Nov 18, 2012, 7:17 PM EDT
Who would’ve thought Nov. 17, 2012 could have gotten any better?
The Irish had already trounced Wake Forest, honored 29 seniors in a spectacular sendoff, and proven they could dominate an opponent at Notre Dame Stadium.
But that was only the beginning.
For one night, Notre Dame fans rallied around Baylor and Stanford, cheering on the Bears and Cardinal in the hopes they might take down #1 Kansas State and #2 Oregon.
While the Fighting Irish cruised to a win, the Notre Dame faithful were glued to their television sets, flipping back and forth between ABC (Stanford vs. Oregon) and ESPN (KSU vs. Baylor) for much of the evening.
In the biggest surprise of the night, the Bears dominated, winning 52-24, ending the Wildcats national title game hopes, and knocking Collin Klein from his post as the Heisman frontrunner.
At the very least, Notre Dame would be second in the country – in the driver’s seat for a trip to Miami.
What we had all hoped for – a chance.
But then it got even better.
In Eugene, Ore., the Cardinal shut down the high-powered Ducks offense, but after Stepfan Taylor fumbled in the fourth quarter, it appeared Oregon might escape with its 11th victory of the season.
But Stanford tied the game with less than two minutes remaining, and after an Oregon field goal bounced off the goal post in overtime, Jordan Williamson hit a 37-yarder to pull off the upset.
In less than an hour, the championship hopes of the nation’s top two teams were shattered.
Amazing. Notre Dame was about to be ranked #1 in the nation for the first time in more than 19 years.
Students rushed to Stonehenge, alums packed Finny’s and the Backer, and fans across the nation celebrated like it was 1993 again.
And when they checked the news on Sunday morning, it wasn’t just a dream.
#NotreDame No. 1 in USA Today Coaches’ Poll with 56 of 59 1st place votes. Irish No. 1 in AP poll with all 60 1st place votes.
— Brian Hardin (@NDHardin) November 18, 2012
Irish are #1 in AP poll for 1st time since Nov. 14, 1993 (after win over #1 Fla. St.). Irish are unanimous #1, with all 60 1st-place votes.
— John Heisler (@NDHeisler) November 18, 2012
As is tradition when any Fighting Irish team is ranked first nationally, the 8-foot-tall #1 sign atop Grace Hall was lit on Sunday evening. The sign was originally placed outside Moreau Seminary after the 1973 championship football season.
In recent memory, it had been lit to recognize the national championship fencing and women’s soccer teams, but perhaps never has the 11-story building been more in the spotlight than tonight – with the Fighting Irish football team standing alone as the only undefeated team in the BCS standings.
All feels right in the sports world.
But there’s still work to be done. Beat SC.
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