Nothing demonstrates how far Notre Dame has come, and how desperate for a turn-around Irish fans are, than the wailing and gnashing of teeth seen following Saturday's loss to Michigan. Sentiments run from anger and frustration, to fear and despair. To my fellow Fighting Irishmen: get a grip.
Until Dayne Crist went out with an injury early in the first quarter, it was Notre Dame's game to lose. For the better part of the first half Michigan played against the Irish's third-string quarterback. In the process Michigan scored 21 points, mostly off of turnovers deep in Irish territory. I'll say it again, by the backup QBs.
Despite this, the play of both Montana and the defense was enough to hold off a rout until Crist returned in the second half. And then it was a contest, with the Irish taking the game right down to the very last second. If anyone doubts that the Irish would have won this game comfortably had Crist stayed in the full game, they are delusional.
So what did we really see Saturday?
We saw a defense that is phenomenally improved from last year.
We saw an offense that, with Crist at the helm, was able to move the ball at will against Michigan.
And despite coach Kelly's post-game declaration that he's done saying this, we did indeed see a team that played hard for 60 minutes instead of waiting until the last four minutes to show some life.
But there were also a few lessons.
Coach Kelly, do not, I repeat, do not have Crist run the ball. We've now seen that if he goes down, we're in trouble.
Coach Kelly, do accelerate the development of the backup QBs.
Coach Kelly, do take the points when available. We finally have a field goal kicker. Take the points!
And finally to Crist and Floyd: You guys need to work on the deep ball. The intuitive pass/catch relationship has to develop. It's not there yet and that answers the question as to why ND isn't throwing more deep balls.
And if you were there, you learned that our rival to the north's horrible reputation as fans is well deserved. From the drunken banging of a cowbell, and chanting, "Go Blue" during the 9/11 memorial prayer, to the entire Michigan section shouting, "You suck!" in unison (not to mention a dozen individual disgraceful acts), the Wolverines remain in a class by themselves.
As football games go, we all got our money's worth. It was an emotional roller coaster. Michigan better pray to God that their one-man team can take the pounding he received on Saturday. But as for Domers, hold your gold helmets high. The future is looking good.