Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com™
September 8, 2001
Isn't It Possible?
By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service
LINCOLN, Nebraska (IE) – Fall has arrived.
At 6:45 a.m. in Lincoln, the sky was dark, the air was cool, and more than 3,000 red-clad Nebraska students were crowding the gates at Memorial Stadium. They were there – 12 plus hours before kickoff – so they could get up-close seats for the 9:30 a.m. ESPN Game Day broadcast. Ultimately, with reinforcements arriving in RV's from throughout this vast state, their ranks swelled to 15,000, the largest gathering ever to watch Lee Corso make a game prediction.
There may be better places to be this weekend than Lincoln but if college football is your passion, this is heaven on earth. IrishEyes is thrilled to be one of the record setting 701 reporters to receive a credential for this game.
And, rest assured, Nebraska players, fans and media are taking nothing for granted with this contest. Even though the Cornhuskers have been far more productive the past 11 years, and won in overtime in South Bend last September 9, the locals consider this a toss-up game. More importantly, the visit of the Irish is being treated with near reverence.
Former Husker All-American Trev Alberts, now a broadcaster on CNN/SI, picked Notre Dame. The beat writer for the Lincoln Journal-Star, Curt McKeever, chose Nebraska by a less than resounding 14-9. Husker offensive guard Jon Rutherford said Notre Dame's defense "will be the most physical and difficult we will face all year." On the other side of the ball, defensive lineman Jeremy Slechta says the Irish "Will be, by far, the best offensive line we'll face."
Still, the Irish are a 13-point underdog and a prominent South Bend journalist wrote today that "Any faith placed in Notre Dame to beat No. 5 Nebraska…is blind faith."
Well, since you're on this Web Site and have read this deeply into the story, you understand why the University of Notre Dame exists and you quite likely embrace the concept of blind faith.
IrishEyes sees it this way: Notre Dame 21, Nebraska 17, and blind faith has nothing to do with it.
- Last September, Nebraska rushed for 304 yards in South Bend. The Cornhuskers return players who rushed for only 110 of those yards, 106 were by quarterback Eric Crouch, who is working behind an offensive line that is far less experienced. Notre Dame, meanwhile, returns 194 of the 198 yards it rushed for last year.
- Is Crouch unbeatable? Hardly. The Heisman Trophy candidate has an unremarkable 6-5 record against Top 20 opponents in his Cornhusker career.
- Is Frank Solich and his staff vastly superior to Bob Davie? Isn't it possible that offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers – who developed the current NFL cover-boy quarterback Donovan McNabb – has cooked up a game-plan that will ignite the potential explosiveness of this offense?
- Is it inconceivable that Matt LoVecchio could be the real deal at quarterback, that the Oregon State massacre hardened him? This goes back to a question IrishEyes asked last December. Would you trade a loss to Oregon State for a victory against Nebraska? The Irish looked absolutely helpless on January 1, 1988, losing to Texas A&M 35-10 in the Cotton Bowl. It went 12-0 the next season and earned its last national championship.
- Doesn't Notre Dame have a team quickness edge over Nebraska?
- Won't the Irish start 18 players tonight who started at least one game last year?
- Didn't the Irish come within one third-and-nine pass from Crouch to Tracey Wistrom last September of beating a Nebraska team far superior to this year's?
- Isn't it possible that Grant Irons can play to his vast potential as a fifth-year senior, thus making Notre Dame's front seven that much tougher?
- Aren't we in agreement that with Nick Setta Notre Dame has a major edge in placekicking?
- Isn't it true that revenge is the greatest motivating factor in college football?
True, as IrishEyes noted Friday, Davie has an abysmal record against Top 10 teams and is a staggering 1-6 at night. Nebraska is 16-4-1 under the floodlights since 1990. Yes, the Huskers have only lost once in the last seven years in Lincoln and last dropped a non-conference home game in 1991.
But isn't it possible that Notre Dame could win over all in this most intimidating venue? Does it have to come down to blind faith? Is that what this program has come to?
If that is the case, Davie and his staff have a much bigger problem facing them than Nebraska.
It can all change tonight.