South Bend: In the end the Fighting Irish season and hopes for a national title shot on Saturday came down to a 4th and 11 with time running out.

Cool as you like, Heisman contender Everett Golson found his receiver in the back left corner of the end zone and the Irish powered past the 13th ranked Stanford Cardinal for a three-point victory 17-14.

It was fitting, given that it was the Keough Naughton Irish Institute weekend at South Bend, that it rained like the bejaysus and the cold wind had even brass monkeys covering up.

But the freezing rain hardly seemed to matter in these final moments as the old echoes reawakened in the stadium and another, possibly historic, last second drive began.

It is easy to love college football. The players are amateurs, sure a handful will make it professionally, but they are playing for the pride of their college

The intensity at Notre Dame games is infectious. South Bend would be a one horse town without the Irish and it is the ultimate college town. Tens of thousands stream in for every home game. The Sudanese taxi driver told me his high school son was besotted with the football team. He fled famine in Darfur, but It is all in on football in South Bend.

The winters are hard, the bright lights of Chicago are 95 miles away and there is precious little to root for if you are not a Fighting Irish fanatic.

You have to hear the music of Notre Dame, says Don Keough, former Chairman of the Board of the college, and founder of the Keough Naughton Irish Institute.

He is right, and you never hear it more loudly than on game day.

But unlike how it works at a lot of colleges, the Holy Cross fathers are desperately serious about academic achievement. It is rated consistently in the top twenty colleges in America, Its football team has a 99 percent graduation rate – highest in America.

It exemplifies for me the best of the Irish Catholic tradition: open, curious, devoted to social justice and the betterment of people.

And of course the football team.

It was throwback time at the old stadium, the Irish coming back after seemingly facing definite defeat as the clock ticked down.

It is why sport is so compelling. There are clean plot lines, definite outcomes, heroes and goats all packaged for a perfect Saturday afternoon’s entertainment.

Sport doesn't come better than when the Irish win, especially at home.

But the college wins in so many other ways besides.

Watching the The Fighting Irish win takes some beating.