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Sep 30, 2013

A note to "true ND fans" from Irish Turning Point

If you call yourself a "true ND fan" I suggest following the link below to an intriguing, hard-hitting note posted by my friends over at Irish Turning Point.  

I don't usually post empty feau-articles with not much more than a link (ever heard of College Spun?), but I love the work they're doing at The Turning Point, and their message in this instance is spot on.

Sep 28, 2013

Game Day Rear View: "OUch"

Final Score
OU: 35
ND: 21

In my pre-game analysis, I highlighted the key matchup between Fightin' Irish DT Louis Nix and Sooners C Gabe Ikard.  I also hoped and prayed that BK would let Cam "Mr. Texas" McDaniel spin against the inferior Oklahomans.  Finally, I said our LBs would have to play a hell of a game against Bell.  Unfortunately... I was (mostly) right.

Nix held his own against Ikard, but the Sooner senior had a much better second go-round against Irish Chocolate.  Stoops also expertly schemed his way around Nix by finding creative blocking combos that worked well against ND's big fella.

Cam never got a chance to let loose, partly because Tommy Gun became Tommy Turnover twice in the first two minutes of the game, and partly because GAIII was simply feelin' it.  Still, did ND really have to go five-wide on every down with the entire fourth quarter left to erase a 14 point deficit?  OU's defense is fast but undersized.  ND failed to take advantage of prime opportunities to wear them down by pounding the ball straight ahead with Cam the Man.  BK may have pushed the panic button just a bit too fast by resorting to a pass-only catch-up-quick-or-bust offense... something I fear is just his style.

Bell played well.  Still, he was no Devon Gardner.  He did exploit the lack of speed in the middle of ND's defense, though.  I compared Carlo to molasses in my pre-game prediction, then I started to feel bad, but now I feel justified.  Losing Manti left a gaping hole that hasn't been filled.  The end result?  Quick slants go for 50+ yard touchdowns.  

Final Outlook: 2013 Notre Dame Football is not 2012 Notre Dame Football.  That point is settled.  Still, this is a good young team and they will be fun to watch down the stretch.  My advice to fans: Shelve your BCS dreams 'til Golson's glorious return next year, and simply enjoy watching the up-and-coming stars on this squad fight for respect.  We're still ND, so find your friends in the Stadium Lots and keep raising your pint glasses to the Fightin' Irish each Saturday.  I'll see you all in Texas next weekend!  G'Irish!

Sep 26, 2013

Score Prediction: The Sooners v. The Better

Last season, haters all around the country still considered #5 Notre Dame a pretender until the Fighting Irish upended the #8 Sooners in Norman, OK.  This season, those same haters point to Alabama's domination in the national championship as proof that they were right all along. 

Nobody beats the Boz,
except everybody beats the Boz.

Saturday's matchup between #12/14 OU and #22 ND can serve the same function as it did last year, though it will take place against a very different backdrop.  Everyone is waiting for the underperforming Irish to give up the fight and fold, but this game will let Brian Kelly's squad show their true colors in front of their emerald-clad home crowd.  Domers like to ask each other, "What would you fight for?"  This week, they fight for respect.  The outcome of this pivotal game, and the trajectory of the season, will depend on a few key matchups analyzed below:

But first, a look at my favorite answers from last year's newsok.com poll asking OU fans why they hate Notre Dame:

Jeff O'Dell from Ada, OK: “I'm a third generation hater. I learned this from my Grandpa, who hated Texas (naturally) Notre Dame and USC. Notre Dame because of OU's poor record against them and the fact that they ended the 47-game win streak. For me it's also the elite private school aspect of Notre Dame that helps me be a hater.”

Rex Renfrow from Atlanta, GA: “It is Touchdown Jesus. It is the homer announcers on CBS (NBC). It is the over rated hype they receive. Whatever, I hate Notre Dame.”

Notre Dame Fightin' Irish v. Oklahoma Sooners
Saturday, Sep. 28, 3:30 p.m. ET, Notre Dame, IN

Key Matchup:  Fightin' Irish DT Louis Nix III v. Sooners C Gabe Ikard: In this rematch of last season's battle between the best nose guard and the best center in college football, Nix needs a repeat performance of what may have been the best game of his career.  If he pushes the middle of the Sooner line back on a consistent basis, the game will fall squarely on Bell's shoulders.  He may be bigger than your average QB, but he comes nowhere close to Devon Gardner's speed.  It all comes back to Big Lou, and if Irish Chocolate gets the job done the rest of his speedy front seven (with the exception of Carlo "Molasses" Calabrese) should be able to chase "Bell Dozer" down before he can make game-breaking plays.  

Fightin' Irish Offense v. Sooner Defense: LET CAM RUN!  OU gave up 7 yards a carry against West Virginia.  The Fighting Irish O-Line is much bigger and better than their Mountaineer counterparts.  Plus, Cam McDaniel was "Mr. Texas" in high school.  You're telling me you don't want to give Mr. Texas the ball at least 20 times against Oklahoma?  There's not much Texans love more than running over Sooners.

Fightin' Irish Defense v. Sooner Offense:  Diaco's defense simply needs to play faster and tougher against Bell.  The Sooners QB has completed 70% of his passes thus far this season (albeit for only 451 yards).  If he connects on most of his short passes on Saturday, Notre Dame's loyal sons and daughters will be in for a long night (although they will look good regardless while wearing green).  The LBs will be key to this game, as they must prevent the short passes that Bell will look for as he also tests their ability to contain and tackle when he rolls out.  I'm feeling a big game for freshman phenom Jaylon Smith as he trumps Bell's experience with pure athleticism.

Final Outcome:  Cam The Man shows Oklahoma why they shouldn't mess with Texas, and a much more accurate Tommy consistently finds whichever receiver Gabe Lynn isn't covering on that particular play.  The Fighting Irish offense finally clicks, and the defense does just enough to keep Bell from pulling a Gardner.

Score Prediction:
Fightin' Irish: 34
Sooners: 24

Throwback Thursday #5: Day in the Life of a Leprechaun

Irish Creed throws it back to the days of yore every Thursday 
by giving you a sample from my behind-the-scenes book 

Throwback #5 comes from Chapter 5: Week 5, in which I recall some of the superstitious "pregame" routine I had developed by our third home game:

UPDATE:  I'm signing copies of "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" at Martin's Supermarket (2081 South Bend Ave.) 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Friday, Sep. 27 and 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sep. 28.

By my third home game as the Gold Leprechaun, I picked up a pretty regular routine, fraught with superstition of course.  If the Fighting Irish won, I had to do everything in the exact same sequence leading up to the next game.  When my classes finished for the week on Thursday afternoon, I prepared for my weekly morale-boosting visit to Club Fever.  "College Night" meant skipping long lines and dancing on stage with the cheerleaders.  After shutting down "The Feve" around 3 a.m. I crashed back in Alumni Hall until noon on Friday when I walked to South Dining Hall for something deliciously greasy to soak up my hangover.  Once I got back to my room, I came up with my pep-rally introduction speeches while carefully crafting my chinstrap beard.  At some point, every Leprechaun developed his own specific style of facial hair.  I liked to keep mine thick enough to seem caricature-like, yet groomed well enough to look sharp.
Without fail, my Dawgs in the room next door would commence their "40s at 4" celebration right around the same time I finished getting dressed.  I loved stopping by their parties just as they got into full swing so I could surprise the weekly mix of students, parents, and alums as they enjoyed the finest malt liquor money could buy.  The looks on their faces were priceless, and they often thanked me for getting their weekend off to a lucky start...

Signed & Personalized Books Available Now:

Sep 20, 2013

Game Prediction: Stomp Sparty!

Notre Dame Fightin' Irish v. Michigan State Sparty Rockers
Saturday, Sep. 21, 3:30 p.m. ET, Notre Dame, IN

Key Matchup:  Fightin' Irish CB Bennett Jackson v. Sparty Rockers' questionable passing attack - Jackson's season, and his legacy at ND, stands at a crossroads.  I questioned Kelly's move when he named the emerging CB captain after reading about the kid's "me, me, me" attitude all over social media.  Apparently he sees himself as a stud male-model/football player combo?  That self-focus is a dangerous attitude for a captain to carry, especially if it rubs off on his teammates (Mathias Farley doesn't seem too far off in terms of his limelight-loving attitude).  Say what you will about Manti, but the dude simply made everyone around him play better.  No one has stepped into that role this year for the Fighting Irish, and until Jackson earns his "C" a huge gaping hole will remain unfilled (making it all the easier for opposing QBs to find wide open targets).  Let's hope he trades shirtless selfies for more pick-sixes, inspiring his secondary to stop playing so soft and make a damn tackle and/or play on the ball for once.

Fightin' Irish Offense v. Sparty Rocker Defense: UGH! Last week I wrote: "BRIAN KELLY WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Your running backs averaged almost SIX YARDS A CARRY against the skunk bears!  Yet you still found a way to abandon the run!  Tommy Gun does not come with unlimited ammo.  This offense is best served when he conserves his bullets by opting to let his backs run out of the pistol rather than take snaps out of the empty set shotgun.  I hope and pray he never throws over 50 passes again in a single game, and if our backs combine for less than 20 carries ever again I will lose my mind."  

Well, I almost lost my mind while watching BK's offense play uninspired against lowly Purdon't.  The only thing that kept me sane was more balance between run/pass plays (35/33).  Still... what's with all the empty sets??  Hopefully Carlisle gets a fair shot at rebounding from a rough night and BK learns to rely on his emerging workhorse Cam McDaniel.  Tommy's late-game leadership was encouraging, but every outcome can't rest on his shoulders.  Utilizing the weapons around him will be key to the rest of the season.  

Fightin' Irish Defense v. Sparty Rocker Offense:  BK's defense looks soft so far this year.  Maybe losing Manti Te'o meant more than everyone expected, because it seems to have taken the life right out of the former top squad in the country.  I'm not seeing much team-first emotional leadership (see discussion of Jackson above), which doesn't bode well as the season wears on.  Someone needs to step up.  Maybe Jackson will set aside the glam shots and focus on leading his teammates rather than worry about whether or not he's trending on twitter at that moment...  Let's hope he and his defense grow up before it's too late. 

Final Outcome:  The Sparty Rockers love to punch ND in the mouth.  When the Fightin' Irish win, it's because they don't flinch.  Rather, they buckle their chinstraps and give it right back to 'em.  Let's see if BK can bring that "FIGHT" back to his Fightin' Irish this week.  If not, 2-2 will signal the beginning of a painful downward spiral.  I have faith, though.  Big Lou Nix and Stephon Tuitt can only stay caged for so long.  They must be getting pissed off by this point, and whatever opposing offense they finally decide to unleash their fury on is in for a world of pain.  If it happens this week, MSU will go home feeling sorry for Sparty Rocking.

Score Prediction:
Fightin' Irish: 31
Sparty Rockers: 13

Sep 19, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Golden Swan-Dive Special Edition

Irish Creed throws it back to the days of yore every Thursday 
by giving you a sample from my behind-the-scenes book 

This week's throwback comes from Chapter 5, in which I recall my encounter with a certain foam phony named Sparty:

SPECIAL EDITION UPDATE:  I'm signing copies of "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" in the ND Bookstore from 3-5 p.m. on Friday, Sep. 20 and 9:30-11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sep. 21 (ND v. MSU Game Day).  

You can also catch me at Mulligan's Bar & Grill (across from the Backer on South Bend Ave.) both nights with more signed books on tap, along with a raffle for my authentic game-worn Leprechaun hat!  I'll be wearing my limited edition "Air Golden" t-shirt, pictured above.

..."Nothing will ease my pain until we ruthlessly beat Sparty into submission next Saturday."  I couldn't remember who I said that to, or what publication it appeared in, but a long talk with my supervisors about political correctness followed shortly after my heartfelt public statement.
Every Leprechaun knew that Sparty had always been our only natural enemy.  The extra significance of our mascot rivalry made showing him up on local television that much sweeter.  When WNDU-TV invited us to co-anchor their pre-game sports segment early Saturday morning they must have forgotten that Sparty couldn't speak.  I ended up running the show all by myself, while Sparty literally disappeared in front of the green screen as he attempted in vain to act out the weather like some deranged version of charades.  The best part of my newscasting debut came backstage when I discovered that four separate Michigan State students actually shared their role as Sparty.  Apparently, none of them could handle the rigors of a full game day on their own.
... I reserved some of my energy during the Step-Off Parade just in case I happened to find myself in an altercation with my nemesis at some point during the game.  He surprisingly kept his distance throughout the entire pre-game warm-up, so I decided to be a good little Leprechaun and let him go.  Public shaming on the local news was good enough for me.
... Golden must have thought our band would catch him when he celebrated the go-ahead score with a swan dive.  Instead, he ended up crushing the scrawny kid holding a french horn in the middle of the Michigan State band while Sparty stood by motionless.  I prayed that play would end up as the winning touchdown so ESPN could eature it on their Top-10 as well as their Not-Top-10.

Signed & Personalized Books Available Now:

Sep 18, 2013

Interview with Irish Turning Point

Irish Turning Point writer Emily O'Neill Elmer and former Fightin' Irish Leprechaun Daniel Colt Collins discuss the spirit of Notre Dame, the ND v. SC rivalry, this year's football team, and the brand new behind-the-scenes book "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" available now at the campus bookstore and online at www.LeprechaunBook.com.

Sep 13, 2013

Game Prediction: PURDONT!

Notre Dame Fightin' Irish v. Purdont Boiler Makers
Saturday, Sep. 14, 8:00 p.m. ET, W. Lafayette IN

Key Matchup:  Fightin' Irish DE Stephon Tuitt v. an inept offense - We're all still waiting for Tuitt to break out of his shell and become the beast that preseason hype had us believing he already was.  Despite a miraculous circus catch that gave him his first (but hopefully not last) TD of the season last week, he failed to register a single tackle (what??) against Michigan.  My biggest fear against the skunk bears came true when he consistently lost contain as he found himself unable to adjust to Gardner's speed.  After facing talented mobile quarterbacks during weeks one and two, he should be ready for a coming out party against an inept offense that ranks 103rd on the ground and 98th through the air.  I know it's a night game, but Purdont should probably pack a sack lunch anyway.

Fightin' Irish Offense v. Boiler Maker DefenseBRIAN KELLY WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Your running backs averaged almost SIX YARDS A CARRY against the skunk bears!  Yet you still found a way to abandon the run!  Tommy Gun does not come with unlimited ammo.  This offense is best served when he conserves his bullets by opting to let his backs run out of the pistol rather than take snaps out of the empty set shotgun.  I hope and pray he never throws over 50 passes again in a single game, and if our backs combine for less than 20 carries ever again I will lose my mind.  (Bonus goes to emerging stud Amir Carlisle, whose dad coaches for Purdont.  Expect him to show off in front of daddy by surpassing the century mark).

Fightin' Irish Defense v. Boiler Maker Offense:  Purdon't really doesn't have anything here.  As punishment for their awful season so far, I hope Diaco purposely leaves our secondary on an island by sending the house every...single... play.  They should be able to handle their own against a receivers who never quite cracked the varsity roster of their respective high schools.  What can we expect from a blitz on blitz on blitz defense? Sacks?  Sacks... Sacks, SACKS, SACKS, SACKS!

Final Outcome:  I hope Carlisle gets at least 30 carries.  Only God knows why Brian Kelly probably won't let that happen, but ND will cover the 21-point spread anyway.  Hendrix will play the whole second half, and Purdon't won't cross the goal line until our entire second-string defense enters the game.

Fightin' Irish: 48
Boiler Makers: 10

Sep 12, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Purdon't Edition

Irish Creed throws it back to the days of yore every Thursday 
by giving you a sample from Daniel Collins' behind-the-scenes book 

This week's throwback comes from Chapter 5, in which Collins recalls his encounters with several less-than-hospitable hosts in West Lafayette, IN:

... “Purdon’t” became the word of the day, and I repeated it frequently to pretty much every Purdue fan within earshot.  I didn’t expect it to instigate such an angry backlash, nor did I expect their fans to turn into such discourteous hosts.  To be honest, I wasn’t even convinced that Purdue football fans actually existed until I saw 59,000 of them wearing black t-shirts as part of their unsuccessful attempt to intimidate us with a stadium-wide “black out.”

... I could have heard a pin drop when I led our team out onto the field.  Ross-Ade Stadium was no Big House.  Their fans must have felt the need to compensate, because what they lacked in noise they sure made up for with downright disrespectful behavior.  Our poor sweet cheerleaders stood in total disbelief as disgruntled fans spit all over their backpacks, which they apparently placed much too close to the front row.  These were grown men sitting with their children right beside them.  The language spewing forth from their uncouth mouths was impolite at best.  I combated their coarseness in true Notre Dame fashion.  I killed them with kindness.  Smiles, waves, and kisses blown in their general direction worked wonders.  Whenever they said anything particularly nasty I ran up to give their kids high-fives.  Handing each of their sons and daughters little blue ribbons with “Go Irish! Beat Purdue!” printed in gold, I did my best to convert them before it was too late.  By the time both teams lined up for the opening kick most of their kids had already begun chanting, “Let’s go Irish!” along with our cheerleaders.
... The Purdue fans surrounding us didn’t look too happy, but we all wore gigantic grins as we swayed to our Alma Mater.  I was so happy to escape with a win that I almost didn’t hear a voice call out, “Hey, Leprechaun!  I’m an Irish girl!  Can I get a picture?”  I gave Erin Andrews my phone number so she could send me the photo we took together, but for some reason she never got back to me.    

Signed & Personalized Books Available Now:

Sep 6, 2013

Game Prediction: Skunk Bear Killas

Notre Dame Fightin' Irish v. Michigan Skunk Bears
Saturday, Sep. 7, 8:00 p.m. ET, Ann Arbor, MI

Key Matchup:  Fightin' Irish DE Stephon Tuitt v. Skunk Bear OT Taylor Lewan - If Tuitt is gonna break Tuck's single season sack record, he'll have to pick up the pace starting against an elusive QB in Devin Gardner.  His ability to do so will depend on his game-long battle against Lewan. If Tuitt can beat Lewan to the outside, he'll be able to pressure Gardner into making mistakes (hopefully much like his predecessor Denard did last year) while also containing him. If Tuitt can't do it to it, then Notre Dame might be in trouble.

Fightin' Irish Offense v. Skunk Bear Defense: Tommy 2.0 must continue to rise.  I believe in the kid, and you should too. Over 110,000 retina-scarring maize t-shirts won't phase him, and neither will the Skunk Bears' swiss-cheese secondary. As long as his offensive line gives him enough time against a defensive front that has already exhibited its ability to get into the backfield (albeit against the less-than-mighty Chippewas of Central Mich.), he should be able to spread the ball around with ease.  The Skunk Bears won't be able to key in on just one receiving threat, which means either Jones, Daniels, or Niklas will be open on every single play.  All Tommy Gun needs to do is sling the rock their way.

Fightin' Irish Defense v. Skunk Bear Offense:  The Fightin' Irish front seven must contain Gardner much better than they contained the Temple QB whose name is too irrelevant to look up right now (though he did show toughness after getting knocked to the turf quite often last Saturday).  Gardner is no Denard Robinson.  This is both a good thing and a bad thing.  He won't pull off miracle moves in a phone-booth like Denard could, but he will probably turn the ball over less as well (It's pretty hard to turn it over as many times as Denard did last year).  A key to the game will be whether the Fightin' Irish can apply enough pressure to fluster him while also maintaining their contain.  If they do, expect multiple turnovers (probably not six like last year, but hopefully more than two).

Final Outcome:  Tommy Gun slings it, Gardner throws a couple picks, Tuitt gets another sack, ESPN analysts insert their feet into their mouths, and Irish eyes go on smiling for another week.

Fightin' Irish: 27
Skunk Bears: 20

Sep 5, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Skunkbear Edition

Irish Creed throws it back to the days of yore every Thursday 
by giving you a sample from Daniel Collins' behind-the-scenes book 

This week's throwback comes from Chapter 5, in which Collins recalls his first visit to that filthy rotten skunkbear nest they call Ann Arbor:

... I paced back and forth behind Stepan Center as dusk set in Thursday night, hoping at least a couple hundred students would choose our rally over pregaming Club Fever.  They didn’t exactly pack the house, but the thousand or so diehards who did come made up for their classmates’ lack of spirit with war paint, Irish flags, and enough toilet paper to blanket the whole state of Indiana...
... After jumping on stage I held up an old #21 Desmond Howard Michigan jersey.  With the whole crowd booing and throwing toilet paper at me I slowly tore it in half, tossing the tattered pieces to the angry mob below...
... Brian Smith didn’t want to give up the mic.  That was okay.  The crowd loved the story he told about how his dad, a fullback for the Fighting Irish back in the early 1980s, refused to buy him any Skunkbear swag as a kid.  For some reason Brian happened to like their colors when he was young, but his dad sat him down to tell him that no son of his would ever wear a Michigan jersey.  His ten-minute epic tale probably would’ve gone on much longer if it weren’t for the frenzied chant he incited.  With no adults around to scold them, the students felt free enough to belt out “Muck ‘em up! Muck ‘em up! Michigan Sucks!” Except they didn’t say “muck.”
... After a swift three-hour drive we pulled up to a sprawling campus dotted with horrid pee-yellow t-shirts. ... A multitude of middle fingers pointed our way as our police escort brought us up to the Big House.  They only pumped us up even more.  The spirit leftover from our sendoff rally juxtaposed against so much hatred concentrated in one place would surely help our boys in blue and gold flatten the Skunkbears like road kill.
... Every time someone yelled “Go Blue!” in my face I quickly added “…and Gold!”  The usual response I got consisted of nothing more than a blank stare.  To every “Where’s your pot of gold?” or “Where’d you hide your lucky charms?” I responded with “They’re safe back home in South Bend.  Where’d you leave your dignity?”  The puzzled looks continued.  Whenever anyone did anything especially obscene I just blew kisses back at them.  That did the trick by making them all the more irate.  I continued blowing kisses until kickoff.

Sep 1, 2013

Game Weekend Photos: Week 1

My first game weekend of the 2013 season got off to a great start when I found my brand new book looking almost as good as I do in green as it stood out boldly on several shelves inside the Notre Dame Bookstore.  Week one continued to please with blue skies, a greened-out student section, and an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy Irish victory.  

Check out the photos below, and be sure to follow me on Twitter (@TheNDleprechaun) and/or Instagram (@theleprecon) for live updates and more exclusive shots.  

Signed & Personalized Copies of "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" now available at www.LeprechaunBook.com.

Signed & Personalized Copies of "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" now available at www.LeprechaunBook.com

2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule

2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule
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, :(