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Enthusiasm surrounds season’s final home game

Aaron Steiner | Monday, November 20, 2006

Clad in green jerseys, Notre Dame’s 28 seniors joined the rest of the Fighting Irish to topple Army 41-9 in their – and their senior fans’ – last home game of the season Saturday.

The game was bittersweet for some, including those 28 seniors and their graduating classmates in the stands, but students said an enthusiasm that doesn’t usually characterize lopsided games also rocked the crowd.

“It was more exciting than you expected for an Army game,” sophomore Joe Gagnon said.

While the Irish were the heavy favorite, students said the fact that this was the last home game of the season motivated the crowd.

Senior Jack Calcutt said the game was undoubtedly special, and the mood among seniors was different than usual.

“One of the things I noticed was that a lot of people had their cameras out,” he said. “There was a ton more pictures taken this weekend.”

Not only did more seniors bring their cameras, but many also found ways to bring marshmallows into the stadium, despite the fact that students are prohibited from doing so.

The senior class marshmallow fight was clearly larger than usual, Calcutt said.

“I’m not an expert on this, but I hear from the experts that it was good that we really waited until the last game,” Calcutt said, noting that ushers were then less prepared for the incident.

Other students said they were motivated seeing the team run onto the field in green jerseys, which are traditionally reserved for important games in which Notre Dame is the underdog. The choice to wear green this weekend, Gagnon said, was more about honoring the seniors in this special game.

That extra motivation kept student worries to a minimum after Army quickly earned three points and ended the first quarter ahead 3-0.

“We didn’t look great [at first] … it took awhile to hit our stride,” Gagnon said.

Army’s lead didn’t last long, as Darius Walker scored Notre Dame’s first touchdown early in the second quarter. The crowd’s excitement after the first touchdown didn’t seem to die out during the remainder of the game, students said.

“It was a little more intense [than usual] – the seniors definitely deserved it,” sophomore Thomas Rehagen said.

The entire game was much more “electric,” freshman Sarah Carruthers said.

For sophomore Kelly Horder, “everything seemed much more important.”

The game also became important as it broke a 20-year losing streak associated with the green jerseys.

Carruthers said students “freaked out” when they saw the jerseys – some worrying about the bad luck associated with the green, others just excited to see the Irish in a different color than usual.

Students also cited the post game events, noticeably longer than usual, as a highlight of the game.

“I really liked when everybody started chanting ‘Brady’ – not just for him, but for all the seniors,” Horder said.

The “Beat SC” chant also roared through the student section in the final moments of the game and during post-game activities, as the Irish prepare to meet rival USC next weekend.

“It was pretty fun – it kind of turned into a pep rally for USC,” sophomore Andy Kocab said.

For Calcutt, this weekend’s game was his last home football game as a student. However, he said he hopes to return regularly to Notre Dame Stadium.

“This is not the experience I’m going to miss the most,” he said, since he will be able to experience home football games in the future. “Granted, I won’t be in the student section anymore.”

Nevertheless, it was a special game for him and his classmates, he said.

“It was a great experience to have – to be with really close friends for this one last game.”