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State of the Irish: Four Years in the Making

Jan 16, 2013, 10:21 AM EDT

Notre Dame Media Relations student workers at the BCS championship. From left: Andrew Bartolini (Me), Rose Kavanagh and Lauren Chval.

And I am back, back for one last post to reflect on my journey over the past four years with Notre Dame football.

It all started in the basement of Alumni Hall on the first night of freshmen orientation perfecting the lyrics to the fight song, the alma mater and the other Notre Dame cheers. To this day, I always default to “Go Irish! Beat Wolfpack!” just like all of my classmates. That game against Nevada was perfect. Michael Floyd and Jimmy Clausen played remarkably well as Notre Dame won 35-0.

Another memorable game from my freshman season was against Washington in the rain. It is funny to think back to our goal line stands during the game as a foreshadowing of sorts to the number of goal line stands that would take place in my senior season.

However, that season didn’t end very well and Brian Kelly replaced Charlie Weis as a new era of Notre Dame football began.

I was initially excited about the Kelly hire until I journeyed with five relatives and friends to the New Meadowlands Stadium for the Navy game, in which Notre Dame was handily defeated. That game didn’t leave me with a good feeling about the direction of the football team. However, my faith in Kelly returned with the impressive winning streak to end the season. The highlight of the year was our victory over USC. I was unable to watch the game, but when I found out we won my reaction was priceless. I vowed then that I wouldn’t miss another Notre Dame football game on TV again. Therefore, it is no surprise that this year I journeyed back to Notre Dame a day early from Thanksgiving break so I could watch the same match-up. This time the reaction was once again priceless, but for an even more important reason!

My junior year began against South Florida and my anticipation for that season was unquantifiable. My expectations took a hit after the first game though as the season did not start off as planned. The South Florida game will always be remembered for the two thunderstorm delays, which made the day even that more bizarre. Last season will always be known for its turnovers and could best be described as a season of growing pains. The team had gotten better but still couldn’t put everything together.

That all changed when the team started this season off in Dublin. It was an early wake-up call for all of the students at Notre Dame. My morning started with pancakes made by several generous souls from Keough Hall – they ended up making thousands of pancakes for all those who watched the contest near Keough. The game was played perfectly and we cruised to victory. The first home game wasn’t as easy as Tommy Rees had to close the game for the Irish. That is when the special season truly began.  The following weeks were highlighted by Manti Te’o‘s inspired play against Michigan State and Michigan. The Irish then handled Miami in Soldier Field. That was when I knew we had a shot at doing something big this season. We were on a roll and College GameDay was coming to town. We had the epic stop against Stanford and Manti’s celebration in the rain. From there we defeated BYU and set the stage for the biggest showdown since I had enrolled at Notre Dame. The Irish stormed into Norman and behind Cierre Wood’s early gallop and Manti’s thunderous hit against Landry Jones, the Irish left Oklahoma with something few depart with – a win.

The magic continued in Week 9 as the Irish survived the heart-wrenching three overtimes against Pitt. We took care of the Eagles of BC and the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest at a very emotional senior game. I will always remember the multitude of leis that were waved throughout the student section when Manti ran through the tunnel for one last time. That night as we huddled in our dorm rooms, we first watched as Kansas State fell and then as Oregon was defeated. Chaos ensued and the campus erupted. The Irish were #1. The party continued after the Irish defeated USC behind yet another goal line stand. Unfortunately, the season did not end as we had hoped, but it was a special season nonetheless.

As I recap my last four years, I can see images of all these games flash through my memory. And as I type and re-experience the memories of this season, I cannot help but smile. We have been on a crazy train, but I wouldn’t trade anything for it. Through it all – from the opening game against Nevada to the closing game against Alabama and all the games in the middle, it has been a celebration – a celebration with my closest friends and family in laughter and tears. Four seasons ago we entered as classmates and now leave as family. That is Notre Dame. We are Notre Dame.

  1. a68domer - Jan 16, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Great Blog! And, thanks for not dwelling on the bowl game. Reminds me of how my Freshman year started with Ara’s first year – the final game of that year was also forgettable. We were in for a great ride then, as we all are now. GO IRISH!!

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