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Oct 23, 2013

Score Prediction: Flying High v. Air Force

Notre Dame Fightin' Irish v. Air Force Fightin' Falcons
Saturday, Oct. 26, 5:00 p.m. ET, Colorado Springs, CO

My alma mater returns to the land of my birth (I was born on the Air Force Academy campus) this weekend to take on my second favorite college football team.  Here's what Fightin' Irish fans can expect:

Key Matchup:  Fightin' Irish D-Line v. Fightin' Falcon Triple-Option:  Brian Kelly said it best when he described the Air Force Triple-Option as something his star nose-tackle Louis Nix simply wasn't built for.  Realistically, the same goes for the rest of Notre Dame's D-Line as well.  At 300+ lbs., they will all outweigh the opponents they line up across from by at least 50 lbs. on each and every play.  That doesn't necessarily make their jobs easier, though, as the Fightin' Falcon offense relies on quick movements and cut blocks to consistently move the chains with their shifty rushing attack.  Look for Nix to play a much-diminished role due to his dinged up shoulder and a skill-set that simply doesn't mesh with this type of game.  That means Diaco's more mobile D-linemen must step up to the challenge by maintaining contain and letting the LBs take care of their assignments.  Brains will matter more than braun in this one.  Hopefully they're using fall break to study plenty of film.

Fightin' Irish Offense v. Fightin' Falcon DefenseNotre Dame just needs to play efficient, mistake-free football.  Exploiting mismatches should be easy, as Air Force literally won't be able to cover bigger receiving threats like Troy Niklas or Davaris Daniels.  The Fightin' Falcons rank outside the top 100 in terms of both pass and rush defense, giving up over 37 points on average every game.  Look for the Fightin' Irish to top that total by putting up at least 40.

Fightin' Irish Defense v. Fightin' Falcon Offense:  Every member of Diaco's defense must stay disciplined and track all of their assignments.  Air Force impressively ranks 12th when it comes to yards gained on the ground, so Notre Dame should know what they're in for.  It might take a quarter or two to adjust, but by the time the second half rolls around the Fightin' Irish will have worn down their opponents' rushing attack.

Final Outcome:  The only way Air Force can possibly win is by playing keep-away.  If they can consistently average 3+ yards per carry with their Triple-Option attack, they may be able to limit Notre Dame's possessions enough to keep the game close.  If that happens, the final score will reflect the turnover differential.  Luckily, I don't think any of that will happen.  Notre Dame has far too much talent on both sides of the ball for the Fightin' Falcons to hang.  Expect ND to cover the spread.

Score Prediction:
Fightin' Irish: 41
Fightin' Falcons: 17

Oct 17, 2013

Score Prediction: Keys to Burning $C

Notre Dame Fightin' Irish v. $outhern Cal Trojans
Saturday, Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET, Notre Dame, IN

This is it! It’s BEAT $C WEEK! 

The Fighting Irish and Trojans are currently preparing for a special "Fight Night" grudge match edition of their famed rivalry, set to take place under the lights in Notre Dame Stadium. 
Lucky for Fighting Irish fans, these two programs have been headed in opposite directions ever since they met under the lights in Notre Dame Stadium two years ago. 

While Notre Dame looks to defend last year’s BCS National Championship birth with a trip to another BCS bowl this year, Southern Cal is only two weeks removed from firing their laughable head coach Lane Kiffin after he blundered his way from first to worst last year. All that being said, this is still ND v. SC. It’s called the “Greatest Intersectional Rivalry in College Football” for a reason, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this game is one for the ages. 

Judging by both teams’ performances against their only mutual opponent (ASU) this one shouldn’t be close. The Sun Devils dominated $C in nearly every aspect of the game en route to a 62-41 route that was even more lopsided than the score shows. On the other hand, Notre Dame took it to ASU much more thoroughly than the 37-34 score indicates. If Kelly’s sqad plays at its best, Fighting Irish fans will be celebrating a blowout victory under the lights in Notre Dame Stadium. 

Expect it to remain close during the first half as the Trojans put up some fireworks with the pure talent they have on both sides of the ball. Despite their best efforts, though, Notre Dame’s depth will wear them down in the second half. 

Let’s all hope and pray it stays in the low 50s, keeps raining, and Kelly throws away the “empty set” portion of his playbook, opting to run right at those soft Cali pretty boys instead. If Atkinson, McDaniel, Folston, and Trojan turned Irishman Carlisle can establish a strong ground game this one could get ugly for the team dressed in ketchup and mustard.

Score prediction: 
ND: 37 
$C: 27

BEAT $C WEEK Part V: Curse of the Leprechaun

Every day this week, IRISH CREED will release excerpts from the
"Beat SC" chapter in Daniel Colt Collins' new behind-the-scenes book "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" available now at www.LeprechaunBook.com

Curse of the Leprechaun:

It didn’t end. The more time that separated me from my previous life as the Leprechaun, the more I realized that it probably never would. Notre Dame had become part of my identity, as permanent as the logo inked into my arm. It followed me everywhere from back home in Buffalo all the way to the beautiful beaches of Southern California, where I spent my summer between graduation and law school. 

While in Trojan territory, I watched cheerfully as the NCAA punished our cheating rivals by erasing the loathsome “Bush Push” game from every record book. The righteous delivery of justice handed down to them called for a celebratory trip to Southern Cal, where I visited their soon-to-disappear seventh Heisman trophy. Before I left, I made sure to hide a small Irish charm somewhere near the statue of their mascot “Traveler the Trojan Horse.” Along with my miniature parting gift lay the dreaded Curse of the Leprechaun, set to bring misfortune to every Spoiled Child who passed by that spot for the rest of eternity. I couldn’t wait until we met again in November, when the fates would finally turn back in our favor.

Either my steadfast devotion to Notre Dame paid off, the curse I cast on Southern Cal worked, or both. Unfazed by the effigy of a Leprechaun hanging from a gnarly tree outside the Coliseum, I waved my “Kill So. Cal” Tricolour Irish flag with pride while watching my Fighting Irish steal back the Jeweled Shillelagh. As expected, a light drizzle and temperatures in the low sixties kept the fair weather Trojan fans from filling their own house. We took advantage by creating a student section of our own in a vast area of unoccupied seats. When my Dawg Harrison Smith sealed Southern Cal’s fate with an interception on the goal line during the closing seconds an army of security guards surrounded us to make sure we couldn’t rush the field. We didn’t care. Singing our fight song with full heart and voice until it echoed through the cavernous corridors of the Coliseum left us feeling perfectly content.

Despite our lack of style points, our winning ways continued until we found ourselves in a showdown against our Trojan rivals for a shot at the national championship. Southern Cal had started the season ranked #1 while we flew under the radar unranked. The Curse of the Leprechaun must have remained intact, because the tables had turned by the time we marched into the Coliseum as the top team in the nation to face our already-eliminated inferior opponents. Not even the most imaginative sports writers could have made this stuff up. My lucky seventh year as a student concluded with a 22-13 win when our intrepid running back Theo Riddick made a mockery of the Trojan defense. I brandished my “Kill So. Cal” Irish Tricolour flag blatantly for all to see as we filled those corridors with echoes of our fight song once again.

Oct 16, 2013

BEAT $C WEEK Part IV: The Beautiful Struggle

Every day this week, IRISH CREED will release excerpts from the
"Beat SC" chapter in Daniel Colt Collins' new behind-the-scenes book "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" available now at www.LeprechaunBook.com

The Beautiful Struggle: 

Game day technically began with our “Call to Arms Drum Circle” at midnight on the steps of the Golden Dome. I showed up in my Adidas high tops, rolled up navy blue corduroys, a white shirt with the sleeves torn off, and bright green suspenders. The powers that be already deemed my Mohawk too scandalous to appear on national television during the game, so I made sure to enjoy my final hours before going bald. With my “Kill So. Cal” Irish Tricolour flag draped around my neck, I stood atop the pillar at the foot of the steps giving short but fierce wartime speeches through a bullhorn between drum cadences.

I had never seen so many fans at a midnight drum circle, so I turned it into a bonus pep-rally for all those diehards who didn’t want to let sleep interfere with “Beat SC Week.” At one point, our “Gooo Irish! Beeeat Trojans!” chant grew so loud that hundreds of students came running out of their nearby dorms to join the mob. The drumline showcased perfect timing, per usual, when they ignited their cymbals with eerie green flames just as I started into my speech about the “Green Jersey Game” of 1977. The early morning air may have felt cold to some, but I was almost certain I could tell the exact moment when chills overtook our fans once they finally submitted to the hype. 

Forcefully repeating Rocket’s “Go get it!” mantra at every pregame tailgate appearance I made, I finally lost my voice somewhere along the route of our Step-Off Parade. Then I had a “whoa” moment when I first saw the sea of green steadily streaming into our stadium before kickoff. Watching all those people respond to the passion I worked so hard to spread felt immensely empowering and humbling at the same time.

Crying became my favorite activity of the day. I couldn’t control it. I had packed way too much emotion into this one event. My tears watered a 100-yard stretch of grass while I ran down our field with the extra-large blue, gold, and green flag donated by the Notre Dame Alumni Association for this special occasion. The football players followed me through a human tunnel formed by members of our Monogram Club. As I sprinted past heroes like Mike Brown, Reggie Brooks, and Rocket Ismail I sobbed some more. Then my waterworks really let loose when both teams lined up for the opening kick. All that passion, all that hard work, all that hype, and all that belief came down to this. 

The Trojans torched us through the air. Matt Barkley connected on his first three passes and just like that we trailed 7-0. Everyone thought it, but I said it out loud: “Here we go again.” I hadn’t given up hope yet, but that miserable feeling of dread started to creep back into my mind. Then Charlie Weis made a gutsy fake field goal call that went for 30 yards, and I thought the football gods just might smile down on us for the first time in a long while. Robert Hughes punched it in from three yards out to tie the score, and the students sounded off with their new favorite cheer: “Huuughes!”

Though we looked outmatched athletically at almost every position, our defense refused to back down. I stood on the sideline screaming at the top of my lungs before every defensive snap, enticing the students to test the limits of their vocal chords every third down by waving my arms wildly. The Trojan defense entrenched itself while ours bent dangerously close to the endzone. Still, we wouldn’t break. It took a miracle, but we managed to remain within striking distance when the first half ended and we only trailed 13-7. I refused to leave the field during halftime. Instead, I ran furiously around the entire stadium to tell everyone how much we needed them to give us all they had left during the second half. I hoped at least a few of the fans watching me would see how much I cared. Maybe witnessing my passion would make some of them believe.

The Trojans scored again before anyone even knew the second half had started. Down 20-7, the faces around me started to reflect that doom and gloom attitude I hated more than anything. I tried to raise their spirits by keeping my chin up. Then Jimmy tossed a perfect deep ball to Golden, who came down with it despite tight double coverage by two of the most highly touted defensive backs in the nation. I made sure they both knew they couldn’t handle Golden by getting in their faces as they sat in the endzone after the touchdown. One of them looked up at me and said, “Scoreboard.” I responded with, “Don’t call it a comeback, ‘cause we’re only down six!” An official pulled me off the field before we got too dicey, yelling, “Get out of here! You’re not part of this game!” After pondering his words for a few minutes, I decided he was wrong. We were all part of this game. 

The score didn’t stay 20-14 for very long, but I still felt confident enough to tell Southern Cal’s stud tight end not to get too comfortable as they kicked an extra point to go up 27-14. The throat slashing gesture he directed towards me would’ve landed him a hefty fine in the NFL. I reminded him how slow he was by getting the hell out of his way in a flash. As fate would have it, that same tight end burned our secondary a few minutes later to make the score 34-14. He even took the time to seek me out and stare me down after crossing the goal line. It couldn’t end like this. Not after I worked so hard to make everyone believe. Not with my foot in my mouth. I asked Our Lady to bail me out just this one time. Then I prayed ten straight Hail Marys to atone for my trash talking sins.

Jimmy answered my prayers by willing us back into the game. He scrambled on his one good foot to make big play after big play as he literally wrenched the momentum away from his fellow Californians. A quick score preceded a strong defensive stand, and we found ourselves back within striking distance. Another perfect touchdown pass from Jimmy to Golden ended with that same safety falling onto his back once again. This time I restrained myself from entering the field of play in order to avoid the officials who had their eyes on me. I couldn’t have lived with myself after costing us the game with a penalty. It would have been the ultimate disgrace, worse than death for a Leprechaun. I bit my lip and clapped politely like everyone else.

Our defense gave us the ball back down 34-27 with two minutes to go. I looked around while Jimmy broke the huddle to start the final drive, taking it all in. Without warning I resumed my uncontrollable crying. I didn’t even know why or how it started, but I knew the powerful beauty of that moment would stay with me forever. The spirit of Notre Dame swallowed the whole scene, and it was a sight to behold. 

Everyone believed, but no one could breathe as we drove the ball down to their four yard line with just nine seconds left. It didn’t matter who anyone was rooting for, we all contributed to one giant collective hyperventilation. The ball hung in midair for a century before it glanced off Kyle Rudolph’s fingertips in the endzone on what looked like the last play of the game. Just an inch closer or a split second sooner and we would’ve had ourselves an overtime shootout for the ages. Video review put four seconds back on the clock, but another incomplete pass left us with double zeros. Then, like a reverse version of that nightmarish game back in 2005, the officials extended the game by one more second. It looked like destiny at first, but we fell one play short when the ball sailed wide on Jimmy’s last heave into the endzone. Smug smiles spread across the Southern Cal sideline.

My tears kept falling when I finally realized we just lost the one game I had put my entire heart into, but the anger and sadness I expected never came. Rather than hatred, love filled my field of vision. Everything seemed so immaculately bright as I looked up at my fellow students swaying arm in arm to our Alma Mater. I sent one final “Beat SC Week” letter that night:

Dear Notre Dame Family,

The recent realization that I will only serve as your Leprechaun for three more home games has me in a panic. Before I take my final steps on our hallowed field, I want to share the most important lesson I have taken away from my experience here at Notre Dame.

Rocket told us “some legendary stuff” would take place when our Fighting Irish took on Southern Cal. He was right. I came out of our tunnel ready to be all that I could be for Notre Dame, our student section came out in full force like a loyal green army, and our team came ready to play like true champions.

I shed quite a few tears while we fought back within yards of tying the game. They were not tears of sadness, but of joy as I stood in awe of that moment. When the game ended my tears continued, not out of disappointment, but due to pride. I had never felt more proud to be a student at Notre Dame than I was when I stood facing the student section with tears streaking down my face while we all sang our Alma Mater together. I felt the spirit of Notre Dame at that moment, and I hope you all get to feel that way about something at some point in your lives.

Soak it all in, enjoy it, and let yourselves get swept away by the spirit. We forget so often what it feels like to truly live in the moment. Notre Dame has taught me that doing so with love and gratitude in my heart will fuel me with an energy I never knew I could possess. When it is all finally over, I hope I will have shared that lesson with as many members of my Notre Dame Family as possible.

Love thee Notre Dame,
Your Fighting Irish Leprechaun

Oct 15, 2013

BEAT $C WEEK Part III: Don't Flinch

Every day this week, IRISH CREED will release excerpts from the"Beat SC" chapter in Daniel Colt Collins' new behind-the-scenes book "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" available now at www.LeprechaunBook.com

Don't Flinch:
About 200 students started a slow-clap as the football team jogged from the practice field to the locker room after their last walk-through of the week on Thursday afternoon. That night found us back at work with a crew of loyal sons and daughters tagging every building, tree, bench, and sidewalk on campus with encouraging football-related messages written in chalk. We started at 11 p.m., hitting the high traffic areas in front of both dining halls, every major classroom building, and the Hesburgh Library. As a grand finale, we wrote “Kill Southern Cal Like A Champion Today” in big yellow block letters directly outside the entrance to the football facilities. Then we passed by the north gate of Notre Dame Stadium on our way home at 2 a.m. and I came up with an idea for one last legendary tag. The twelve-foot-tall letters spelling out “FALL OF TROY” in front of our tunnel looked flawless when we finally finished. We hoped the Trojans would appreciate the welcome gift we left them when their busses pulled up to that exact spot roughly ten hours later.

A searing hot dagger tore through my heart when I rode my bike past the cleaning crew scrubbing our artwork from the sidewalk outside Notre Dame Stadium on Friday morning. At least they left most of the tags we strategically planted in places where our football team could actually receive our message. We tried to take the setback in stride, hoping for the best. Little did we know our campaign would go worldwide when The LA Times and ESPN both mentioned our hype-building efforts. I could barely believe my eyes when SportsCenter featured video footage of the chalk scribbles I left on a sidewalk the night before. An editorial on ESPN.com even mentioned the handwritten messages that “covered the fabled South Bend campus.” The article went on to quote our football captain Sam Young talking about how much the hype affected his teammates. We knew we were on the right track when he said it definitely helped them believe.

The Band of the Fighting Irish performed our traditional game day songs while students from every dorm piled into the designated area set aside for them in front of the stage. I peered through the cracks in the wooden body of the giant horse, happy at what I saw. More students turned out to join our ranks than I had anticipated. They looked ready for battle as they moved into position under their various dorm flags like separate regiments of foot soldiers coming together to form one massive army. Most importantly, they all wore green.

When our band finished playing Charles got on the mic to tell everyone that he couldn’t find the Leprechaun so he would fill in until further notice. The last time anyone saw me, so he said, I was on a secret mission to steal Southern Cal’s signature silver sword from their mascot Tommy Trojan. A confused mutter sprang up from the crowd, so Charles gave the signal. The band kicked into our fight song and the cheerleaders pulled a large sheet aside to unveil our Trojan Horse. I waited for the chorus, popping out and standing on the monstrous horse’s back right when everyone sang, “…loyal sons are marching onward to victory!”

Unsheathing the shiny chrome sword I bought at the costume shop a few hours earlier, I held it high for all to see. Tommy Trojan had a habit of raising his sword in a particular manner to the beat of whatever noise his band belched forth ineptly. I mimicked his motion for a few notes, then I snapped the sword over my knee. The students rioted when I held the broken shards above my head. To top it all off, I pulled out the can of neon green spray-paint I picked up at the hardware store to tag the broad side of the plywood horse with the words “GO IRISH! BEAT SC!” While climbing on stage I heard a girl in the front row of the student section yell out, “What the hell is going on? Who is this guy? This is freaking awesome!”

“Notre Daaame!” My two-word signature phrase sounded much better when the majority of my fellow students answered back. I tossed my hat aside and struck a pose while they marveled at my freshly shaved Mohawk.

“It’s great to see all you students out here leadin’ the charge tonight! And look at all you fans, too! I see you got the memo about wearing green. You look fabulous. Sadly, the Trojans are about to invade our campus with their ugly ketchup and mustard uniforms. Let’s show ‘em what real school colors look like when they get here. Our football players will take care of the blue and 24-karat gold. We need all of you to keep on reppin’ the luck o’ the Irish with more of my favorite color. Can you do that?” They sounded like they could.

“When Southern Cal steps onto our field, a sea of green will be waiting for them. That’s when they’ll realize they aren’t just goin’ up against our football team… No… They’re goin’ up against an entire united front of the Fightin’ Irish Faithful!” The Fighting Irish Faithful let me know they liked their new nickname.

“When our boys in blue and gold get ready to take the field tomorrow we need to give them a heroes’ welcome with the classic ‘Here come the Irish!’ chant they used back in 1977. When the pregame clock hits nine minutes, the fellas will start us off… Wait a minute, where are my manners? Let’s have the ladies start us off with the echo chant. Ready for a practice run? Nine-oh-three, nine-oh-two, nine-oh-one, let’s hear it!” The echo effect worked perfectly just as our players arrived. Everything was falling into place. I felt like the Leprechaun King of the World.

With the mic back in my hand, I nervously introduced my favorite football player of all time: “I’m truly honored to welcome one of the most electrifying players to ever suit up in blue and gold. He used to make moves that left his opponents limping back across the field to go pick up their jockstraps after he raced his way into the endzone. He’s got the moves, and he really is as fast as his name implies… Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Rocket Ismail!”

Rocket took it to the next level with a deafening “WOOO! Let’s get it!” Over the course of the next four minutes he then proceeded to tear the house down. If our football players, students, and fans needed a spiritual revival, he gave them one they would never forget. Everyone in attendance turned to the person next to them on his command, saying, “Don’t flinch!” Then everyone turned to the person on the other side to say, “Go get it!” Rocket made it clear that he didn’t come to make us feel good. He only came to tell us the truth. Lucky for us, the truth would set us free. His advice: “Don’t just give lip service to it. Make it a part of your fiber. Make it a part of your heartbeat.” He told us that a challenge like the one we faced against Southern Cal required enough belief to surpass it. When he asked us if we believed we came closer to actually shaking down the thunder than I had ever heard before. Satisfied, he spiked his mic against the stage with one final, “Don’t flinch, and go get it!” Sergio Brown picked the mic up from where Rocket dropped it, repeating, “Let’s go get it! Let’s go get it!” while his whole team mobbed their emotional leader. Multiple stage dives followed, so I caught the crowd surfing wave over to my Dawgs where we linked arms for the Alma Mater. When I looked around at my Notre Dame Family swaying together as one I finally felt it. We believed.

Oct 14, 2013

BEAT $C WEEK Part II: Hype Men

Every day this week, IRISH CREED will release excerpts from the"Beat SC" chapter in Daniel Colt Collins' new behind-the-scenes book "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" available now at www.LeprechaunBook.com

Hype Men:
When Monday morning came I got up at 6:30 a.m., rode my bike over to the computer lab, typed out “GO IRISH! KILL SOUTHERN CAL!” in size 72 font, printed out fifty copies, and taped them all to the walls outside DeBartolo Hall where I knew the football players usually congregated before their morning classes. I figured my efforts would start the week off right with some early hype. Unfortunately, when I returned at 8:30 a.m. for my first class only torn shreds of paper remained taped to the walls. The building managers must have taken their jobs a little too seriously that morning. Maybe one of them had a case of the Mondays. Frustrated, but not nearly ready to quit, I used the time I spent in class that day planning better ways to build more hype.

That afternoon I hosted a meeting of the minds with my two close friends Grant Schmidt and Aaron Hernandez, who happened to be the Student Body President and the Drum Major for the Band of the Fighting Irish. We came together to build a unified front, determined to use our leadership positions to make this a week our fellow students would never forget. The grassroots strategy we devised would hopefully empower the whole student body to take over our hype-building efforts by the end of the week. Rather than a packaged promotions plan coming down from upstairs, the end result would grow organically from the bottom up into something much more genuine. That way our entire Notre Dame Family would have no choice but to believe the hype.

Grant, Aaron, and I began “Beat SC Week” by coordinating a massive communications campaign, run mostly through social media and open letters to the student body. We would get the party started, then sit back to watch the hype spread from person to person until it covered our whole campus. Getting to work right away, we invited our fellow students to join us in conveying our collective belief through posters, signs, banners, and by any other means necessary. We only asked that they keep their anti-Trojan, pro-Irish propaganda classy. Finally, we scheduled several unofficial student-run events, including a “Southern Cal Meet-n-Greet” meant to “welcome” our opponents when they first arrived for their Friday walk-through practice. We also promised to add an extra kick to our Friday night pep-rally and our midnight drum circle, courtesy of our homemade Trojan Horse and some amateur pyrotechnics. 

As far as I was concerned, we were at war. In this battle of good versus evil, I wouldn’t surrender until I did all that I could to help the good guys come out on top. That night I sent the first of several wartime propaganda letters out to my entire Notre Dame Family:

Notre Dame,

This is our moment of truth. We must wake up the echoes. We must let everyone know we believe. All of us have a role to play in our upcoming battle against the Trojans of Southern Cal.

Students: Step up your efforts to create as much hype as possible. Post signs. Hang banners. Write on sidewalks. It’s midterm week. What better way to procrastinate? Do all that you can to energize your classmates. Don’t be afraid to let our football team know you believe. Share a friendly “Go Irish!” or better yet a “Kill Southern Cal!” with every football player you encounter.

Fans: Wear green to campus this weekend. Get loud at the rally on Friday, then come to the drum circle on the steps of the Golden Dome at midnight. Stand up and scream from the very first moment you enter Notre Dame Stadium until the final whistle when we rush onto the most sacred of all football fields. I’ll see you on the 50 yard line. Look for the guy dressed in green with pure triumphant joy written all over his face.

-Your Fightin’ Irish Leprechaun

Oct 13, 2013

BEAT $C WEEK Part I: Believe the Hype

Every day this week, IRISH CREED will release excerpts from the "Beat SC" chapter in Daniel Colt Collins' new behind-the-scenes book "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" available now at www.LeprechaunBook.com

Believe the Hype:
Notre Dame versus Southern Cal, known as “the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football” since 1926, had looked nothing like a rivalry as of late. Not only had we lost seven straight times, but the infamous 2005 “Bush Push” game still haunted our collective nightmares. Our students rushed the field at the end of that game, thinking the #9 Fighting Irish had just upset the #1 Trojans, only to get turned away when the officials put one second back on the clock. Southern Cal’s running back Reggie Bush used that final second to steal the game from us in bizarre fashion. When I enrolled as a freshman the following year the upperclassmen still spoke about that harrowing day as if their wounds had never fully healed. With each mounting loss the misery returned. Our rival’s reign of terror over us wasn’t fun to live through, but we all held on to the small slice of hope that one day their dynasty would come to an end. 
With a long back-story leaving an insufferably sour taste in my mouth, I decided that my senior year would have to be the one when the Fighting Irish finally turned the tables on the Trojans. Coming off an emotional overtime win against Washington, the only team to beat Southern Cal so far that season, we knew we had a chance to pull off the upset. In fact, I felt confident we would. Once I got my hands on that Jeweled Shillelagh I planned on taking it with me everywhere I went. I just had to make sure everyone else at Notre Dame believed as much as I did.

Building hype became my sole purpose in life during the full duration of midterms week, which we renamed “Beat SC Week.” It had a better ring to it. As soon as we all started chanting “BEAT SC! BEAT SC!” after our overtime win against Washington, I decided to throw all my study materials out the window for the next few days. I told myself I would remember this week years later as a defining moment in my life, and my greatest accomplishment as the Notre Dame Leprechaun. In comparison, I would probably forget everything I needed to know for my exams by the following semester. Mark Twain once advised against letting school interfere with a good education. I intended to learn a whole lot about life by allowing one goal to consume mine for the next week. I wouldn’t rest until I stoked the smoldering flames of our faith in the Fighting Irish into widespread raging fires by the time our enemy arrived on campus.

Oct 7, 2013

Shamrock Series Recap: Forked Over

Fork me?  Fork you!
From the massive video-board-assisted intro until the final whistle, unranked ND v. #22 ASU in Jerry World did not disappoint.  Here's a quick look at the major points I took from the game:

1.  Notre Dame Stadium needs a video board.  Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if this whole thing was part of Swarbrick's master plan to install one.  Anyone who tries to deny the energy 60 yards of HD perfection added to the Notre Dame football experience is kidding themselves.

The excitement level in Jerry World proving that
Notre Dame Stadium needs a video board

2.  I heart Texas.  The "Remember the Alamo" Pep-Rally before our inaugural Shamrock Series game in San Antonio set the stage for an amazing concept.  Four years and four cities later, the Fighting Irish returned for a second helping of Tex-Mex, this time in DFW.  Our Texan hosts wowed us once again during a weekend-long fiesta that felt more like a bowl game atmosphere than your average week six.  Here's to hoping that we return to play under the high and wide Texas sky sometime soon.

Game Day, Tex-Mex Style

3.  Notre Dame still has a really good football team.  Stop it!  Stop whining!  As I said before, 2013 Notre Dame Football is not 2012 Notre Dame Football.  Still, the Fighting Irish stand at 4-2 after opening the season against a tough slate that included 4 ranked opponents.  With an extra week to prepare for putting up at least 50 against a reeling USC squad, Notre Dame now has a real chance to carry a 6-game winning streak into the season finale against Stanford.  Yee haw!

Uniform choices reflected the Catholics v. Devils matchup well

4.  Brian Kelly knows what he is doing.  Disagree with the skipper on occasion?  We all do.  Just try to relax.  Here, watch the Irish Icon video below all the way 'til the end.  Kelly's post-game speech will leave you feeling pretty good about your favorite team.  Here's a little more to make you feel good:

  • Jaylon Smith is setting himself up to become a superstar.  The freshman phenom made two huge plays to end ASU's first two drives in the opening minutes of the game, only allowing them to take a 6-0 lead rather than go up by two possessions early like OU.  His consistent play the rest of the game kept ASU's backfield in check, holding the Devils to 34 points just one week after they put up 62 against SC.
  • TJ Jones is becoming Wes-Welker-like in his route running abilities.  His crisp maneuvering allows Tommy to find him easily out there, as evidenced by his 135 yards and a touchdown on Saturday.  Brian Kelly put it best when he said, "They just couldn't defend him."
  • Diaco's defense is starting to wake up.  Notice that pass rush?  Where did that come from?  With more pressure in the backfield, the secondary looks less like swiss cheese and more like a flock of ball-hawks.  For Farley's sake, let's hope Shembo and Tuitt continue to become Notre Dame's version of the bash brothers.  They can do the dirty work while he and Jackson continue to reap all the benefits.
  • To say that Notre Dame's remaining schedule is favorable would be a major understatement.  Two bye weeks and five games against inferior opponents (including SC haha) separate the Fighting Irish from their grande finale against Stanford.  Everything is shaping up nicely for the perfect storybook ending... stay tuned.

Not only did ND win the game, but the Fighting Irish clearly outclassed
their state school opponents when it came to tailgating as well.

Oct 3, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Shamrock Series Edition

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Arizona State Sun Devils will face off in the home of the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday for only the third meeting between these two programs (ND currently holds a 2-0 series advantage). This year’s ASU squad has certainly caught the attention of Fighting Irish fans everywhere after an impressive 62-41 win over Notre Dame’s rival USC, which led to the prompt firing of Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin. This weekend will take on an even higher level of significance off the football field, though, during the fifth annual installation of Notre Dame’s home away from home Shamrock Series. Fans traveling to North Texas for the game can check my complete weekend guide here.

Throwback Thursday excerpt from 

...As the only proud Texan on our cheerleading squad, the responsibility fell on Molly to teach us the lyrics of "Deep in the Heart of Texas." She instructed her drowsy students with impressive patience, and most of us had the words memorized by the time we reached Fort Sam Houston. While at the US Army base there, we had the honor of spending the afternoon with several severely injured soldiers and their families through the Wounded Warriors Project. A group of kids greeted us with green pompoms and a homemade poster that read, "GO IRISH! Welcome ND!" They watched with admiration as the cheerleaders performed their stunts, and they promised they would tune in to the rest of our games on T so they could point us out to their friends. I looked around at all the smiling faces, and that same feeling I got every time I swayed to the Alma Mater came back. We left feeling enormously humbled by the sacrifices those brave families had made for our freedom. Our bus fell silent as we all sat staring out the window, reflecting on the spirit we had just shared with some of America's finest heros.

...None of us could believe the number of people already packed into downtown San Antonio for our pep rally when we pulled up to the Alamo.  Fans dressed in Notre Dame gear stretched as far as the eye could see, leaving no street, sidewalk, park bench, or patch of grass uncovered.  We all paused to marvel at the beautiful backdrop provided by the famous Alamo facade directly behind us, contrasted against the charming city streets straight ahead.  Then we remembered we had a show to run.  We took the stage and right away I could sense something different about these fans.  They showcased their southwestern flair by clapping their hands, stomping their boots, hooting, and hollering along with us the whole time.  The rally started to feel lke a scene from an old Western film, and I half-expected several pistols to discharge celebratory shots into the air when we danced to our band's rendition of "Deep in the Heart of Texas."

Read the rest at www.LeprechaunBook.com
(all books come signed and personalized)

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, :(