There’s not a soul on earth who could try and argue that Notre Dame got anything other than steamrolled by the Tide Monday night. The Irish were beaten by a better football team. Sure, there were some iffy calls in the beginning—Tyler Eifert’s 3rd down reception in the first quarter that was ruled out of bounds for starters—but nothing short of the Alabama team not showing up after half-time would have changed the end result.
That certainly doesn’t lessen the pain of losing that all Irish fans have felt since the start of Monday’s game. And I got to see it all up close… lucky me. My second row seats in the student section that on Sunday afternoon felt like a blessing quickly became a curse, as I was forced to watch the Notre Dame team rapidly lose confidence and become the laughing-stocks of the college football world from an up-close and personal vantage point.
There’s no way to make sense of the loss other than to say that we were outmatched in legitimately every capacity of the game. Brian Kelly was out-coached by Nick Saban, who has now risen to demi-god status. Kelly was also out-play-called, making some of the worst decisions I have seen him make all season (WHY WHY WHY on 4th-and-3 would you try a bomb to the end zone??!!) Most importantly, we were out-played on the line of scrimmage, which my 8-year old brother summed up pretty well by telling me, “But Allie, those Alabama guys were HUGE… like GORILLAS!”
Granted, it did seem as if the Irish rallied a bit in the second half. They honestly seemed so shell-shocked that it probably took them that long just to snap out of their disbelief and realize that they were getting embarrassed on national television. And to their credit, if you look at the scores by each half, the second half score would have been 14-14. Unfortunately though, the final score does have to factor in the FOUR first half touchdowns that our then-No. 1 defense gave up during first 30 minutes of play.
And talk of the defense brings me to none other than our storied captain, Manti Te’o. Let me preface this commentary by saying, I really do like Te’o, I promise. But I have said for the past month that the Heisman should be handed out after bowl season. This was, admittedly, fueled by the belief that Manti would lead us to a National Championship win and then who, I ask you, would have been able to vote against him? Nevertheless, the opposite came true: he didn’t show up in the biggest game of the season. This has undoubtedly hurt his draft prospects and lost him a ton of money. Yes, Notre Dame’s defensive line-up leaves much of the brunt middle-of-the-field work for Te’o—no small task when considering the likes of Yeldon and Lacy—but he at least proved Monday night that Heisman voters made the right voting choice this season. That’s not to discredit his work throughout the regular season, but an acknowledgment of the fact that Johnny Manziel looked nothing short of fantastic in Texas A&M’s Cotton Bowl victory against Oklahoma and Manti was basically a non-factor Monday night.
In the end, though the loss was disappointing, I’m proud of this Irish team. If someone had told me in August that we would go undefeated through the regular season, go to the BCS National Championship, and get beaten by the greatest football dynasty of our time, I wouldn’t have believed it. This season has been a roller coaster ride of emotions: elation, happiness, nervousness, despair, hope, and now, disappointment. It’s been a freshman season that many people could only dream of. Though I often JOKINGLY say that I don’t get my due credit for being the one to bring the luck back to Notre Dame football (I come to campus and suddenly they start winning? Can’t be a coincidence!), I recognize that a season the likes of this one may never happen again while I am at Notre Dame, or in the years following.
Though it was a tough pill to swallow being in the stadium Monday night, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. Yes, it felt like a nightmare and yes, if I had to hear “Roll Tide” in a southern drawl one more time during that game I think I may have thrown myself off of a cliff. Yes, I even became too embarrassed to hold up my “Miami Forecast: LOW TIDE” sign after the first quarter.
But in the end, the nightmare doesn’t take away from the dream. It just gives us a reason to keep dreaming. Go Irish.