MORRISSEY: Notre Dame’s perfect scenario still intact
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org November 17, 2012 11:48PM
Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood had 150 yards on 11 carries in the Irish’s 38-0 rout of Wake Forest. | Michael Conroy~AP
Updated: December 19, 2012 4:03PM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — OK, God, this is only going to add to the certainty of Notre Dame fans that you have conferred most favored university status on their school.
First, the undefeated Fighting Irish require less than a half of a football game to wipe out overwhelmed Wake Forest.
Then, USC loses to UCLA, which means undefeated Notre Dame will face a depressed Trojans team in its regular-season finale. If that’s not enough, USC loses quarterback Matt Barkley to what is believed to be a shoulder injury.
Finally — and this is where the divine intervention talk will move into flat-out silliness — Baylor upsets BCS No. 1 Kansas State by the ridiculous score of 52-24, and No. 2 Oregon loses to Stanford 17-14 in overtime.
When the next rankings come out, Notre Dame will be No. 1 in the country, with a clear path to the national championship game.
Don’t you think that’s a little much for one Saturday, Big Guy? I mean, at least you spread creation over six days.
Well, OK then. With its 38-0 spanking of Wake Forest and the craziness that ensued around the country, Notre Dame has everything it could ever want right in front of it. The only thing standing between a 12-0 record and a spot in the title game for the Irish is USC.
Notre Dame fans probably see intelligent design in all of this. Has a season ever played out so perfectly? The Irish performed well when they had to against good teams. They did just enough to win when they played poorly, the three-overtime victory over Pittsburgh being the best example. It has been a charmed life for a very good football team, and there’s no reason to think it will stop. That’s how perfect records come to be.
A victory over USC, and the Irish will take their spotless season into the BCS title game.
After this victory, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly reminded his team that he had voted it No. 1 in the country in the most recent coaches’ poll. Not for kicks, he said, but because he believed it. The man looks like a seer now.
He won’t have to stoop to coach-speak anymore, won’t have to tell the players to concentrate on the next game and not beyond. The next game is the only game.
“Our guys know what’s at stake now,’’ he said. “This is about an undefeated season.’’
This game was an exercise in making sure the Demon Deacons got out of the way. They were in Notre Dame’s way from the moment they boarded a plane in North Carolina, and they would have been better off if TSA officers had stopped them on a technicality. Something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, you’re only allowed one carry-on item — either a bad offense or a bad defense, but not both. Consider yourselves grounded.’’
“I can’t imagine anybody, from what I saw, playing any better than Notre Dame,’’ Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said.
The Irish led 21-0 a little more than 10 minutes into the game. At halftime, it was 31-0, and quarterback Everett Golson had a career-high 317 passing yards. He also had three touchdown passes. Cierre Wood had 104 rushing yards. Did I mention the second half hadn’t started yet?
Trust me, by that point, Notre Dame already was thinking about the trip to USC.
There will be no questions about the Irish’s readiness.
“It’s the last game, so we want to play our best,’’ nose guard Louis Nix III said.
A perfect ending played out for linebacker Manti Te’o on Senior Day. It was the star’s last game in South Bend, and Kelly was good enough to call a timeout in the fourth quarter to give the seniors and the crowd the chance to acknowledge each other.
“Just magic,’’ Te’o said.
That’s how it was, a celebration with a promise of more good things to come.
As the game ended, the public-address announcer at Notre Dame Stadium had one request for the team: “Beat SC,’’ he yelled to a like-minded crowd.
Beat SC and finish the regular season undefeated. Beat SC and bring Notre Dame back to where it used to be, so many years ago.
“Not only is it the last game, it’s a game where we can actually do something — take this program places it hasn’t been in a long time,’’ Te’o said.
Long into Saturday night, you could hear the anti-Domers sighing as one, “Oh. God.’’