Did The Irish Win Yesterday?

<P>The Notre Dame football team did what they had to do against Navy on Saturday, win the game. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't flawless, but the Irish found a way to win, and that is something that Irish fans should be proud of. I have to wonder if a win is enough for Irish fans. Some seem dead-set on realizing the doom of the Irish football--almost as if they wish it would happen. </P>

I don't understand the thinking of some Irish fans. The Irish battled all game against a very determined opponent. They played sound, fundamental football, and responded every time Navy regained the lead. They even had a newer version of Rudy (D.J. Fitzpatrick) win the game for them, and it appears it's still not enough.

Expectations at Notre Dame are very high and the standard has been set for every coach that sits in the big chair at Notre Dame. 3-6 is not acceptable at Notre Dame—I'm sure Tyrone Willingham understands this. Looking inept in all facets of the game at times is not acceptable—I'm sure Willingham understands this. What is also unacceptable are Irish fans questioning Irish players celebrating after a hard-fought victory—I'm not sure some Irish fans understand this.

Many have criticized this team for not playing with emotion, including me. When they do play with emotion, win a competitive game, we question the fact that they want to celebrate? We can't have it both ways.

To suggest that Notre Dame doesn't deserve to celebrate after this victory is ridiculous and disrespectful towards the effort of both the Midshipmen and the Irish. Navy didn't give this game to Notre Dame, the Irish earned this game. Navy could've just as easily won the game, and they would've been deserving of the victory if they had won.

What you saw on Saturday was football in its purest form. Two teams slugging it out and leaving every ounce of energy on the field. One team had more talent. The other team had a scheme to try to minimize that advantage in talent. Both teams were slugging it out for four quarters--60 minutes of football--the Irish had the football last, and won.

I'm not suggesting that 3-6 is a good season. I'm not suggesting this was a well-coached game by the Notre Dame staff. I am saying that this Irish team left all they had out on the field, won the game, and that is all we can ask from the Irish players. If they want to celebrate, I see no problem with that, they earned it.

As for the staff, their job is to prepare their team for the game and give their team the proper coaching and plays during the game to win the game--they did that. Was it perfect? Far from it. Still, they did win the game, and isn't that how we should judge this staff, wins and losses?

The coaching staff didn't make Brady fall on the bootleg. The staff didn't drop the Maurice Stovall drop that killed the first drive. The staff didn't hold. The staff didn't block in the back or hold on punts and kicks giving the Middies the short field. The staff didn't get shut out on third-and-one and fourth-and-one, all of which contributed to the score being 14-10 at halftime. They probably share in some of the blame, but it wasn't completely the fault of the coaching staff.

The problem is the six losses before this game and the funk that set in on this Irish team and their fans. The Irish team might've made their first attempt to get over the hurdle and defy the funk with this win against Navy—some Irish fans seem dead-set on not even trying to get over the hurdle.

Some Irish fans are convinced the Tyrone Willingham is not the answer to restore the Irish to their rightful position in college football. I admit that there have been plenty of reasons and games to spawn doubt. Still, I'm certain that Willingham will coach this team the remainder of this year, and the next.

If Willingham will coach this team through this year and the next why not give him a chance to make the changes necessary?

Wins and losses will determine the length of stay in the big chair for Willingham—not just one win or one loss. Does Willingham deserve our support? If nothing else, we shouldn't criticize when they want to celebrate after a hard-fought victory no matter whom the opponent.

The most pleasant part of this game for me was the interview room after the game. The past few weeks have been miserable. Seeing the anguish on the faces of the Irish players was disturbing. There was no question in my mind how much this team wanted to win, they just couldn't figure out how.

They did win and we as fans should applaud that effort. Some might not want to applaud the coaching staff, but a win should allow them a week of peace. Somehow, I don't see that happening.

Yes, Navy isn't as talented as Notre Dame, but they played just as hard as Notre Dame and talent doesn't always win the football game. Clemson is not as talented as Florida State, but somehow managed to kick the Seminoles around Saturday night. The boo-birds would have something to complain about if Notre Dame had lost this game. They didn't lose the game, but I guess the complaint is they didn't win by enough.

My thoughts, in no way, are excusing Willingham and his staff for the 3-6 season so far. This team has been poorly coached in a number of games and his staff has been out-coached in a number of games. There is no excuse for that, but Willingham isn't searching for excuses, he's searching for answers--time will tell if he finds them. I'm just commenting on the game, and they did achieve what they set out to do.

I've said the first problem that needs to be fixed is attitude. I don't think we can question how hard this team played in this game. We can't be sure the attitude is fixed at this point, but we do know they are heading in the right direction.

Some have their minds made up on Willingham and they have plenty of facts to support their case. I don't question their decision. I just question the reason why they can't find any happiness in a win. Is it because Willingham coached this win? Don't we want Notre Dame to win? I'm confused…

There were plenty of things to be happy about with this win. How about the play of the best running back I've ever seen at Notre Dame? How about our young freshman quarterback leading the team on a winning drive, again? How about a healthy Cedric Hilliard and Darrell Campbell looking like the two we had hoped for? How about the play of the offensive line? How about Justin Tuck proving he can play very well against the run? How about the play of Garron Bible?

And, the most important positive, this team knew they had to play well from start to finish, and they did just that. They came out very motivated from the first whistle and played hard until the final whistle, and got what they deserved—a win.

The reality is that this team just isn't very good. We all have our theories as to why. Willingham deserves the chance to fix the problems—just as every former Notre Dame coach has had his chance. Regardless of the debate as to if Willingham is the right man for the job, the Irish did win yesterday. They won in a way that should make Irish fans proud. I'm just wondering why some can't see that…


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