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Irish look like horror flick

Dan Murphy | Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Halloween weekend carries a ton of traditions – pumpkins, lots of candy, an excuse for females to dress inappropriately – but most of all television’s need to play every horror movie ever made.

You know the type. The kind of cheesy, predictable films that feature some masked nut job running around a small town, killing dumb co-eds until the hottest girl in the movie somehow narrowly avoids her death and the killer’s shocking identity is revealed.

Maybe I’m just on FearNet overload, but after Notre Dame’s quadruple-overtime loss to Pitt Saturday, I felt like I had just watched another thriller movie.

The worst part in any of those movies is the inevitable scene where our gorgeous protagonist looks like she will finally meet her fate. The killer slowly creeps up behind her, poses with his knife in mid-air and just as the music reaches its peak, she turns and runs to safety.

Pittsburgh was the hot chick.

This is the first time Mark May – a Pitt graduate – has ever been associated with a hot chick, but it’s true. The Irish were poised with their weapon of choice gleaming in a dark alley, but somehow the Panthers slipped away.

After an absurd circus catch by Golden Tate and an almost equally impressive double move by Michael “Franchise” Floyd to get open in the end zone, Notre Dame had a 10-3 lead and a heap of momentum with a few minutes remaining in the half.

Then our proverbial hot chick made it even easier. She ran up the steps instead of out the front door.

Raeshon McNeil picked off a pass with under a minute to go in the half and ran it all the way down to the Pitt 13-yard line. Five plays later Franchise scored again. With a 17-3 lead and a dominant defensive performance in the first half it looked like Notre Dame was ready to run away with a huge program win.

They just couldn’t finish.

In a post-game interview senior safety David Bruton said there wasn’t any one play that you could blame for the loss. That’s because, as Irish coach Charlie Weis said, there were 50 you could blame for the loss.

The scene after a horror movie star escapes is equally as ridiculous and frustrating as the escape. She usually scrambles hysterically to squeeze through a window or start a car that always seems to be having engine problems. While that is going on, the killer is slowly walking towards her. I don’t know if all mass murderers are lazy or maybe they have asthma, but I’ve never even seen one break into as much as a jog. All that adrenaline and emotion are apparently not enough to pick up the pace and finish her off.

Same goes for the Irish. There were countless opportunities to at least seal the win, let alone blow them out. Harrison Smith’s personal foul which led to a touchdown, Pitt’s fourth down fade pass to tie the game and four overtimes without crossing the goal line were only a few of the plays that Notre Dame let slip through their hands.

Three times Notre Dame forced Pitt to go for it on fourth down in key situations. The Panther picked up a fresh set of downs on all three. On the other side of the ball, the offense got too comfortable with the lead and stopped making plays in the second half.

Tate said after the game that he thought the offense had the tendency to get a little complacent with the lead in the second half. It sure looked like it. The team could clearly move the ball if they wanted to. Pitt tied the score at 17 in the fourth quarter and Clausen marched them 75 yards down the field for a touchdown on the very next drive.

But for some reason they couldn’t get it going again for the rest of the game. They instead relied on Brandon Walker’s left foot. Walker nailed four straight including a career long 48-yarder to push the game to a fourth overtime period. That was kind of like the crazy, unexpected twist of fate that makes audiences think that the main character doesn’t stand a chance. Notre Dame could lose yards in overtime and still keep pace. How could Pitt possibly escape this time?

Of course, they found a way and Notre Dame’s identity was revealed – a team much-improved from last year, but not experienced enough to win the big game yet.

All three of Notre Dame’s losses this year have come against teams with winning records, all five wins have come against teams with losing records. They have the talent and the chances to beat those better teams right now, but it may be another year before they have the killer instinct to close a game.

Weis and the Irish seem to be making a scary habit of giving away big wins that should have been theirs. This loss looked like it could’ve been a sequel to the heartbreaker against North Carolina three weeks earlier.

And everyone knows the only thing worse than a horror movie is the sequel.

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

Contact Dan Murphy at dmurphy6@nd.edu.