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Third straight loss comes as shock

Laura Myers | Monday, November 23, 2009

There was no snow this time, but the rest seemed eerily familiar.

The collapse of a promising season came to a climax Saturday with an emotional Senior Day loss to a Big East team. And just like after the 2008 loss to Syracuse, players are trying to figure out what went wrong.

“It’s just tough,” junior wide receiver Golden Tate said. “Sitting at 6-2 you know we had a chance to do some special things, and then it’s just all taken from you.”

In 2008, Notre Dame sat at 5-2 before ultimately losing four of its last five.  It was a disappointing finish for a team that was trying to prove itself after the disastrous 2007 season.

This season, the stakes were even higher. At 6-2, the Irish were ranked and had a chance to play in a BCS bowl. Now, after three straight losses the Irish will most likely not even have a shot at the Gator Bowl, which many had termed a fallback for this year’s squad.

“I would’ve laughed in your face if you had told me this is what would happen,” senior safety Kyle McCarthy said.

The losses were games seven, eight and nine decided by a touchdown or less in 2009. Players pointed to the close decisions in their search for an explanation.

“Just losing by very little, those are the tough ones,” junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen said. “You know, it’s just really hard to swallow.”

Added Tate: “Playing close games, at some point it happens, unfortunately.”

Tate and Clausen have both put up big numbers in the losses, but with nothing to show for it. In the last three games, Tate has notched 368 receiving yards, and Clausen is 94-of-138 passing for 1,064 yards. Statistics like that don’t usually lend themselves to three straight losses, but Clausen said that is beside the point.

“Stats really don’t matter unless you get a W at the end,” Clausen said.

Even though the Senior Day loss looked similar to last year’s, the Irish will now look to conclude the regular season differently.

“We can’t point fingers. We can only point back at ourselves,” McCarthy said.

Last year, Notre Dame traveled to USC for its last game and took a beating in an ugly 38-3 loss.

This year, the Irish will again head to California, but this time to take on a hot Stanford team. Still, they’re hoping for a different result.

“The guys are just hanging their heads, but we still have one game left and need to keep moving,” junior linebacker Brian Smith said. “Losing wears on you, but you have to work to not let it wear on you and just work to win.”