The scene was set for the all too familiar. Notre Dame, highly rated and coming off a gigantic victory, was ready to choke away its season.
Kyle Brindza left four points on the board. Both Tommy Rees and Everett Golson threw mind-numbing interceptions. Notre Dame’s vaunted rush defense gave up 172 yards to Ray Graham. Add in Cierre Wood‘s goal-line fumble in overtime and Irish fans couldn’t help but remember catastrophic collapses of the years past.
But somehow the Irish escaped.
Trailing 20-6 in the fourth quarter, the Irish rallied almost in spite of themselves. Golson captained the improbable comeback, making magical plays while still clearly learning on the fly. Notre Dame’s defense stiffened, forcing a chip-shot field goal that looked like a moral victory but turned into a crucial stop.
And when Kevin Harper’s 33-yard field goal sailed wide right in double-overtime, the Irish finally took advantage of their chances and ended the game thanks to the legs of Theo Riddick and Golson.
Notre Dame certainly didn’t help their chances or convince voters that they deserve to be in the National Championship game on January 13th. But they survived the scare of the season, pulling a victory out of the clutches of certain defeat, and cashing in some of that luck that used to be associated with the team in South Bend.
At a time of year where style points matter, the Irish earned none. But this football team was never going to win any beauty pageants. And thanks to Golson’s heroics, the defense stiffening and some good breaks, the Irish are still alive.
Notre Dame is 9-0.