Heading into Saturday I don’t think anyone was unaware of how important the game against the Golden Bears would be for the Irish. Regardless of whether we went to bed last night having experienced a third loss in as many games, or a win. It was going to be a pivotal game in this young season. As the first half came to an end I was sure it was going to be the former. Drew Pyne looked completely out of his element, the line was not doing him or the backs any favors, and the defense despite giving up only ten points, felt as if they would be unable to hold Cal enough for the offense to have a chance. If for the remainder game it continued similarly we would’ve been in rough shape today. It would be safe to say a lot of people would’ve started thinking about next season, and freaking out about how far Notre Dame’s recruiting class would fall in the rankings. The only thing left to do for a lot of fans would be to figure out if one or more of the staff is the right person for the job.
Thankfully this scenario was avoided for now. In a way that we had yet to see this season this team punched back. Unlike last week, when Cal made a move Notre Dame had an answer. Now this by no means was a perfect half. The offense still struggled to get things going at times and the defense was unable to lock down a not very great offense. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows yet but, this team responded. When things were looking ugly they found the will to win. Which in my opinion is an underrated thing, and it is more difficult to achieve sometimes than people may think. When a team lacks the will to win, you go out and do things like losing your hope opener to Marshall. If you continue to struggle to find it, you have seasons like ‘07 and ‘16. As I stated previously we avoided these thoughts even if only for a brief moment. The question now is, can this team hold on to that fire and not let it go the rest of the season? That way they can start to answer the questions we have about this team.
Holding that on to that will to win will not carry them all the way through. Plenty of games coming up will require much more than heart to win. The good thing is I don’t think we’ve had to question the talent on this team. We have enough talent to beat most teams. What seemed to be lacking was what I mentioned before AND execution. And despite a much more productive second half on both sides of the ball. The execution is still not anywhere near where this team wants to be. In the second half, the line started to get a push, more of a push than the first two weeks at least. Allowing this talented room of running backs to start getting downhill. This opened up the short pass game and allowed Pyne to gain a bit of confidence, which he majorly needed. Granted this was against Cal, but believe it’s a good start. Especially considering we are now operating without our starting quarterback. I believe it gave Tommy Reese and company a blueprint to work with so that this offense can score enough to give this team a chance. Defensively there are still wrinkles that need to be ironed out but I’m willing to be patient with Golden. This was a good starting step. They will have a chance to expand upon these improvements against North Carolina before the bye week. Hopefully, by then they will have enough answers and still be able to utilize the bye to its fullest extent before the trip the Vegas.
We are all fans of Notre Dame and/or other teams, but the reason why we love college football is because of the insanity. This weekend had some absolutely wild moments all around the country. So can we talk about how nuts this game was? First off, we open this game after a loss to Marshall, and immediately your backup quarterback looks completely inept. Getting pressured, missing wide-open receivers, fumbling snaps. Then on top of that, we get an unfiltered clip of Tommy Reese tearing into Pyne, cussing him out about how everyone’s counting on him. Then after that, he fumbles and Freeman starts going after I’m pretty had as he comes off the field (all justifiable in my opinion by the way). I felt awful for Drew. I truly did not think Angeli would be an improvement, but I was screaming to throw him in because I did not want Drew to have to continue to go through this. Luckily he and the offense were able to respond in the second half. Then after some back and forth we get to the final minute. Note Dame punts to Cal with just over a minute remaining in the game. Why am I recapping this part? WE WON THIS GAME THREE TIMES! I am by no means questioning the calls, they were all valid. But my lord my heart couldn’t take it. First, we think we seal it with an interception (finally!). Then that gets taken back due to targeting occurring before the intervention occurred. But then after a few plays, we once again get our first turnover and take it to the house, and we cover the spread. But no, his knee was down and it would be grounding most likely anyway. And finally, on a hail mary heave to the endzone on the final play, Brandon Joseph tries to go for that first turnover again which gave Cal a shot to catch it on the ground. To say my heart stopped for two seconds would be an understatement. I felt like I fully died and saw the other side. After shaking off how distraught I would’ve been had he caught that catch. I couldn’t help but laugh and get enjoyment out of how insanely nuts this sport is. Especially since it was to get Freeman his first W.