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.
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.