I know, I know. I’m a bit late on this.
Checks date of last entry.
Okay, so more than a bit late.
This week has been a bit hectic with the player and coach media day on Monday, but now that things have settled down a bit, let’s get back to the “12 Days of Notre Dame” countdown with…
…Four (uncomfortably) close wins.
How many gray hairs did the games against Purdue, Stanford, BYU and Pitt give head coach Brian Kelly this year? And I realize that the Michigan game was close, but Notre Dame had control most of the contest. These four games were much closer.
Against Purdue, Notre Dame called on late-game heroics by backup quarterback Tommy Rees and a 27-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. Irish win 20-17.
Against Stanford, Rees came up big again, subbing in for the injured Everett Golson and finding TJ Jones in the end zone for the go-ahead score in overtime. On the following series, the Irish stuffed the Cardinal on back-to-back goal line surges in what became one of the Notre Dame’s most iconic moments of the season. Irish win 20-13.
Against BYU, a sluggish Irish squad trailed most of the second quarter and the entire third quarter before George Atkinson III punched in a 2-yard touchdown run early in the fourth. Notre dame survived its marqueed “trap game” 17-14.
Against Pitt, a stunned crowd at Notre Dame Stadium watched as the Irish trailed 20-6 entering the fourth quarter. Golson led two scoring drives to lead the team into overtime – then another overtime – then another overtime. By the grace of Touchdown Jesus, Pitt kicker Kevin Harper missed the 33-yard field goal that would have handed Notre Dame its first lost of the season. Golson’s 1-yard run in triple overtime sealed the win, 29-26.
Sure, they weren’t pretty. Sure squeaking out wins over Purdue, BYU and Pitt doesn’t look as good as blowing out then-No. 8 Michigan 41-14 or then-No. 11 Mississippi State 38-7.
But they won.
Notre Dame has proven four or five times that it can win in the crunch.
It can win when its back-up quarterback needs to lead a game-winning drive. It can win when the defense has its heels pushed back into its own end zone. It can win when it’s down two scores and need three overtimes to pull ahead.
Alabama – for all of its strength and prowess - can’t say the same thing about all of its close games.
The 2012 season threw a dozen curveballs and knuckleballs and spitballs at Notre Dame, and the Irish knocked them out of the park every time – even if it sometimes took a few extra swings.
That determination, that ability to find a way to win regardless of the circumstance, will make this national championship game much closer than a lot of analysts are giving Notre Dame credit for.