The nation's best offense managed to produce 104 yards on the ground and 57 through the air. The nation's 109th ranked offense exploded for 335 yards on the ground and 112 through the air. The final score, Notre Dame 21 Air Force 14.
The score should not have been that close. While they absolutely dominated this Falcon team on both sides of the ball, mistakes hurt this team. For the first time, this Notre Dame team lost the turnover battle but had enough athletes to win the game.
The Irish could have fumbled 20 times if they did it on the Air Force side of the field. Chance Harridge is a gamer but he had little chance to make any impact on this game. The Irish defense left zero doubt about their worthiness. They stuffed the Falcon offense and hit Harridge with the force of a freight train on every play. The game plan was to take Harridge out of the game, mission accomplished.
Ryan Grant rushed for a career-high 190 yards. Arnaz Battle had his second consecutive 100-yard receiving performance gaining 112 yards through the air. Holiday bounced back after struggling throwing the ball in the first half completing all 8 passes to Arnaz Battle for 112 yards. The offensive line was opening huge running lanes for the backs. We finally saw the offense make a team pay for blitzing their linebackers with middle screens to Battle. This was the best offensive performance of the year. They just forgot to hang onto the football.
I don't know about you but when this Irish defense comes onto the field, I smile. I honestly smile, giggle, and even laugh because I know what is coming. Can you imagine how much fun Coach Baer is having with this unit? Can you imagine how much fun it must be to play on this defense? From Air Force's second possession, I knew this team had little chance of creating a solid drive for a field goal, let a lone a touchdown. This Irish defense plays with a passion that I have not seen anywhere this year. I am just not sure anyone can beat this Irish defense. Notre Dame might lose a game or two this year but I don't think this defense will be beaten this year.
What needs to be said more than anything is we saw a well-prepared team. This team is always prepared to play. Notre Dame fans used to fear night games, road games and games against ranked teams. We really feared night games that were on the road against ranked teams more than anything. I don't think we should worry about this team being prepared for a game anymore. I think this team will always be prepared to play and will played focused and disciplined football. They might not play well but they will be prepared.
This team came out on a mission. "Leave little doubt in the minds of Air Force and the rest of the country. You want your respect, you have to earn it" appeared to be the message. Beating Air Force will gain Notre Dame very little respect nationally but the Falcons respect Notre Dame, I can assure you that. I am more excited about the focus and the attitude this team came to play with than the way the offense or defense played. Attitude is so vital and something the Irish lost a few years ago. That swagger is back and this team has a confidence that only championship teams possess. They might not be championship quality but they sure think they are and that is half the battle.
This win will change little in the minds of the media. I don't even know what this win means. Is Notre Dame that good? Is Air Force that bad? I really can't say yes to either question. I don't think Air Force was that bad but I don't think they were a top 15 team either. Notre Dame fans know little more than we did before we played this game. What is interesting to think about is what IS the question? Is the question "is Notre Dame a top 10 team?" Might it be, "can ND go 12-0?" Or maybe even "can Notre Dame play with Miami?" What about "can Notre Dame beat Miami?" I can answer the first two with a yes, the second with a maybe and last with I doubt it but check back after a few more games. I know this much, I never expected to be wondering about these things.
I hope the media continues to doubt this team. I doubt this team wants their respect right now anyway. I think they want to continue to serve up the proverbial "dung sandwich" and have all these blowhards take their well-deserved bites. Keep picking against this Irish team. Keep doubting their talent and their will. I never expected them to be here either but I recognize talent, heart and desire and this team has it. I keep saying they will be very difficult to beat and sooner or later the media is going to recognize this. The only people that did expect them to be here are this Notre Dame team. You will have to excuse me now; I need to do some more "booty shake." I just can't quite get it down like Shane Walton yet.