Final reflections

SOUTH BEND -- It's high time to put Notre Dame Stadium in the rear view mirror and start looking toward Colorado. But since the Cougars and Irish are on a schedule that sees them battling each other only once every 109 years it wouldn't be right to put reflections from South Bend into the dustbin of history just yet.

So here are a few that stand out.

Reflection No. 1: Notre Dame Stadium is an impressive edifice from the outside. But what gives with the backless, high school-quality wood benches that serve as the seats? Also, there's no Jumbo-tron replay screen or any of those little boards highlighting key offensive and defensive statistics. Tradition is fine and well, but when your program in pulling in multi-millions of dollars it seems like a natural to include some of the basics we view as a birthrite in the Pac-10.

Reflection No.2: Sammy Moore will be forever remembered for his acrobatic TD catch that sent the game into overtime. But there was another Cougar whose work against the Irish was other-worldly: Sophomore punter Kyle Basler. He booted the ball seven times, averaging 42.1-yards per kick, and dropped in two things of beauty that his special teams mates were able to down inside the Irish five. He had another punt that also was a work of art, traveling in a perfect spiral for 47 yards down the right sideline, effectively giving dangerous Vontez Duff no chance at a return.

Reflection No. 3: As much as I've always fancied the idea of WSU simply being referred to as State, I grew weary of the notion Saturday, when Notre Dame's PA guy called the Cougars "State" about three-dozen times.

Reflection No. 4: Notre Dame Stadium's ushers and ticket takers are the nicest in the land, bar none. On three different occasions as I walked to my seat I was greeted with a "Welcome to Notre Dame" or "Enjoy your day." To top it off, at game's end one of them let me, my dad and brother onto the grass -- and then offered to take our photo next to the goal post.

Reflection No. 5: Consecutive top 10 finishes and a 21-5 record coming into the game apparently wasn't enough to win WSU the respect of South Bend residents. The reader board at the nearest Arby's predicted a 31-7 Irish victory while the Century 21 office on Ironwood Road declared a 27-10 outcome.

Reflection No. 6: Notre Dame fans know how to tailgate. The merriment started at 7 am (6 1/2 hours before kickoff) and was going strong at 9 pm, some three-plus hours after Nick Setta kicked the game-winning field goal.

Reflection No. 7: WSU is well represented at the College Football Hall of Fame, located in downtown South Bend. For starters, there's a glass-encased tribute to CouGreat Jason Hanson, the NCAA record holder for longest field goal without a tee (62 yards) and most career treys from 50 yards or more (18). Rien Long, the reigning Outland Trophy winner, is feted with his jersey and a color photo. And, of course, three legendary Cougars are enshrined in marble there: Mel Hein, Turk Edwards and Coach Babe Hollingbery. Two other former Cougar head coaches --- A.A. Exendine (1923-25) and Forrest Evashevski (1950-51) are also enshrined but not as Cougars; Exendine as a player at Carlisle and Evashevski as a coach at Iowa.

Reflection No. 8: I was curious about the squib kicks the Cougars used repeatedly at Notre Dame and presumed it was to preclude any chance of the vaunted Duff getting a head of steam. Turns out WSU kickoff man Graham Siderius is having trouble getting the ball to the endzone, so Doba says they'll stick with the squibs for the time being.

Cougar linebacker Will Derting has been named Pac-10 defensive player of the week for his 12-tackle, three-sack, one-forced fumble effort at Notre Dame. He had nine solo tackles and spent much of the afternoon making life tough for Irish QB Carlyle Holiday. This is the second time he's been named conference player of the week, earning it a year ago against Nevada.

"No amount of makeup could have camouflaged the eyesore that was the first half of the Irish season opener. But then, as anyone who witnessed Notre Dame's 29-26 overtime victory of Washington State would attest, football beauty is beyond skin deep, measured better by function. By the end of the game, the Irish functioned pretty well." -- Avani Patel, Chicago Tribune

"Daddy, are you getting grumpy?"
My seven-year-old daughter, Alexandra, watching the game at home, posed that query to me on my cell phone in South Bend about 30 seconds after Derek Curry's fourth quarter interception of Matt Kegel. My response: "How'd you know?" Her retort: "Because the Cougars are having a hard time." Talk about a great kid -- so committed is she and her equally special little brother Ryan to the crimson cause that they refused on Sunday to try on the adorable Notre Dame shirts I couldn't resist getting them.


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