Notre Dame football disappoints loyal fan base

Notre Dame Football Article

Notre Dame football. You either absolutely love it or you absolutely hate it. There is no in-between. Fortunately for any Irish fans out there, I identify with the former group, so sit back, relax, and get ready to read a very, very, opinionated column. First off, I think that I should state my opinion on Notre Dame, which is that they are the best team in college football. I don’t care if someone beat them 50-7; I would say that Notre Dame had a bad day and that the other team, let’s say Alabama for this example, got lucky. That being said, if Notre Dame is the “best team in college football,” why do they have a losing record? To most Irish fans, Notre Dame’s 4-6 record comes as quite a bit of a shock, as the squad had high expectations at the start of the season. Most tend to point fingers at the team’s defense, and rightfully so: Notre Dame’s defense has proven to be one of the worst in college football. However, this isn’t the only issue plaguing the Fighting Irish. While the lack luster defense is most certainly the primary factor in this season’s dismal performance, a lack of spirit and the inability to win close games also contribute its fair share.

Without a doubt, the most evident reason for Notre Dame’s poor season is their terrible defense. The unit allowed a whopping 371.5 yards per game (remember that Notre Dame doesn’t play in the SEC – this statistic comes from playing soppy teams such as Michigan State (3-7), Syracuse (4-6), and Duke (4-6)). In addition, even though Brian Van Gorder, the Defensive Coordinator, vowed to implement an aggressive game plan, the Irish have ranked 74th and 75th in sacks during the last two years, and 54th and 76th in tackles for loss. After the Irish’s third loss, an embarrassing 35-38 defeat to Duke, Brian Kelly, Notre Dame’s head coach, admitted that change was in order.

“When you’re 1–3 at Notre Dame, changes are going to be made,” said Kelly.

Kelly held true to his word, as immediately following the game, Van Gorder was fired. The decision came as no surprise, as many believed him to be at the root of the team’s defensive struggles. However, this was certainly no quick-fix to the plight of the team, as they gave up 33 points in their win versus Syracuse the very next week. While many would agree that Notre Dame’s defense has been significantly improving throughout the remainder of the season, Kelly still believes that the unit is lacking in fundamentals.

“Making a play on the ball,” said Kelly. “Making a tackle. I mean, this is not rocket science what we’re talking about here.”

Another issue contributing to Notre Dame’s disappointing season is their inability to win close games. Every single game that Notre Dame has lost this year has been decided by 8 points or less (they’ve all been 1 possession games). In general, and in contrast to the defense, the Notre Dame offense has been regarded as an elite force in college football, led by junior quarterback Deshone Kizer. However, many have pointed out that this “elite” offense seems to stall when it matters most: in the 4th quarter and in overtime.

“We need to be a team that goes out, starts strong, maintains that same strong start throughout the whole game and then finish as strong as we started,” Kizer. “And I think we’ve gotten in our own way a little bit a lot this season coming down to final drives or coming down to getting a stop when we needed to.”

Lastly, Kelly has pointed that he believes one problem with the team is a lack of spirit among the players. This comes as quite a shock to the fan base, as Notre Dame has a long history of being one of the most spirited programs in college football. Yet, Kelly would care to disagree.

“There’s no passion for it,” said Kelly. “It looks like it’s hard to play; like we’re pulling teeth. ‘You’re playing football for Notre Dame.’ It looks like it’s work. Last I checked they were getting a scholarship to play this game. There’s no fun. There’s no enjoyment. There’s no energy…. We’ve got to look for the guys that want to have fun and play this game with passion and energy and that’s where we’ve got to go.”

But fear not fellow Irish fans, because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Kizer is quickly evolving into one of the most versatile quarterbacks in the NCAA (let’s hope that he decides to stay for his senior year), and behind him the possibilities for our program are endless. Also, with a steadily improving defensive system, young players that are slowly adapting, and a fresh set of top recruits, Notre Dame is poising itself to be a playoff contender for years to come.

“Nobody is happy with losing football games,” said Kelly. “But I know there’s guys on the horizon here that are going to play really good football for us in the foreseeable future. They’re coming on. It’s just going to take a little time.”