#3 Notre Dame 38, Wake Forest 0
The 2012 Notre Dame Football team has made us all witnesses to real change. They showed us how to alter perception in the face of doubt. They showed non-believers how to win on the road against Top 10 teams. They showed the loyal faithful that they can bounce back better from in-game adversity better than their fans. Brian Kelly's third edition had silenced the critics one by one until many of the most prominent media pundits took a deep breath and declared Notre Dame "pretty damn good."
On Saturday November 17, 2012, the Fighting Irish upped the ante and put on a clinic of how to properly honor deserving outgoing seniors from pre-game through quarter number four. After all the generous gifts this band of brothers have provided their oft-negative faithful, they do us another solid in their home finale by obliterating Wake Forest and letting fans in attendance or in their cozy living rooms a chance to stand up and clap off men who have altered an entire program's trajectory. Thank you seniors. Thank YOU.
From a game perspective, it was a revelation of confidence and dominance. Many (yours truly included) genuinely believed that by naming Everett Golson the starting quarterback in August that the offense would be a more dynamic threat for an interesting stretch run toward #1 USC and their unstoppable offense. Golson tossed for over 300 yards before halftime en route to his finest day in the uniform. Not coincidentally, Cierre Wood used limited opportunities, only 11 rushing attempts, to showcase that #1 Running Back skill we've so often been privileged too. The offense was senior heavy to the crowd's massive approval as John Goodman, Theo Riddick, Robby Toma and four senior offensive linemen racked up yards and points at will up until halftime. To Brian Kelly's credit, Notre Dame could have gone for the 50+ point jugular but opted for a less glamorous end-game chance to play everybody on the roster. Well done.
For the defense and their #1 Scoring Title - Alabama took the easy road by shutting out FCS Morgan Southern Tech A&M State while the Irish kept the scoreboard clean against a Wake offense that has actually scored points on major college football programs. No asterisk for Bama but who cares - you can have stay behind the Irish in both of the rankings you so crave.
BEAT USC WEEK BEGINS!! For this Southern California native, I will relish every moment of Notre Dame's march to send the Trojans and their preseason hellahype into their own offseason of uncertainty.
In the last couple weeks after the Pitt and BC games, I wrote (elsewhere) that I thought maybe ND had "peaked" for the OU game. They seemed emotionally "spent", scraping by against two teams they should have run out of the stadium. Seemed understandable after a long season that started with a game in another country; and tough, physical wins against quality teams like MSU, UM and Stanford.
Fast forward to last Saturday, and I've learned that teams can reach their zenith more than once in a season. Let's be honest, smoking Wake Forest doesn't by itself make anyone's year. But ND beat them the way they SHOULD have beaten them: scoring 38 points, a shutout, and with the exception of one errant throw a near perfect performance by Golson and the entire team. They ran the ball, they threw the ball, they threw the ball DEEP, and their D was smothering.
Going forward, things already seem to be breaking their way. Barkley is out and USC will be starting a frosh who's thrown exactly 9 passes. Son, meet Mr. T'eo and Mr. Tuitt,. And somehow I'm not worried about them getting it up this week.
At one point, I would have felt better about beating USC if they (USC) had won yesterday, but now it doesn't really matter. I can't remember a more mentally tough Notre Dame team than this one since Holtz. Could all those blow outs have served Oregon ill? No close contests to test your mettle, to see how you respond in do or die situations? While Stanford had to slug it out in the House that Rock built do you really think they were afraid of travelling to Eugene? Will the Colosseum really be more intimidating than going to Norman? I guarantee you that SoCal'ers are not as passionate as Sooners.
Mental toughness is the calling card of this team.