Notre Dame: Love Thee?

Sometimes it is rough being a Notre Dame fan. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Sometimes it is rough being a Notre Dame fan. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Rarely do I feel genuine anger. Sure, I often joke around and dramatically feint as though my anger is real, but the feeling of being truly mad is something I seldom experience. Just the other day, someone told me that I was a “kumbaya kid” who seemed to float around the world in a state of “calm intellectual zen.” So, being this apparent bastion of tranquility, something has to be truly excruciating and unbearably stupid for me to get genuinely worked up over it.

Enter the 2016 college football game between North Carolina State University (NC State) and the University of Notre Dame: the single most unbearable three and a half hours of my life. I developed a lifetime of nightmares and hypertension from this game, becoming so genuinely mad over it that I drafted up a college application essay which pointed out what Notre Dame’s football team did wrong… I planned on sacrificing my chances of admission into Notre Dame just to tell the university how utterly inept their showing in a relatively meaningless football game was.

This begs the questions: What was so bad about this game?

For one, I actually had tickets to see the game in-person, yet I was rendered unable to go by the ingenious foresight of my father, as he thought it unwise to go see a football game in a freezing hurricane (the day’s weather). While reflecting on it years later, I obviously believe his decision was the right and responsible one, but as a younger kid, missing out on my yearly pilgrimage to see a Notre Dame football game was the end of the world to me: a truly apocalyptic event which I would never recover from.

This inability to attend the game in-person only added onto my prior frustrations with Notre Dame’s 2016 season, as a seemingly super promising and talented team had suffered an early implosion, losing to Texas, Michigan State and Duke on the road to a disappointing 2-3 record. Thus, they came limping into this game, having already gotten on my bad-side by ruining what was to be the year Notre Dame finally wins a national championship.

While the circumstances surrounding the game were horrible, watching the actual football itself was torture, only inflaming my prior frustrations. Sure, the use of the word “torture” may be hyperbole on my part, especially when it refers to the act of watching football on a Saturday afternoon, but then again, here I am a little over six years later, writing this article as a sort of catharsis to deal with the trauma I suffered as a result of watching that grotesque excuse for Notre Dame football.

For starters, the game was a real barn-burner, with Notre Dame losing the herculean struggle by a score of 10-3, with NC State’s winning touchdown coming as the result of a blocked-punt. While watching your team lose because of a random punt in the fourth quarter is certainly maddening, this is simply just a small piece of the puzzle.

What is truly frustrating about this game was Notre Dame’s then head coach Brian Kelly’s playcalling. In my 19 years of life, I have never seen someone “perform” with such ineptitude at their job, as Kelly decided that it was smart for his quarterback to throw the ball 26 times in the middle of a legitimate hurricane.

Why, Brian Kelly? What led you to this decision?

A hurricane is typically not seen by a head coach as an invitation to suddenly run an “air-raid” style offense, as the high winds and strong rains of a hurricane render visibility low, the ball slippery and wet and route running hard. Thus, one typically comes to the conclusion that they should keep the ball on the ground…

But no, Kelly, in a moment of undeniable genius, decided that he would catch NC State off-guard by defying this conventional wisdom, choosing to throw the ball in what he surely envisioned would be a sort of “gotcha moment.” He firmly held the belief that by having Deshone Kizer, the leader of a below average 2-3 football team, throw the ball during a hurricane, something I may note no college football quarterback had truly ever proficiently done,  he could win the game using the “element of surprise.”

As you could hopefully put together due to the fact that Notre Dame only scored three points, this plan was not a smashing success. Kizer finished the day 9-26 on passing attempts, tallying up a boxscore breaking 54 yards and one interception. It was maddening to sit on the couch and watch Kelly continue to say “Let’s try it again!” after each failed pass attempt went predictably off target due to the raging hurricane. Why continue to try and do something which clearly did not work? Why not hand the ball off to your former Heisman candidate running back Josh Adams? Why not run behind your nationally renowned offensive line? More importantly, why were none of Kelly’s assistants pulling him aside, and whispering in his ear, “Hey big guy, I think it’s time we switch it up a bit?” These questions plagued my young mind, as I screamed at my TV screen, watching Kizer line up in the shotgun and drop back to pass for the 31st time. It was genuinely maddening to watch Notre Dame fall into the same trap over and over again, trying to reinvent the wheel after having seen such a reconstruction’s impossibility not but moments prior.

I believe I witnessed an institutional failure that day, seeing one of the most storied programs in college football (who, it should be noted, plays for a school known for its intellectual prowess), suddenly collapse in upon itself with stupidity. At the core of all of this lies a valuable lesson that Notre Dame fans have been screaming for years: run the ball!