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Final game prompts nostalgia from seniors

Justin Tardiff | Friday, November 18, 2005

Within the walls of Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, amidst a sea of people who overlook a sea of gilded helmets, thousands of seniors will bid farewell to a tradition cherished for four years – but memories made under blue-grey skies won’t be as fleeting.

“Despite feeling bittersweet about it being the last game, it’s going to be really awesome reminiscing about four years of football – even if two of those years weren’t so good,” senior Dan Tudesco said. “You can’t really be too sad when you’ve gotten up at 8 a.m. and had a great time with your closest friends for 24 Saturdays of your college career.”

Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff against Syracuse will mark the beginning of the end for nearly a quarter of Notre Dame’s undergraduate student body. Seniors said though they are excited for the game, football nostalgia has already begun to set in.

“I have my usual excitement heading into the game, but along with that is a sadness at it being the last game,” senior Nick Plantan said. “I’m not ready to be done standing in the student section for every game.”

Tudesco said some of his own sadness has been offset by the apparent resurgence of the football program this season.

“It’s nice to see the future seems more certain than when we got here,” he said. “Even when we started 8-0 as freshmen, I never got the sense it was going to last – the luck was going to eventually run out. I’m jealous that the current freshmen have three more years of great football to watch.”

Tudesco said his “hat is off” to head coach Charlie Weis – and other seniors agree.

“I’m very glad that I was lucky enough to be here for Coach Weis’ first season,” senior Chris Bodington said. “There were a lot of exciting games I was able to attend, in particular the USC game. Even though we lost, it was still an amazing game – one that people won’t forget for a long time.”

Many seniors said the Irish’s performance against USC – in tandem with their overall success this season – has helped appease feelings of melancholy that will accompany Saturday’s home closer.

“Coming in with [former coach Tyrone] Willingham was great, because everyone was excited to be having a winning season,” senior Amy Larek said. “Going out surrounded by the same excitement and optimism is a nice close to my senior year football season.”

Bodington said he is already looking ahead to a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game.

“Though it’s sad that this Saturday is already our last home game, I’m looking forward to going to a bowl and watching Notre Dame win its first bowl game since the 1993 Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M,” he said.

But before the Irish and their faithful look ahead to January, seniors said they will make this weekend’s game as memorable as possible.

“For the first time, I’m having a tailgate with my dad,” Tudesco said. “It’ll be nice to celebrate the last game with someone who has been such an important part of me being here.”

Plantan said he plans to wake up “earlier than usual” so as to cherish every moment of his last home football experience as a Notre Dame student.

“I’m going to … spend the whole day hanging out with friends tailgating [to] make the last game last as long as possible,” he said.

While seniors will spend the weekend in reflection, the University’s newest generation of Domers said the winning season has primed them for three more years of Notre Dame football.

“This football season has been everything I could have asked for, and way more than I expected,” freshman Brad Blomstrom said. “We’ve witnessed close games, blowout wins and the stadium has been full of energy.”

Freshman Kyle Lee Andrews also said the season was “a lot more than [he] expected.”

“After the past few years this is a great change,” he said. “The games are so much fun and all of my friends at other schools are jealous. This season is making me very excited for seasons to come – next year should be amazing.”

Students said though the season’s excitement will dwindle somewhat with the arrival of the Orange – who have clenched just one win this season – they are not disappointed with Saturday’s opponent.

“They’ll be looking to salvage their season, and I doubt they will just roll over for our BCS hopes,” Tudesco said.

Bodington said Notre Dame home games are always an enjoyable experience – “regardless of the opponent.”

“I’m not really disappointed we’re ending the season with Syracuse because we’ve already been lucky to see exciting games against Michigan State, Southern California and Tennessee at home,” Blomstrom said.

Andrews said he anticipates a good game, but the only thing he knows about the Orange is that their record this season “isn’t too hot” – much like the weather forecasts that predict a blustery atmosphere Saturday.

Plantan said he hopes the winter weather will continue through the weekend.

“I want it to snow on Saturday,” he said. “I’ve hoped for a snow game for all four years I’ve been here and it hasn’t happened yet. I think it would be cool for some snow to fall.”