How long has it been since meaningful football has been played for Notre Dame Football? The answer is, eight months and three days. The Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors and Grad students have wanted to get back out on the field and right the wrong of the result of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. Winter conditioning, early spring morning workouts, Blue and Gold Game and Fall camp all lead up to the Labor Day match-up against the Cardinals.
When the Fightin’ Irish went 4-8 back in 2016, the team and Coach Kelly vowed to never go back to that dark place again. The following season the Irish went 10-3 which included a win against LSU in the Citrus Bowl. A lot of promise came out that season with the winning catch by Myles Boykin. That energy carried the Irish into the 2018 season. The 2018 season saw the Irish take their game up one gear. Going 12-0 in the regular season, the Irish set themselves up for a College Football Playoff (CFP) spot in December in the Cotton Bowl. Though the result wasn’t in their favor, a new challenge was ahead for the Fightin’ Irish, get back to the CFP and win a National Championship.
Ian Book has been the leader of this team since he took the starting spot against Wake Forest. Book doesn’t just hold his teammates to a high standard, but he holds himself accountable to the same level. Book doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. Every interview I have done with him, I have gotten the same message. “You come to Notre Dame to win a National Championship.” The entire post season Book has continued to lead the team and work with the underclassmen to get them on page with the goal of the team. Book has also figured out the science in dealing with the media. A blend of seriousness about the work to be done, along with enough humor to take off the pressure of the day to day prepping of the season.
Alohi Gilman is the most soft spoken defensive player. They say the quiet ones are the one you need to watch out for. After sitting out his sophomore season and working with the practice team, Gilman stored the energy and put it all into the 2018 season. The former Midshipmen brought the discipline that is taught at the Naval Academy. The USC game was the turning point for Gilman. That halftime pep talk was his moment of transition on this team. You never know when your moment is going to be, and he seized the day. Gilman is the leader on the defense. He knows how to get his battery mates pumped and ready and he shown that in his post practice press conferences as well. Gilman will be a force to be reckoned with on Monday night.
Khalid Kareem does not want to finish second in tackles for loss again. There is definite desire in his eyes. Kareem has nothing but praise for his battery mates. He acknowledges that there are a few teammates that are flying under the radar. His message of commitment and dedication is exactly what this team needs.
What more can you say about Chris Finke. From a member of WOPU nation, scholarship recipient, to team Captain as a Grad student. Finke has not taken the easy road during his time at Notre Dame. His moment was last season against Michigan. The TD pass that he went up for and came down with was the effort Coach Kelly was looking for. His comic relief is the polar opposite of what Gilman has on defense. His message is the same as Book’s and Gilman’s. “You come to Notre Dame and you get the chance to show the world what you are doing.”
The Wrap Up
So with the 2019 season upon us, it is time to put away the 2018 season and the pitfall of not making it to the National Championship. The 2017 team overcame the 4-8 season. The 2018 season saw a trip to the CFP and the Cotton Bowl. With a loss there is a win. This team is hungry and they are going to go on a mission to get back the CFP and win a National Championship. The important thing to remember is that Irish nation needs to have faith, this team has faith in themselves and they could use the 12th Man to get over the hurdle to win a National Championship.
Cheers and Go Irish! ☘🏈⚡