As ugly as it got last week in the media and on Notre Dame message boards for Tyrone Willingham, he might've just made his life even more difficult with this victory over Michigan. The victory leaves to question, who is the Notre Dame team?
The frustration many Irish fans have felt lately, I believe, is they think this Irish team is capable of what they did on Saturday, they're just not sure why they don't see it more often. Consistency is what this Irish team has lacked for a very long time.
When ESPN mouthpieces ran their drivel about Notre Dame not having enough talent to play with the best teams in the country, the die-hards at Irish Eyes knew they had the talent, they just were not showing their talent on the field.
The Irish have played slow lately, they haven't played with intensity, and they haven't played with that never-say-die attitude that all the great teams have, until Saturday.
So why has that been missing? What has been the key ingredient missing? Confidence. Confidence is the key ingredient on any winning team.
The Irish lost their confidence last season, in a 38-0 pounding by Michigan, but they took it back in this game. They bullied Michigan back and took what was theirs.
Another key ingredient that has been missing since the 38-0 beating, I believe, is execution. With confidence, comes execution, it all boils down to confidence and execution.
I think the perfect example of what I mean happened early in the fourth quarter of this game. The Irish were up 21-12 and driving to put the Irish ahead for good. Walker for seven: first down. Walker for 10: first down. Walker for 13: first down. Walker for 6!
The Irish offensive line took over the game at that point, executed at a very high level, and made the vaunted Michigan defense look like Swiss cheese. It was a sight these sore eyes have been missing for far too many games.
But wait, quarterback Brady Quinn fumbles, ending the drive.
I saw who I think was offensive line coach Mike Denbrock explode onto the field in total disgust because he knew how critical this drive was, not just for the game, but for confidence in the future. All that positive momentum was lost do to one miscue.
And so it goes for the Irish, moving the ball, executing at a high level, only to shoot themselves in the foot. To be a great team, you have to stop shooting yourself in the foot.
This Irish team has an outstanding defense that could rival 2002's unit. The secondary could still be a question mark, but the confidence the defensive backfield must've gained in this game will help them tremendously in the next 9-10 games.
They've found at least one playmaker in Darius Walker on offense, and this Irish offense has other playmakers as well—some we haven't even seen emerge. But to get these playmakers to make plays, the entire unit will have to execute, and most importantly, buy into this system.
The table has been set and stakes for Willingham and this Irish team have been raised with this Irish victory, whether they like it or not. They've shown they can play, and defeat, at least one of the best teams in the country.
And now Irish fans would like to see that happen on a consistent basis.