Notre Dame's 34-20 loss to Ohio State yesterday was a bitter pill to swallow for Irish fans, but probably a fitting end none the less.
In recent Bowl games the Irish have been blown out, proven they didn't belong, and embarrassed at game's end. But that didn't happen in this game, although there many signs the game was heading that way.
But that is why Irish fans should find some peace with this loss. The team didn't quit, like previous teams had, and they came back and made a game of it. They didn't back down, and they finished the game with pride.
It was clearly obvious early that Notre Dame didn't have the horses to line up with Ohio State on Monday, but guess what, not many teams do. Ohio State is clearly one of the three best teams in the country, and don't forget that nobody thought the Irish would be here in the first place.
The "experts" picked Notre Dame to start the season 0-6. We knew that wasn't going to be the case, but not many Irish fans were picking a BCS berth, either.
Now, we have some departing seniors, some coaches and the rest of the team to thank for getting to Notre Dame back to being a top 10 team. As hard as this loss is to accept, and as much as we'd like to place blame, it would be a shame to not give some credit where credit is due.
A number of Irish players, good men, all of them, deserve a little thanks instead of being bombarded with the negative. The entire team bought into what Charlie Weis was selling, and we got to celebrate in their hard work. We should thank all of them for making the 2005 season a season to remember.
I'd be lying to say I'm not disappointed. I'd be a fool to say I'm not concerned with how easily Ohio State exploited the Irish defense. I'd also be remiss to not point out that Notre Dame's offense didn't exactly set the world on fire on Monday, either. But I'd also be disrespectful for not at least thanking those coaches and players that got the Irish there in the first place.
Notre Dame showed what kind of team they are on Monday. They're a top 10-15 team trying to knock on the door to the top 5. But they also showed how big of a gap there is between being a top 10-15 team and being one of the best teams in the country.
Notre Dame will need to recruit more talent to become an elite team again, and Monday's game proved that. But all signs certainly point to that happening with this next recruiting class almost finished, and the one shaping up for 2007.
Happy days are on the way Irish fans. We know it just as we knew this Irish team was going to surprise a lot of people this year. Let's remember to enjoy the ride while it lasts.