Notre Dame — college football’s perennial disappointment — has done it once again. In a game of ridiculous penalties, boneheaded play-calling, and an ending that involved a mysteriously disappearing two seconds that prevented Notre Dame from running a final play (one of the many blown calls in the game), the Irish have once again let down the expectations of a fanbase that is starting to have an interpersonal emotional connection with Boston Red Sox fans, especially when considering the consistency of agony the team perennially causes.
Looking only at the box score one would think things went pretty well for the Irish. In a head to head comparison by position Notre Dame dominated the stat lines:
Clausen (ND): 25/42, 336 yards, 3 TD 0 INT
Forcier (UofM): 23/33, 240 yards 2 TD, 1 INT
Allen Jr. (ND): 139 yds, 1 TD
Minor: (UofM): 107 yds, 1 TD
Floyd (ND): 131 yds 1 TD
Mathews (UofM): 68 yds 1, TD
In addition to Michael Floyd’s big game, his counterpart Golden Tate had 115 yards and 2 TDs. In short, Notre Dame had its way with Michigan the entire game, thrashing their defense, and containing their offense. And yet somehow when the final gun fired, the clock showed zeros and the Michigan Wolverines were victorious, 38-34.
However Michigan was able to squirm out of this game with a victory, the repercussions from this debacle in Ann Arbor will reverberate all the way back to the outstretched arms of Touchdown Jesus and sound like a death-gong in the hallowed chamber of the Golden Dome. After three years of top 10 recruiting classes, Charlie Weis has shown once again that he is incapable of translating his “genius” on paper into success on the field.
Ty Willingham’s abhorrent recruiting is no longer an excuse. These are blue-chip players Weis is losing with now, and they are his hand-picked players. This loss should more than seal his fate with the always impatient, restless, and powerful alumni, if not yet with the administrators of the athletic program.
In any case, this game proves that if Notre Dame is ever going to return to an elite level, they need an elite coach. Weis may be a very good offensive coordinator but he shows no signs that he has made any progress in handling the head coaching position. This was most evident when, with two minutes and some-odd seconds left Weis, instead of running down the clock with Armando Allen (who rumbled over Michigan all day), chose to throw the ball… twice. This — after an Irish punt following the two incompletions – allowed Michigan to get the ball back with 2:13 left; more than enough time to drive down the field and score a touchdown, securing the game. All because Weis — the genius — was too "smart" to run down the clock. Coaches can only be held responsible for so much but unfortunately for Weis, knowing when to run down the clock falls into that category of responsibility.
Some rivalries like Ohio State/Michigan and Auburn/Alabama have more hatred involved between the two teams but in many ways Notre Dame/Michigan is the greatest rivalry in all of college football. Two of the most historic, prideful, and tradition-laden programs in the sport, these teams, regardless of their rank, are titans of the college football world. Their rivalry spans the full spectrum of time in a battle for the right to be called the greatest program in the history of the game.
For Charlie Weis to take such a talented team into Ann Arbor, dominate the game so thoroughly, and then to lose to a freshman quarterback is inexcusable. The game will be remembered in the history of this rivalry for the emergence of freshman Tate Forcier as the first big win at Michigan for RichRod (although I’m still not convinced he fits there), and possibly as the death knell for Charlie Weis in South Bend.
Otherwise, for fans, it is simply the further deflation of a once proud program, a feeling that Irish fans have grown far too accustomed to.