyal Sons and Daughters


At a place where such a tremendous outpouring of compassion and solidarity is almost expected, the spirit shared by so many of our students truly hit home at such places as the Grotto, the Basillica of the Sacred Heart, and across campus on the night of the memorial Mass held in Declan’s honor.  Amy Holsinger, a junior at Notre Dame, described that night much more eloquently than we ever could in a post on her blog titled “Declan.”

All of the prayers, emotions, love, and support produced in response to such an awful tragedy stand as proof that the spirit of Our Lady’s University is alive and well, and it lives on through her students.  So many of us have witnessed that spirit in countless ways, from a silent trip to the Grotto, to a song-filled mass shared with dorm-mates, to a slow morning walk around the mist-covered lakes, to the most visible forms across our crowded campus and inside sacred Notre Dame Stadium on a game day.  Here’s to hoping we can all continue to share that spirit with each other and all those who are blessed with the opportunity to be comes witnesses themselves.  As you walk on our campus this weekend, and as you step inside the hallowed halls of Notre Dame Stadium on Senior Day, pause for a moment and recognize the spirit as it fills the air around you.  For all of our seniors, live in the moments shared with friends during your last game day as a student.  It will stay with you for the rest of your lives.

For Declan, for the Class of 2011, and for our entire Notre Dame family, we pray in the name of Our Lady that we may continue to live in God’s grace through the powerful spirit we all share. 

Notre Dame Our Mother,
Tender, strong, and true,
Proudly in the heavens,
Gleams thy Gold and Blue,
Glory's mantle cloaks Thee,
Golden is Thy fame,
And our hearts forever,
Praise Thee Notre Dame,
And our hearts forever,
Love Thee Notre Dame.

Oct 28, 2010

GOD BLESS

Our thoughts, our prayers, and our hearts go out to a loyal son of Notre Dame, Declan Sullivan, who lost his life yesterday.  May he rest in peace, and may God bless his family as well as all those impacted by this tragedy.



An Irish Blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, 
May God hold you in the palm oh His hand.

Oct 27, 2010

Kelly’s Unwavering Vision

The only way last Saturday’s 35-17 loss to Navy could have ended worse would have been if Kelly, his team, and his staff adopted the doom-and-gloom outlook that much of Notre Dame Nation has exhibited in the days since.  Fortunately for our school, our football program, and all of us fans, Kelly’s refusal to be phased by the loss has his team looking in the right direction (hint: not backwards). 


Despite recent growing pains,
Kelly leads with an unwavering vision that will have
Notre Dame back on top in the years to come.


In his press conference immediately following our loss to Navy, Kelly acknowledged that he and his staff didn’t have an answer to their opponent’s strategy.  When that happens, as he so simply put it, “you get what you deserve.”  While Kelly did voice expectations of improved execution during the weeks to come, at no point did he throw his players under the proverbial bus or claim (as so many “critics” have without warrant) that his guys played without heart.  Interestingly enough, he made it clear that he approved of the way his team played with toughness throughout the game.

After four days of reflection, I finally agree with Kelly on these points.  The easy conclusion to jump to in reaction to such a loss is one claiming that our players just didn’t care, had no heart, or gave up.  After taking a step back, though, I can’t come up with any real evidence of that happening.  What I did see, however, was a team that appeared to be flat due to confusion and an inability to overcome gaping holes created by injuries.  Without the proper scheme, our defense was unable to step up and make stops when it needed to (or at all, for that matter).  Without Floyd, Rudy, Theo, or a 100% healthy Allen, our offense was unable to find its rhythm.  We simply aren’t talented enough (YET!) to be able to overcome such deficiencies. 

Enough about last week.  Our coaches and players know how hard they fought and they know what they must do during the remainder of the season, so last week no longer matters.  As Coach Kelly said in that same press conference, he likes his guys and trusts his coaches, the necessary changes are taking place, and no matter how viciously the team comes under fire from outside criticism, they “have each other’s backs.”

Rather than hang his head, Kelly is remaining steadfast in his confidence that Notre Dame is well on its way to returning to “where it should be.”  His current perspective stands as proof that he is exactly the type of leader we need to help us climb out of the basement back up to the top floor.  Right now, at this very moment, he is injecting strong leadership and a focused vision into a program that has seemed lost at sea lately (especially after 3 losses to navy… get it?!)

During his first press conference focusing on this Saturday’s matchup between the Fighting Irish and the Golden Hurricane, Kelly stayed true to the message he has been preaching all year.  He stressed player development, the need to remain “focused on the right things” no matter what, and continuing progress “as we move forward.”  Of his inherited senior class, he is proud of the way they are “building a foundation” for the resurgence of our program. 

In sharing all of this information, I hope to send a message to all the doubters and doomsday “analysts.”  I would advise that you hold your tongues for now, in hopes that no one is keeping your faithless statements on record to remind you of your disloyalty when we are finally back on top.  It will take a lot for us to get back “where we should be,” no doubt.  Not only must the team show sacrifice, resolve, and mental toughness, however, but every student, alumni, and fan must as well. 

We need to change our attitude, our mindset, and our overall culture as a community.  Disenchantment and submission to mediocrity must not be tolerated, this is true.  The road won’t be easy, though, and resolve will be a key factor in our return to glory.  In the words of the great prophet Steve Miller, sometimes “you know you got to go through Hell before you get to Heaven.”  I honestly believe that Coach Kelly’s vision for Notre Dame can help us find our way.  Here’s to hoping all you of little faith can find it within yourselves to believe as I do (and as Lou does).


2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule

2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule
Overall
12-1
Home
6-0
Away
4-0
Neutral
2-1
DateOpponent / EventLocationTime / Result
09/01/12vs. Navy Dublin, IrelandW, 50-10
09/08/12vs. PurdontNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-17
09/15/12at SpartyEast Lansing, Mich.W, 20-3
09/22/12vs. SkunkbearsNotre Dame, Ind.W, 13-6
Shamrock Series
10/06/12vs. Da UChicago, Ill.W, 41-3
10/13/12vs. TreesNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-13 (OT)
10/20/12vs. BYU Notre Dame, Ind.W, 17-14
10/27/12at Oklahoma Norman, Okla.W, 30-13
11/03/12vs. Pittsburgh Notre Dame, Ind.W, 29-26 (3OT)
11/10/12at Backup College Chestnut Hill, Mass.W, 21-6
11/17/12vs. Fake Worest Notre Dame, Ind.W, 38-0
11/24/12at U$C Los Angeles, Calif.W, 22-13
1/7/13vs. AlabamaBCS CHAMPIONSHIP
(Miami, Florida)
L, :(