Looks like the Irish are a lil bit lucky (with a fair amount a pluck mixed in) after all. The team overcame tremendous obstacles this season to reach college football promised land: a college bowl birth.
Notre Dame’s success this season seemed murky as the team found itself in a 1-3 start with little hope of postseason play. The Fighting irish managed to finish the season 7-5 and ended on a high note by rattling off three straight wins.
Brian Kelly looks back on how the Irish started off on the wrong cleat and managed to salvage their season. Kelly commented" You look back at the 1-3 start. How'd we play after that? We stubbed twice (Navy and Tulsa) where maybe we shouldn't have, but our kids never blinked. They kept playing hard. They kept competing. That's why we are where we are."
Usually considered the Achilles heel of the team, the defense defense really came through and stepped up thanks to the new system invented by first-year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. The Notre Dame defense showed remarkable improvement over the course of a year. The Fighting Irish total defense leaped from 88th to 55th in the nation from 2009 and 63rd to 33rd in scoring defense. Against Tulsa, Utah, and Army the Fighting Irish did not let up a touchdown in 13 straight quarters.
The defense has a heart and soul by the name of Manti T’eo who played against USC in spite of a broken nose last weekend. T’eo’s 123 tackles rank him 13th in the nation in that category. Also he has more than 40 tackles than any other Notre Dame player.
Injuries plagued the team this season. If you were going to tell me at the beginning of the year that The Fighting Irish would lose their starting QB Dayne Crist, TE Kyle Rudolph, and RB Armando Allen and make a bowl game, I would ask them if their punch were spiked. Sublime receiver Michael Floyd (73 receptions, 916 yards, 10 TDs) helped fill the gaping holes in the newly instistued spread offense along with phenom Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees (905 yards, 63% completion percentage, 10 TDs) and serviceable RB Cierre Wood (522 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 2 TD). The Irish have the leg of gold in kicker David Ruffer who has made 34 of 37 extra point attempts and is perfect in field goals going 15 for 15 including his career long of 50.
The Irish were also distracted by off the field incidents this season. Notre Dame recruit, Matt James, was killed after falling from a Florida balcony on spring break. Another tragic loss occurred several months later as team videographer Declan Sullivan fell to his death on a tower that collapsed in 50 mph winds. Recently a female St. Marys’ student committed suicide ten days after allegedly beings sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player.
The Irish, under first year coach Brian Kelly, have not only survived but thrived. The words of Sir Elton John have never rung more true here. “I’m still standing. Yeh. Yeh. Yeh.”
The team looks at a garaunteed invitation to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando to be played on December 28th against North Carolina State most likely according to sources.
The Irish have more bowl options however.
The Fighting Irish can play in bowl games that do not have qualifiers from its conference affiliations. The Pac 10 have three qualifiers (Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona). for six bowl games they have deals with. Oregon and Stanford are definitely in BCS bowl contention including one of the two in the Rose Bowl. Therefore it frees up space for Notre Dame to appear in one of these games as the Pac 10 only has one qualifier for five games at this point.
Therefore Notre Dame is eligible for The Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (Dec. 3oth, San Diego, CA), Hyundai Sun Bowl (Dec 31st, El Paso, TX), MAACO Las Vegas Bowl (Dec 22nd, Las Vegas, NV), and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (January 9th, San Fransisco, CA). There is a strong potential for a Notre Dame vs, Miami, FL game in El Paso at the Hyundai Bowl.
It will be the team’s 29th bowl game and first since a win over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl in 2008. The team could use some more luck in their bowl game as the team is 1-9 in their last 10 appearances.
You know that wherever the Irish end up they will not take their opponent sitting down. "We brought the fight back in the Fighting Irish” declares coach Brian Kelly.