As the final seconds counted down Saturday in Notre Dame Stadium signaling a 23-12 victory for the Irish over the Purdue Boilermakers, students were cheering for more than the first win of the season.
They were cheering for a reenergized team, a possible return to glory and, more than all else, hope for the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame.
Although the Irish did not deliver the blowout debut many fans were hoping for, Notre Dame’s first game under the coaching of Brian Kelly left many students pleased with the improvement and optimistic about the upcoming season.
“I was very impressed with Brian Kelly’s coaching,” junior Mike Cole said. “He definitely focused on the fundamentals that were lacking beforehand and it was obvious the team had improved.”
Statistically, the Fighting Irish did well. Junior quarterback Dayne Crist threw for 205 yards and one touchdown, while senior running back Armando Allen ran for 93 yards and a touchdown under Kelly’s newly installed spread offense. The new offensive style had many students worried that the team would not be able to adapt to a no-huddle approach, but after Saturday’s game, many of those doubts have been eliminated.
“The spread offense was very effective in opening up the field for the run, and it really allowed Armando Allen to be effective,” junior Maurice Baynard said.
Sophomore Natalie Baumann said she was “concerned” about the spread offense going into the season, but now she thinks it is working out well for the team if they continue to play to their potential.
“The no-huddle really keeps all the players on their toes and keeps the momentum going,” she said. “I think it also allowed a lot of the new players to step up and be instrumental to the plays on the field.”
The Irish defense, an area that has famously plagued the team for years, appeared solid. The Irish had four sacks and two interceptions against Purdue’s quarterback Robert Marve. Students said they were thrilled with the strength presented by the defensive linemen.
“Kelly knows we’re going to have a good offense because of the spread and the talent we have on that line,” junior Jack Heinrich said. “It’s clear he’s been working with the defense because we’ve always had good defensive players, but he’s working with them and improving the talent we have on that line.”
On the whole, Irish fans were pleased with the results of Saturday’s game and expressed hope that the victory is a signal of something momentous about the rest of the season.
“It was a good start to a hopefully good season,” Heinrich said. “Obviously the players are happy and want to work harder and play harder, but I think everyone needs to take it one game at a time.”
Baumann said she is going to continue to be optimistic, but also realistic about what we can and cannot do.
“We have a big game with Michigan this week and I think that’s going to be more of a test,” she said.
Regardless of students trying to not get their hopes up about the rest of the season, many say it is apparent Kelly and the revitalized team have awoken something within the student body.
“Brian Kelly has brought a new spirit to this team and to this campus,” sophomore Christina Mezes said. “The energy from the team has fed into the student body and everyone is excited.”