Early in the season, I asked which player was going to step up and become the playmaker for Notre Dame. It is only fitting that in his final game in Notre Dame stadium, Arnaz Battle had one of his best games. Arnaz has faced more adversity than most players' face in a lifetime and through it all; he has remained optimistic and humble throughout his frustrations and successes. It's a great thing to see the good guys win once in a while.
The Irish opened the Rutgers game much like they had against Boston College or Navy. It appeared they would never get out of first gear. As he has all season, Shane Walton stepped up and sent this Notre Dame team into second gear and got the machine moving for the Irish. It was nice to see Shane make another great play in his final game at Notre Dame stadium. Both players will be sorely missed and not just because of their athletic play. Both players are the perfect example of the team leaders Ty Willingham will be looking for in recruiting this year.
In my prediction for this game, I obviously thought this team would struggle out of the gate. Notre Dame clearly struggled but came out in the second half firing on all cylinders. The Irish defense has kept them in all their games but the Irish offense finally came alive and just at the right time.
The development of Carlyle Holiday has been very impressive. Holiday continues to gain confidence and when this staff allows him to make plays, he does. Holiday put this team on his back after halftime and responded with 4 touchdown drives in the third quarter while throwing for 270 yards and 4 touchdown passes for the game. Holiday threw a number of balls yesterday that you only see guys playing on Sundays throw. The guy is a winner and a leader and you aint seen nothing yet. Mark my words, Holiday is going to be remembered as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play at Notre Dame.
It's a shame that Gerome Sapp had to miss his final game at Notre Dame stadium. Gerome Sapp has been one of most consistent and better players on this Irish team this year. It would have been nice to see Sapp give Notre Dame fans one more look at his bone-crunching hits but his replacement (Garron Bible) filled in nicely for him. Gerome is another good man playing football and he will be missed as well.
The Irish will miss starters Jordan Black and Sean Mahan next year. They could also be missing Jeff Faine as well. This offensive line hasn't performed as well as I think they can on a consistent level but when they need to step up, they have. One thing I like about this offensive line is the fact that when push comes to shove, they will shove you back. Many "experts" are going to be talking this week about how Notre Dame cannot beat USC. I am certain that this Irish offensive line is going to be pushing back next Saturday. This is the type of game that brings out the best in the ND offensive line.
The Irish did struggle to run the ball again this week. Ryan Grant still looks to be hurting but he continues to work through his injuries. The Irish are very lucky to have Ryan Grant. Notre Dame will need to have more success running the ball next week to have a chance to beat USC.
Overall, the Irish responded when they had to. When this Irish staff takes the handcuffs off Carlyle Holiday, he always responds. The cuffs will have to be off all game next week. Notre Dame is going to have to count on Carlyle Holiday to have one of his best games against USC. They are going to have to an outstanding effort in the trenches on both sides of the ball. If we see the 3rd quarter team we saw yesterday, the Irish can beat USC.
I find it sad that this season has to end. I wish players like Battle, Walton, Ryan Roberts, Jordan Black, Sean Mahan, Gerome Sapp and Tom Lopienski could have one more year. Many other seniors have contributed to this season as well. These players are clearly winners and I wish they had more time to put it all together. I don't want the season to end because I have enjoyed watching this team more than any Notre Dame team in recent memory. I will enjoy it quite a bit more with a win against USC. Come on guys, let's see that magic just one more time because I can't stand (but always respect) USC.