When Shane Walton stepped in front of a Chris Kelley pass for his third interception, every single bit of frustration was washed away to be forgotten forever.
This was a big game for this Notre Dame team. A team that has known they have the talent to play with anyone in the country. They have shown this talent in many games such as Tennessee last year. They just couldn't get over that hump. They have remained one or two plays away for the last 5 years. Doubt has been erased, frustration and bitterness forgotten and now it's time to focus on winning. It's time to stand around the bonfire and watch the label of "no talent" wither away. What a nice change to feel good about yourself again.
There are so many stories worth mentioning in this game. The debut of Tyrone Willingham as the new head coach at Notre Dame. The first look at this new west coast offense. The first look at this very good defense. The record 5 field goals by our "Rock" in Nicholas Setta (what does a guy have to do to win a MVP?). The fact that Notre Dame finally won a road game at night against a Nationally ranked team. What I want to focus on is the players themselves.
The media has forgotten the young men who played the game. Nobody is happier for Coach Willingham than I am. I have already admitted that I am a Ty stalker and I have great admiration for the man. What the media has failed to recognize so far is the effort, determination and desire of this Notre Dame team. I can't imagine what this win must have felt like for them.
When I watched this team play last night, all I could do is smile. I saw Arnaz Battle finally get the damn ball and man what he can do with it when he has it in his hands. I saw Carlyle Holiday erase every bad thing ever said about him and prove that an "option" quarterback could throw the football. I watched a Notre Dame secondary that has been picked on for the last 5 years stand up and say "you better not throw it here because we are going to take it away from you." P>
I saw an offensive line struggle but I also witnessed a unit refuse to give up and a unit that made the plays they had to. I witnessed the future at linebacker in Brandon Hoyte and what a linebacker he is going to be. I witnessed almost flawless special teams and I watched this team converting third downs. The two most important things I saw out there was leadership and fun.
I saw a lot of fun out there last night. This team was having fun playing football again. It has been so long since I have seen a Notre Dame team having fun playing football. I really believe this is going to be the biggest factor in turning this thing around. This team has been beaten down by the previous coaching staff, the media and yes us, the fans. Leadership has made them believe in themselves. Leadership has picked them up and told them they are winners. Leadership has given them the game plan to be successful and patted them on the butt and said, "go out there and have fun again."
I think it's time for the Notre Dame fans to pat these players on the back as well. Winning is contagious and it's time for the fans to do their part in this new era of Notre Dame football. It's time for you to show up at the pep rally. It's time for you to give those words of encouragement as you see a player walking by on campus. It's time to line the sidewalk as these players walk from mass to the stadium. It's time to greet the players after they return from a road game. Most important, it's time for you to CHEER!
If you want to help this team, you have to do your part. NOISE is your part and a lot of it. A simple "fantastic game last week" is your job. The pep rally is your part. Celebration after a road game or home game is your part. If you want it to be fun again, participate in it. Let's make Notre Dame stadium the most feared place in college football to play.
I don't want to discount the leadership. This team was very well prepared. They didn't turn the ball over and that is amazing for a first game. This staff is going to put Notre Dame in position to win a lot of football games this year and in the future. I can honestly say I have not been this excited about a Notre Dame team or coaching staff in a very long time. I want to give credit to Ty and his staff for giving Notre Dame fans and more importantly this team the faith that they will give this team the chance to win.
The players play the game however and it's time for Notre Dame fans to give them credit. It's time to show your support of their efforts on the field in the stadium, at the pep rally, during the walk to the stadium and after the game. It's too early to say if this team and staff are going to accomplish their goals. It's time for the fans to do their part and help them accomplish those goals. It feels fantastic to be a Notre Dame fan today. Let's let this team and staff know that.