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Fans bummed by outcome, but still faithful

Patrick Cassidy | Monday, September 18, 2006

Notre Dame football – and its fans – underwent what many commentators called a “reality check” as Michigan rolled into South Bend and walloped the Irish 47-21 Saturday.

The team’s runaway victory over Penn State did not prepare students for the Michigan outcome. Senior Paul Jacobs called the performance “sloppy and unorganized,” and freshman Heather Johnson said the second play from scrimmage – an interception resulting in a Michigan touchdown – “set the tone for the whole game.”

“If that had never happened,” she said. “It would have been a different story.”

Senior safety Chinedum Ndukwe gave fans a little hope when he intercepted a Michigan pass, setting up a Notre Dame touchdown.

But when the game began to deteriorate, so did the emotion of the student section. When it finally ended, sophomore Andy Pauwles said he felt “embarrassed, confused and scared for next week.”

“I’ve been watching Notre Dame football since 1993,” he said, “and that was one of the worst games I have ever seen.”

Sophomore Andrea Ochoa said the game “forced her to leave the stadium.”

For freshman Justin Bartkus, there weren’t just low points – there was a lowest point.

“The worst was when the backups came in and showed no pride,” Bartkus said.

The season, however, is far from over. Students have been able to retain some hope in the face of defeat. Ochoa said she is still “very excited for the season.”

And Saturday’s loss marks just one chapter in a large 2006 football novel – the Irish will write the next one at Michigan State next week. For Bartkus, the season rests on the Nov. 25 University of Southern California game.

“Although there is business to take care of beforehand, the game at USC has become a statement game,” he said.

While the jubilance that normally characterizes the Notre Dame student section was absent, most students still stuck around to the end. They draped their arms around each other, hoarsely sang the Alma Mater and looked forward to what they hope might still be a successful season.

“Although I was expecting Brady Quinn to deliver me a graduation present of a national championship,” senior Sam Francis said, “a BCS bowl game will do.”