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Irish Insider: Carr’s demons now Notre Dame’s

Mike Gilloon | Monday, September 18, 2006

A phantom found itself in Notre Dame Stadium Saturday afternoon.

It rode into South Bend on a charter bus, perched on Lloyd Carr’s back, buzzing in his ear. Maybe it tired of taunting the Michigan coach or maybe it just felt like a change of scenery.

Whatever the reason, that little phantom didn’t get back on the big, blue bus after Michigan’s 47-21 win over Notre Dame Saturday.

It stayed in South Bend.

With a little help from the same phantoms, ghosts and demons that haunted Carr in his previous three trips to Notre Dame, he earned his first win in South Bend this weekend. In doing so, Carr cleansed his conscience of the miscues and screw-ups that kept his Maize and Blue from winning a game at Notre Dame since 1994.

Shane Walton’s timely interception sealed Michigan’s fate in 2002. The sudden discovery of Darius Walker beat the Wolverines in 2004. Even a Bob Davie-led drubbing of the defending national champs stymied Carr in 1998.

Everything that had hurt Lloyd Carr in past games against the Irish disappeared in front of a stunned 80,000 at Notre Dame Stadium.

But phantoms in a rivalry like the Fight Song Fight – featuring the two most successful football schools (and marching bands) – don’t just go away.

They switch sides.

Saturday was Notre Dame’s day to deal with the “phantom figure,” as Brady Quinn put it.

The figure stole John Carlson’s hands in the first quarter, forcing a pass to bounce right into the arms of Wolverine linebacker Prescott Burgess for the opening score. The figure perched on the football as it popped out of David Grimes’ hands on a kickoff return, giving Michigan the ball right back. The figure rode on the mind of Quinn as he started the second half knowing the Irish needed to score some quick points to get back in the game.

Those points never came – just more demons.

Notre Dame had three drives in the third quarter. Two ended in punts and one ended with an interception. No first downs were made.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the students should have traded in their green towels for white flags. Surrendering would have been easier than living through that 60-minute mistake.

But Notre Dame won’t surrender. Quinn won’t let them. The senior quarterback held his head high deep in a cramped Notre Dame Stadium interview room after the worst beating since Weis arrived on campus.

He answered every question just as he had taken every hit earlier in the day – not exactly what Quinn must have envisioned when this season started with Heisman hopes and national championship aspirations.

The Heisman questions can wait. The award will be won or lost at the LA Coliseum the day after Thanksgiving, when the Irish hope to walk away with a win.

And for now, Notre Dame’s national title hopes are just that.


The Irish will need everyone’s help to even have a chance. But first, they ought to help themselves. If history is any indication, Irish phantoms will travel to East Lansing.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Mike Gilloon at mgilloon@nd.edu