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Better than Losing

Oct 21, 2013, 12:25 AM EDT

AP Photo/Joe Raymond

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.

When I was a kid, I used to have a hand-me-down shirt from my dad detailing a certain portion of the Notre Dame-USC rivalry. It listed every score in the series from 1983 to 1995 – a stretch when the Irish went 12-0-1.

That was always one of my favorite shirts despite not having watched any of those games. Because from when I was 9 to when I was 16, Notre Dame never won a game against the Trojans, losing by an average of 24.5 points. The shirt was a reminder of a bygone era when my favorite team didn’t get obliterated by their greatest rival.

And although the Irish won in 2010 and 2012, I still had yet to witness a victory before this week. My first game came very, very close. I don’t think I ever emotionally recovered from that night. The scoreboard said 0:00 with the Irish up three, and somehow I walked out of Notre Dame Stadium with a loss.

After another close loss in 2009 and the “Crazy Train” game two years later, I still never got my win. I wasn’t asking for a 13-game unbeaten streak and a new T-shirt here. I just wanted a win.

If you read my blogs with any semblance of regularity, you know I’m not one to automatically cheer for an ugly win. And Saturday’s game was about as ugly as they come.

But this week I don’t care. There were parts of the game (defense) to be positive about and others (offense) to be concerned about. I almost always view Notre Dame football with a long-term perspective, but when USC comes to town, it’s just about those three hours.

Because this was my last USC game as a student. You only have the two, and Crazy Train doesn’t populate my favorite memories. When I remember this game, I’ll remember the defense, I’ll remember my last game against the Trojans in the student section. And I’ll remember the final score. When I get a new shirt detailing a new decade of dominance, the only thing from 2013 that will matter will be 14-10.

Up until last year, I always said 2005 USC was the best I ever saw Notre Dame play. It was a sardonic statement about some of the game I’d witnessed but also a testament to how epic that game was.

Saturday was far from the best game I’d seen in Notre Dame Stadium. But I felt a whole lot better walking out of Rock’s House than I did eight years ago. Winning, you know. It’s better than losing.

  1. jakearvey - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    Immediately after the game I felt like I’d been through a Hitchcock movie–I could breathe again. It was almost like two games–two nice scoring highlights in the first half, then what seemed like a long slog of defensive stops in the second. I suppose the long slog aspect came from realizing, after each time we stopped a series, that we’d have to do it again and again. That we did is a tremendous testament to defensive team play.

    The next morning, at my dad’s in Long Beach, IN, we watched “Knute Rockne, All American” on TCM. Apart from enjoying the 1940’s shots of the same campus I’d walked across the day before, I recalled that several of Rockne’s iconic victories were low-scoring, close contests. Apart from the results, I know little of what went on in those games. So you are right about what just about everyone will remember: we won; and that is the best feeling after any ND-USC game.

    PS: Nice meeting you at the ndn ‘gater Saturday (kbyrnes).

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