A victorious Notre Dame season: So close, yet so far

The difference between genius and goat is 21 points. That is the total margin that Notre Dame is away from an unbeaten season as they head into Stanford for the final game.

Charlie Weis has admitted he's gone, but it must be tantalizing for the coach to realize he was on the cusp of extraordinary success – yet it has all ended in abject failure.

His team never lost by more than a touchdown and given some Irish luck rather than bad luck they could conceivably be unbeaten.

21 points is one bad blow out game. Yet it is the margin over five losses that Notre Dame lost by.

In each case they could have won. It might have taken a Joe Montana but the games were all there for the taking. 

Let’s go to the videotape. They lost to Michigan 38-34 – a game they should surely have won but they conceded a touchdown to a freshman quarterback in the dying moments.

One clean hit and the game was theirs. If Weis doesn't call for two passes and instead runs the ball with a three point lead and just over two minutes left, Notre Dame almost certainly wins.

Next loss was to USC by 34-27 – their heaviest of the season. A missed extra point and a stalled final series when they were camped out on the USC five yard line ended in a missed pass from Clausen after his target slipped. Better time management and kicking that extra point and they win by a last second touchdown.

The loss to Navy was perhaps the most galling. If Jimmy Clausen avoids that sack in the end zone in the final six seconds we go on to win that game.

Likewise against Pittsburgh: an illegal chop block forces Notre Dame back on its heel as Clausen is going for the winning drive. Then an insane call on a Clausen fumble ends the game.

Against Connecticut the team loses in double overtime despite having sprinted to a 14-0 lead. Again so near and yet so far.

A different outcome at a critical moment in each game and Notre Dame is heading to Stanford for a showdown and a crack at a national championship.

Still, as Bill Parcell has pointed out, your record is what it says it is. Its 6-5, and we're not going to any bowl game if Stanford beat us.

For Weis, so near and yet so far.