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Gastelum: With 2012 gone, time to adapt or die (Sept. 13)

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I guarantee you in this column you will find no statistic. No passer rating or yards per catch, no time of possession or scoreboard digits. 

In football, all that remains is a ‘W’ or ‘L.’ No “buts,” “howevers” or “next times.” You remember a 7-6 record, not a 7-6 score. 

There’s proof to my madness. Last year, Notre Dame went to South Beach seeing an infallible 12-0 record, not narrow wins over mediocre teams and consistent struggles to cross the goal line. 

Then, reality hit and it hit hard.

But the Irish were forgiven for making it that far in the first place. Plus, they could just do it again the next season and have another shot at it without any problems.

And that alone, is the problem.

Reality hit in a similar form Saturday. No more planning the surprise parties. Notre Dame was now walking through the door expecting a small family dinner and ended up having its party crashed. 

The shadows that this same Notre Dame team had used to creep its way through the top 25 last season now has glaring floodlights. The dropped jaws have been replaced by sly smirks and rolled eyes.

Because now, everyone is watching. More importantly, every team now thinks it could do what the 2012 Irish did, while the 2013 Irish think they can do it the same way.

And that couldn’t be farther from the cold truth. 

Notre Dame will now get every team’s A-plus effort, from film study to practice squads to the 60 minutes in between sidelines. That included Michigan last Saturday and that will include Purdue this upcoming Saturday. 

Nothing will change, so Notre Dame needs to play like it. Adapt or die. It works in the wilderness, and that might as well be Notre Dame’s schedule this season. 

Michigan State will want revenge for an embarrassing home defeat and for the derailment of what was supposed to be a Rose Bowl season. Sounds a lot Oklahoma. And Stanford too. 

Irish coach Brian Kelly has acknowledged it. His team cannot afford to play or think like last year if it wants to duplicate its success. Each stab at success surpasses the last in terms of difficulty, attention and satisfaction or disappointment.

Football is about the power of the will, pushing oneself to the limit and succeeding as a unit. How would I know? After all, I am just behind a computer screen tapping away. 

But in its essence, football is just another expression of trying to be the best at something, another outlet to chase down greatness and embrace it for as long as possible. We all have our playing fields, this one just happens to actually be one with painted lines and 100,000 in attendance. 

But in order to find greatness, one must go beyond what was once believed possible and fight off the trials that come with a journey that cannot be replicated.

No one will remember the stats. All that will remain is a record. That’s one thought the 2013 Irish should hold onto from its previous self. 12-0 is no longer possible, but 12-1 sure is. 

Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu                        
The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.