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Allen: Notre Dame continues to tune out noise, history (Nov. 12)

Chris Allen | Monday, November 12, 2012

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – All week they heard the noise, even if they did not listen.

There was the cautionary tale of David Gordon, the heartbreak of the 1993 bunch, who scored the big win against Florida State and let it slip away to Boston College. There was the 2002 group, who fell to the very same fate against the Eagles.

But from the opening whistle, this 2012 incarnation of the Irish seemed unburdened by history. Every college football team will say it is unaffected by outside noise, it does not look at history or trends or hype. But it is becoming evident that this Irish bunch actually means it.

Under a microscope more powerful and more magnifying than they have been in decades, the Irish are currently the subject of unprecedented national attention as they sit two games from finishing a once-unthinkable undefeated 2012 season. The closer the Irish get to that goal, the louder the “noise,” as Irish coach Brian Kelly calls it, will get. On Saturday night in Boston, the Notre Dame team that took the field was deaf to the hype being tossed around in the stands around it.

The Irish quickly ensured that Boston College would stage no upset bid by aggressively running the football and passing the football on the edge, exploiting a huge talent advantage in the trenches and at the skill positions. Those 1993 and 2002 squads let upset-minded Boston College teams stick around – a recipe for disaster, as opponents smell a monumental late-season upset to highlight their seasons. These 2012 Irish shut the door early with two long, thorough scoring drives in the first half and solid, opportunistic defense. A team that was concerned with a haunting history of upsets would not have come out to such a start. Kelly and his bunch don’t just talk about ignoring the noise. They displayed it on the field Saturday night. It wasn’t the prettiest victory Kelly will bask in all season, but the Eagles never got close to the upset they so desperately wanted.

The Irish do not listen to the outside hype. Which is good, because it’s about to get a lot louder, still.

Just minutes before Notre Dame kicked off against the Eagles, clear-No. 1 Alabama fell 29-24 to Texas A&M in a thrilling game that will thrust the Irish even closer to the top of the BCS rankings. After the game, a handful of Irish players spoke about the different ways they found out about Alabama’s loss. But the players all shared the same sentiment: The loss did not affect them. The game did not affect what happened between the white lines at Alumni Stadium between the Irish and the Eagles. The players knew that and did what they needed to do to get the win.

That ability to block out the outside world will be crucial in the coming weeks. Sure, many will agree that Notre Dame needs a loss by either Oregon or Kansas State to ensure a chance to play for the BCS title. But the play of the Ducks and the Wildcats will not affect what happens against Wake Forest or at USC. The Irish now play with a large, inviting target on their backs. Wake Forest will give Notre Dame its best game – and everyone knows how much USC would love to add a loss to Notre Dame’s resume. If the Irish are caught watching the scoreboard or thinking of BCS scenarios in their heads for even a second, they will get beat. The leadership of Notre Dame, Kelly and Manti Te’o, has done a great job instilling a week-to-week mentality. Just as they did for each of the previous nine wins this season, Notre Dame will celebrate for 24 hours. Then, with BCS winds swirling, with media attention and magazine covers and awards lists rolling in daily, with hype coming in from every direction, they will go back to work. 

And they won’t hear a word of what is said.

Contact Chris Allen at callen10@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.