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Return to the Student Section

Sep 1, 2013, 1:41 PM EDT

(PHOTO:AP/Joseph Conroy)

Craig Chval, the official 2013 football beat writer for the Strong & True blog, is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Over the course of the year Craig will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and previews of each game. You can follow Craig (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBloggers (they will begin tweeting later this week).

Now in my 16th season of attending Notre Dame games, I’ve been in a pretty diverse smattering of locations inside Rockne’s House – from the top row of the upper bowl to the field seats in the north endzone. I’ve been in the visitors’ section (for the Bush Push game, no less), in the press box and on the sideline. I haven’t made it to the gold seats yet, but one can dream.

In true Rashomon style, every section delivers a different perspective on the game, and the least reliable is the one I’ve called home since 2011. It’s hot, cramped, sweaty, loud, obnoxious, tiring, joyous, frustrating, glorious, and – most of all – fleeting.

The first home game of the year is always the most interesting for the students. The freshmen don’t really know what to expect (or what they’re doing with the chants). Many of us upperclassmen personally witnessed the end of last season in Miami, waiting insatiably for the vindication that only this season can bring.

And for those first five minutes, what a vindication it was. Six offensive plays, 164 yards and two touchdowns. Between cries of “Tommy for Heisman,” the feel of a blowout was in the air – the kind we had been awaiting for the last 8 months.

When the blowout never really came, students stopped searching for a redeemed 2012 team and started connecting with the 2013 one. It’s easy to think of this team as an extension of the one that went 12-1 last year – the team the students declared their own through thrilling, cathartic victories over Michigan and Stanford.

Yet Saturday was the beginning of a new journey, and it became more and more apparent as the game went on that this isn’t 2012 anymore – for better or worse. As fresh faces like Amir Carlisle and Jaylon Smith make their mark, this team will continue to make a name for itself, independent of 2012’s memorable run.

And on a certain level, I think a lot of the students started to realize that. Over the course of the game, I heard questions about unrecognized numbers on the field, about new plays and schemes (hello, pistol!). The students don’t want to just watch this team – they want to know this team. They want to know when their dormmates are in the game, and cheer when they make a tackle.

The student section is certainly not perfect. The freshmen have a weird obsession with starting the wave (seriously, stop it), everyone stands on the bleachers for no apparent reason and you’ll get the occasional question asking what “third down” means.

But as I noticed the bond forming between the team and the student body, I couldn’t help but feel proud to be a part of it. Twenty years from now, none of us will probably have a great recollection of this fairly nondescript victory over Temple. But in our painfully short time in this frustrating, annoying, wonderful section, we will remember our fellow students, and we’ll remember this team.

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