Seniors devoted to ND football
Ann Marie Jakubowski | Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The Class of 2013 navigated the ups and downs of Notre Dame football fandom during the past four years, but for the first time in a long time, the seniors will not leave the Irish at a low point.
The class that saw the end of the Charlie Weis era and the beginning of Irish coach Brian Kelly’s time can leave saying their last game as students was the BCS National Championship game in Miami, Fla.
Senior Anthony Albert said for a while, his reaction to the 2012 season was, “Wow, what’s going on here?”
“After three years, it’s vindicating in a way to have had a season like this,” Albert said. “Going to the national championship game was extremely unbelievable after everything we’ve been through.
“I know it was definitely one of the highlights of my four years here at Notre Dame, this senior season culminating in the national championship.”
Albert said this year’s game against Stanford was the highlight of his four years in the football student section.
“Really, everything from the past three years seemed to lead into that game right there,” he said. “Going through the disappointments over the past three years, everyone in the senior section thought this was never going to happen. We thought we knew how this was supposed to go … but that goal line stance was really something.”
Senior Elliott Pearce began his season in Dublin at the Navy game and ended it in Miami at the championship.
“It was an epic journey,” he said. “It was incredible. The game where we beat Oklahoma was the turning point for me; that’s when I started to think this was possible. We’re here, we’re for real – it’s awesome.”
Though the experience of the past season was fantastic, Pearce said he “wasn’t super surprised” to see the team’s success.
“We had one great season after three disappointing ones. This was how it should have been all along,” he said. “I don’t honestly know where the last seven years came from, it was just bad luck.
“The year Weis went six and six, we had Michael Floyd and Golden Tate on the same team, we had Manti Te’o starting at linebacker … it was a who’s who parade of high school All Americans. We’ve had great players the whole time and these guys made plays, but we could never get a string of them together. “
Albert and Pearce both said the 2011 matchup against the Michigan Wolverines was a major low point of the past four years.
“There are plenty low points to pick from, but it’d have to be that Michigan game under the lights last year,” Albert said. “I was watching it with friends and all the sudden Denard Robinson is chucking it down the field and Gary Gray can’t turn around and Michigan wins.”
Pearce said the 2011 loss to Michigan was one example of the team’s faltering “emotional momentum.”
“That game was the lowest of the low because you think to yourself, all right, Charlie Weis is out, we had an okay first season with Kelly, so let’s see if we can make something happen,” he said. “And then we’re running over Michigan in their own house, and all the sudden we lost.”
Pearce’s favorite memory of the 2012 undefeated regular season was the night Notre Dame took the No. 1 spot, he said.
“I’ll never forget spraying champagne all over Stonehenge after we realized we were going to be number one. It was incredible,” he said.
Albert said the aftermath of the Nov. 17 game against Wake Forest was his favorite memory as well.
“I was sitting in my dorm room after we won, watching the two games with [then No. 1] Kansas State and then [then No. 2] Oregon,” he said. “I think every student at this place was watching that game, praying for some kind of upset. I just remember that once Stanford [beat Oregon], the entire campus erupted. I sprinted to my friend’s room in Irish Row and we celebrated.”
Notre Dame football made an indelible mark on his four years here, Albert said.
“I thought it really helped to shape my experience here,” he said. “Waking up every fall Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. with Rudy music blasting, it put a smile on my face. If I hadn’t gone to a school where athletics were so huge I don’t think I’d have had nearly as much fun.”
Pearce also said he found the four football seasons to be “a great community building experience.”
“Notre Dame is a big football school; everyone rallies around that,” he said. “I’m a huge football fan, but that’s not why I came here. Notre Dame is a school with a stellar academic program and a good integrity and spirit in their athletic endeavors. We can have that here and still have football be a great way to bond and have fun in addition to our academic work.”
Contact Ann Marie Jakubowski at firstname.lastname@example.org