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Gastelum: What if the kick was good? (Nov. 8)

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The night was November 3, 2013. The sun was setting over the press box at Notre Dame Stadium in the third overtime just as the hopes of Notre Dame fans were metaphorically doing the same thing. After all, No. 3 Notre Dame lost its first game of what was turning out to be a “magical” season. Cue the fat lady singing. Cue the swan song. Cue the sad music over a candlelight dinner in South Dining Hall.

Snap. There went the hopes of an undefeated season. Place. There went the hopes of a national championship. Kick. There went the hopes for renewed legitimacy. It’s good. 

Except it wasn’t. Pittsburgh kicker Kevin Harper missed a 33-yard field goal in the second overtime that would have won the game for the Panthers and given a steady hand to a frenetic program in its first shaky season under a new coach. 

But really though, what would have happened if that kick split the uprights and sent the Pittsburgh sideline into a frenzy and Notre Dame spiraling in the rankings – and not to mention, the student section into a fury as the football players ran down the tunnel instead of singing the alma mater? But more importantly, how would the course of this season be changed?

The first major concern would have been the ongoing quarterback controversy. In what was surely a devastating blow to the psyche of a young quarterback, Everett Golson was pulled stage right late in the second quarter to make room for “the closer” Tommy Rees just as Brian Kelly had done all year long. 

Sure, Golson came back in and earned the game ball, but the effect of a loss would have put the blame squarely on his lean, pre-George Whitfield shoulders. Nonetheless, the Irish most likely would have won the next three games just by looking at overall talent, but we don’t know for sure who would have started. And would Golson have felt a bit more compelled to transfer after getting suspended for a semester if he knew he wasn’t the heralded No. 1 option anymore for 2014 (which would have left Malik Zaire as maybe the only real quarterback on the Irish roster)? Just a question.  

Meanwhile, do Louis Nix and Prince Shembo even return if they couldn’t sniff the Dr. Pepper championship trophy? Just a question. 

Back to reality (sort of), the Irish would have probably ended the season at 11-1, meaning a No. 4 or No. 5 spot in the final BCS rankings. With this in mind, I doubt the BCS would have allowed for a second straight all-SEC national championship, so Oregon would have most likely filled in against Alabama, leaving a Fiesta Bowl spot wide open against Kansas State. If it were Florida as No. 2, then that would leave a vacant spot in the Sugar Bowl vs. Louisville.

Regardless, both bowls have a massive, gold-digging crush on the Irish. But fit them into either matchup and it’s a lose-lose situation when looking at the big picture. A loss in either game is even more devastating than an Alabama cookout. A win against Louisville is spun as just big ol’ Notre Dame beating up on the Big East cupcakes. A win against Kansas State is just a win over what many thought of as an overrated team in a flailing conference on life support. 

Either way, it’s just the normal Notre Dame love/hate with no trophies to show for it with not much of a chance of returning to the national championship in 2013. Maybe a higher preseason ranking with a BCS bowl win, but after last year we know how much preseason rankings actually mean. 

Irish fans: Just be thankful the kick went wide. And remember this on Saturday as the Irish look for a BCS bowl berth and the Panthers continue the search for a defining win. Or maybe just hope for déjà vu. Too bad Pittsburgh switched kickers from Harper to Blewitt.

Oh wait…


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