Why I can't write the easy story


I stayed up too late last night. Working on three hours of sleep, I didn’t leave the stadium until 10:00pm, trying to get some work down and slugging through the Five Things We Learned. Even after trying to wrap this game up with the Good, Bad, and Ugly, I’m still struggling with the defeat.

But that really isn’t it. Last night, as I tried to rally and meet some old friends out in South Bend for a final night on the town (Friday should’ve been enough, trust me…), everyone I talked to felt the same way: absolutely spent. So instead of Corby’s or the Linebacker, or a trip down memory lane to Finnegan’s or Coaches (or whatever they are called now) it was a restless night watching extra inning baseball and 2:00 a.m. MSNBC investigations from the year 2000. (Lester Holt did some fine work on his Hollywood Vice episode.)

So I fired up the laptop last night and did some reading. And man, I really wish I didn’t.

There is nothing worse than reading the post-game blatherings of some people. Message boards, chat rooms, blogs, national columnists, it doesn’t matter the size of your audience if you’ve already framed your thesis and simply want to jam your opinion down people’s throats.

Yesterday’s game only had two true outcomes: Notre Dame wins or Notre Dame loses. Yet you’d think that this Notre Dame team and coaching staff lost a 32 quarter football game to the Trojans after reading some people’s opinions.

Whether it’s the rantings and ravings over in the morbidly negative Rock’s House, or the lowest hanging fruit bash job by a guy who spent more time hobnobbing during the game than actually watching it, it doesn’t matter if you hide behind a moniker or spend an hour a day on national television, it’s utterly disappointing when people make up their mind before the team ever steps foot on the field.

That’s why I can’t write the easy story today. That’s why I’m not throwing around stats and facts that make Notre Dame’s recent averageness look even more mediocre than it really is. Make no mistake, the Irish have not been an elite team for much of the past 15 years, but I struggle to place the blame of others on  a group of athletes and coaches that haven’t had much to do with that.

For those who pine for the days of Rockne and Leahy, or even Ara and Lou, I’ve got a message for you: Those days are over. In today’s college landscape, it’s just not possible to monopolize the football world and win them all. Notre Dame isn’t the only mecca, it isn’t the only favorite son. (Especially with its own sons lobbing the largest hand grenades.) And while you’ll point to USC or Florida, I’ll give you a tip of the cap and say you have a fair point. Then I’ll also point out the mind-bending losses to Stanford, Oregon State, and Washington for a recklessly arrogant group, or ask you how Florida will be without a transcendent player like Tim Tebow, or if you’d be happy with a rap sheet than involves over two dozen players that have been on your roster.

There are people that want Charlie Weis to fail so badly that they’ve given up on being objective and simply want to find ways for him to get him out. (I’ve seen arguments spring up already about the hypothetical two-point play Weis would’ve surely managled.) And while those people will point back to Weis’ own words (9-3 just isn’t good enough), or his inability to get past big opponents, they are largely ignore the facts that this football team is improved.

Last year, I wrote something similar, but the gist of it is still the same. Firing a coach is serious business, and a move that wipes out momentum in recruiting, player development, and team confidence. And when you’ve got players like Robby Parris, Golden Tate, Jimmy Clausen, and a defense that was shredded for much of the day all stepping up during crunch time to rally the team, you’ve learned enough about the Irish that even in defeat that they will give their all for their head coach.

It’s easy to look at this as a black and white issue. Win or go home. A loss is a loss. Eight straight just isn’t good enough.

I just can’t seem to do it.

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

@NDFootball Twitter

DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend



Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.


Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

Tom Loy, Irish 247

Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.