Yesterday me and "The Wayward Son" returned to Our Lady's campus to revisit the Lourdes replica grotto, the Sacred Heart Basilica and fabled Notre Dame Stadium.
The grotto and church did not disappoint.
Actually there were some encouraging signs during the game, just not enough for an Irish victory. The first Fighting Irish play from scrimmage sort of summed up the contest, if not the season. Freshman Jimmy Clausen, back as starting quarterback, threw a perfect 28-yard strike to John Carlson, who made a great catch—then promptly coughed the ball up and the Falcons recovered the ball on their own 42. But the Irish defense stiffened, forcing a Falcon field goal and for the next 27 minutes the Notre Dame "D" gave the Air Force nothing. Unfortunately the Irish offense which allowed two horrific blindsided hits to the sitting duck Clausen gave the Air Force another 7 when Notre Dame fullback Asaph Schwapp fumbled and practically handed the ball to the Falcons John Rabold who ran it in from 19 to make it 10-zip.
But the Irish offense finally came alive, with Clausen leading them first to a field goal, then to a 9-play 71-yard TD drive, capped by a 2-yard end zone grab by Carlson. Suddenly the score was tied 10-10; the leprechaun, the band and fans all came alive—only to see the 'til-then impressive Irish defense suddenly collapse. By the middle of the third quarter, the bamboozled Irish defense had given up three unanswered scores and just like that, Clausen and the offense found themselves down 31-10.
In other words, as soon as one part of the Irish team began to play well on Saturday, the other parts fell apart. When he wasn't on the turf from one of his six sacks, Jimmy Clausen (22-40 246 yds. 3TD) played well, as the zip on his sideline throws, as well as the touch on his TD tosses, caused Weis to declare, "We have found our quarterback." Unfortunately whether (weather?) due to cold hands or cold feet, too many of Jimmy's accurate passes were dropped, and although #7 led the Irish on two 7-point drives in the second half, it was not enough to win a shootout with the high-flying Falcons.
Trevor Laws (17 tackles) deserves praise on the otherwise out-played Irish defense, and James Aldridge (14 carries, 62 yds.) provides hope that the Irish running game is at least improving enough to defeat next week's likewise 1-9 opponent, Duke. But for this year's "Together as One" t-shirt slogan to not turn into "Together as One and Ten!" dirge, Notre Dame must play together as a team with offense, defense and special teams succeeding in the same quarters, if not throughout the whole game.
Yes, we will always have the grotto, the Basilica, and the Lady on the Dome. But even She must get tired of hearing her countless critics sneer, "What's wrong with Notre Dame?" If this season is indeed a death march, let it be one where we die to ourselves, so that when the Fighting Irish do indeed "Return to Glory," we will win with the humility of saints and not the braying of jackasses as so many universities do.