Jan 9, 2013, 3:46 PM EDT
Monday night did not go as planned.
Nope, it could not have possibly gone much worse.
It hurt. A lot.
Watching the Crimson Tide celebrate their third title in four years, I thought, “How could this team go out this way? How could this season end in disappointment? This was a ‘team of destiny.’ We should be the ones celebrating right now.”
On Twitter, people wrote, “The Irish probably wish Pitt had made that field goal.”
If you asked every player in the Notre Dame locker room, I bet you would get the same answer.
None of them would trade this experience. Sure, a Fiesta Bowl or Sugar Bowl appearance might have ended in celebration, rather than sorrow. But playing in a national championship game is the opportunity of a lifetime. Players bust through 5 am workouts and coaches burn the midnight oil watching film because they dream of being in games like Monday night’s.
This team began its season in Dublin, accompanied by more than 35,000 Irish fans from the States.
It won at Michigan State and Oklahoma, when few seemed to give it a chance.
It stood strong at the goal line against Stanford and USC, legendary stops no Domer will ever forget.
It reached the top of the rankings for the first time since 1993, following a spectacular Senior Day in South Bend.
And maybe above all, it made being a Notre Dame fan fun again. It exceeded the wildest expectations of even the most optimistic Irish supporters, and gave us all reason to believe our team can become college football’s king once again.
120 FBS teams began the season more than four months ago. Only two played on Jan. 7.
It took 24 years for Notre Dame to reach the precipice of a national championship. Given how competitive college football can be, how difficult it is to make it through a season unscathed, it could certainly take another 24 for the team’s return to the game’s biggest stage.
But it won’t. The Irish will be back.
Coach Kelly and his staff will learn from this game. As Louis Nix tweeted, “This bad taste will only make me work harder.”
Someday, when the Fighting Irish are celebrating, when blue and gold confetti rains down and the Notre Dame Victory March sounds sweeter than ever, we will look back on 2012 fondly. We’ll remember the players who committed to ND after 3-9 in 2007, or following that miserable loss to Syracuse in 2008. We’ll thank these coaches for their tireless work ethic and unwavering commitment to bringing Notre Dame back to the top of college football.
Perhaps, our friend Lou Holtz said it best this morning.
Notre Dame Football will grow from this season’s experience. 12-1 is a great season. Life’s about wins, losses & most importantly – lessons.
— Lou Holtz (@ESPNDrLou) January 9, 2013
The university just finished celebrating 125 years of Notre Dame football. During that celebration, 125 ‘Strong and True’ moments were featured on 125.nd.edu. Many of those moments celebrated great plays and even greater victories, but not all were Irish triumphs.
We’ll see what the future brings for this team and this program. In the next era of Notre Dame football, the next 125 years, Jan. 7, 2013 may very well be one of those ‘Strong and True’ moments, one of those lessons that helped the Fighting Irish get to where they wanted to go.
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