Oct 25, 2012, 9:21 AM EDT
Tomorrow afternoon, Notre Dame heads out to Norman, Okla. in preparation for one of the unique match-ups in recent college football history. The Fighting Irish will meet the Oklahoma Sooners for the first time in 13 years, renewing a series that has a short, but rather significant past.
Rightfully so, we have a very special guest contributing to this week’s Irish Blogger Gathering.
Most people know Rev. Edward Frederick Sorin, C.S.C. as the founder of the University of Notre Dame. Sorin arrived on 524 snow-covered acres in northern Indiana way back in 1842.
Though he passed nearly 120 years ago, heaven must have a pretty good wi-fi connection, as Sorin spends a good portion of his time tweeting and blogging his insightful, and often quirky commentary on Notre Dame athletics.
Get ready for a special Saturday night (8 pm ET on ABC), but first, enjoy Father Sorin’s take on my questions about ND vs. OU.
Quarterbacks…quarterbacks…quarterbacks…. It’s been the discussion since week two and I have a hard time believing this week will be any different. Will Everett Golson will play every offensive snap against the Sooners? What do you expect to see?
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.” Tommy Rees and Everett Golson have shown, over the first half of the season, that each contributes to victory in his own way. Tommy finishes games very well, and Everett can open a contest with explosive energy. Tommy stands stock-still with great distinction, while Everett moves. Yet, when Everett has faltered, Tommy has always risen to the occasion. And when Stanford broke Everett’s head, Tommy not only completed the game with glorious results, but he also started and finished the next week’s match. Before the BYU game, I told fans that instead of griping about young Rees, we should be immensely grateful that our backup had extensive starting experience. Then I sat through the game…
Which serves to illustrate my very point: To everything there is a season, and a time for each quarterback on the team. Everett has played extraordinarily well away from Notre Dame Stadium. He is healed, rested, and ready. He will start against Oklahoma. Should he need to be spelled, Tommy can run the show for a few downs. This same system worked really quite well for an older gentleman named Lou Holtz in the year 1993. You may have heard tell of his modest successes that season.
Like muscles in the body, Everett and Tommy have been working in a complementary manner quite effectively. Brian Kelly recognizes that, and therefore will play Everett for as long as the lad is productive on the field. If necessary, (but only if necessary) Coach Kelly will deploy the slightly more limited, but significantly more steady and predictable Tommy. A character named Skip Bayless once commented that, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” I disagree; I prefer to quote someone a bit wiser who said, “There are many parts, but one body.” It will be Everett’s show in Oklahoma, but if he really needs it, Tommy will give him a hand.
Put yourself in Brian Kelly’s shoes. You’re ranked fifth in the country, but many people still aren’t sure if your team is a legitimate national title contender. Win on Saturday, and avoiding the noise becomes much more difficult. At the same time, you can’t psych yourself out on the big stage. What do you tell your team on the cusp of the program’s biggest road game in a decade?
This isn’t a pilgrimage – it’s Oklahoma. They lost the last time they played the Irish, and in fact have lost all but one game against the Irish. They even lost to the Irish when a 47-game winning streak was on the line. And they lost that game at home.
This is the arena, but not the lions’ den. We’re gladiators, not victims. We can expect one hell of a fight. They are the #8 ranked team in the country, after all. But we’re #5 – and that’s not a grossly-inflated opinion of self. Many intelligent, objective analysts have come to that conclusion, as well as some inveterate no-Irish-need-apply bigots. Hence, we are certainly a daunting match for Oklahoma, if not just a bit better.
This is not the Heavenly Jerusalem. It’s Norman. It will be loud and intense, which will serve to keep us alert and on our toes, but it will not intimidate us. This is just one game smack-dab in the middle of the season. It is merely the most recent obstacle to the championship. We must win this game. But make no mistake, this is not the championship.
We have won by big margins, and we have won by small margins. We have won comfortably, and we have won on the very last play, on the very last inch, after the very last second in regulation had expired. We have won with masterful play, and we have won despite a performance riven with mistakes. But we have won every game this season…and Oklahoma has not.
It’s been 46 years since Notre Dame last visited Norman. Bob Stoops has called it the most anticipated home game for the Sooners since facing #1 Nebraska in 2000. The Irish are 7-0 for the first time since 2002. ESPN is sending Fowler, Herbstreit, Corso & co. The game will be in primetime on ABC. There are a multitude of reasons why Saturday is a huge game. I’m going to leave this one a little open-ended. What are your thoughts on the game at Oklahoma? Any requests for the Notre Dame fans making the trip? Words of encouragement for the boys in blue & gold?
I believe we will win. But, then again, I’m in the belief business. I like the fact that this particular game will be on the road. That makes for fewer distractions and greater concentration for the team. Recalling once more that fine old Holtz gentleman – the last outstanding general to lead our troops – he racked up an impressive winning streak comprised entirely of away games, while simultaneously dropping a few at home. We have nothing invested in Oklahoma (does anyone?), and so our players need to focus on resting in their hotel, preparing at their practice, being inspired by their fans, and winning. Neither our campus, nor our image, nor our spirit are on the stage being judged. We have just one driving concern: Winning.
Our fans will be outnumbered. Like the Lord, Notre Dame alumni are everywhere; but there are not that many in Oklahoma, and even fewer will be favored with one of the 82,112 seats in the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (who…ever…decided to name a football stadium…) What our fans will lack in numbers they will have to make up in volume and visibility. The commandments are simple: Wear nothing Cream or Crimson (not at all difficult, unless you’re Santa); and cheer loudly from start to finish. Our team must hear, and will hear its loyal sons and daughters even among the thousands of frenzied farmhands.
And isn’t it quaint that one more team in this great country considers Notre Dame’s visit to be the pinnacle of its season – nay, its last decade and more. It’s an honor to be that irrelevant. Now let’s not repay the compliment by giving Oklahoma a legendary memory to cherish for ages.
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