Can we still do this?
The final line for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS the Florida State Seminoles was set at 7 points. When it was at 8.5 points it felt like an insult. How can the line be this close when these two programs seemed so far apart?
Notre Dame has won over 40 games over the past 4 years, and has not lost to an unranked team during that entire time. Even though the Irish had plenty of players to replace from last year’s playoff team, a lot of us were comfortable in what the Irish would eventually put on the field.
And then the 4th quarter happened.
The first half looked every bit of the 2019 game against Louisville that I refused to acknowledge would be a thing in this game. Florida State hit on some big plays despite floundering on most of their other plays, and the Irish offense looked uneven after that initial touchdown.
The third quarter proved to be quite different as the Irish went up 38-20 after three consecutive touchdowns — with two of the touchdowns coming after interceptions from Clarence Lewis and Kyle Hamilton. There was a feeling of relaxation that an 18 point lead with a quarter to go was more than enough to finish the game with a win.
It, of course, was not. The Noles actually drove down to the 2 right before the 4th quarter, and then punched it in for the score. The 2 point conversion was successful, and then it got uncomfortable with a 10 point difference.
The Notre Dame offense made some mistakes — sure — but it was the Irish defense that was getting gashed and gassed throughout the 4th quarter that eventually forced this game to overtime. Despite a couple of really bad officiating calls, Notre Dame still had enough luck in them for Mike Norvell to call a timeout to “help” his kicker get a closer shot in overtime as Fitzpatrick drained a 50 yarder. The shorter field goal went wide left, and Jonathan Doerer was able to win the game with a 41 yarder.
Notre Dame wins the game, but Irish fans seem a bit frustrated. This game looked more like the 2016 Texas game, and no one wants to bring 2016 up. Part of that reason was defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s incompetence. But here we are with Marcus freeman’s defense in 2021, and it’s feeling much of the same but with a happier result.
Winning is hard, and that’s a fine mantra to live by — but have we moved on from that statement? Don’t we expect more? Should we expect more? Outside of a loss, this definitely wasn’t the performance Irish fans wanted to see on Sunday night.
So that sucks and everything, but did this game against FSU need to have any deeper meaning than the win? With it being the first game of the season and on the road, don’t we have to mark it down as a win and move on? Notre Dame didn’t open at home against a MAC school (that’s the next game) so the blending of all of the newness to this team wasn’t quite as easy.
You have to give credit to FSU as well as they put up a hell of a fight. With all of the transfers and their own improvements across the roster, who’s to say that they didn’t improve greatly from what they were last year? The general sentiment that I got from onlookers is that the Noles really ARE better than 2020, and I share that view. Shouldn’t that make this game a little easier to swallow? What if FSU wins 8 or 9 games tis year? Shouldn’t that make this win a lot better than just “an escape” from a wild one?
The answer to most of those questions is YES. It’s fine — even if you don’t want to admit it. A win is still a win, and it’s win number one in week one. We don’t have to put blinders on and be ignorant of the improvements needed, but with homes games against Toledo and the Purdue Boilermakers coming up, Notre Dame has a chance to improve upon the things that got them in trouble against FSU — things like tackling, angles, pass protections, and the rest of the list.
It wasn’t the win we all wanted, but it was still a win, and it was a win that didn’t diminish them as far as the national media is concerned. In week one, you can take that.