The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Farmer: This was just one game – nothing more (Nov. 14)

Douglas Farmer | Sunday, November 13, 2011

LANDOVER, MD. — Let the record show on Nov. 12, 2011, Notre Dame defeated Maryland by a score of 45-21 at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins of the National Football League.

Let the record show Notre Dame should have won that game, just as it did.

Let the record show the Irish fulfilled expectations in their Washington, D.C., experience.

And let the record show nothing more than that.

This was not more than one game. This was not a trendsetter. This was not a beginning.

“It was just today,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said in his postgame press conference. “We’ll see what happens on the 19th of November.”

For 15 years, Notre Dame fans have waited for the Irish to routinely demolish lesser foes. Such has happened twice this year — Saturday’s win and the 38-10 shellacking at Purdue. Both games were nowhere near as close as their scores reflect. Notre Dame’s second-team defense gave up one touchdown to the Boilermakers and two to the Terrapins.

But Notre Dame has also twice limped to victory over far inferior teams this year, against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, winning by a combined total of 10 points. Neither the Panthers nor the Demon Deacons should have been able to hang with the Irish for more than a quarter, yet both games came down to the closing minutes.

And let’s not even discuss the embarrassment of handing a victory to an over-matched team in your season-opener. Oh yes, that happened.

As Kelly alluded, the home finale against Boston College is another chance of this nature: Run a lesser team off the field, or slouch to the Eagles’ level and hope for the best. More of the former is necessary before Notre Dame fans can breathe easily. More complete performances — from the rushing game to the passing defense to clean special teams play — are necessary before any game can be approached with comfort.

“Our players truly understand how to win football games now, and it starts with our preparation during the week,” Kelly said. “They know that they have to be able to bring all three phases. We’ll look to repeat that next week, and that’s the challenge to our football team.”

If the Irish rise to that challenge, repeating a dominating performance one week later, then perhaps it will be time to trust in the talent on the field. Notre Dame is more talented than the vast majority of teams in the country, and certainly more talented than most teams it plays (though not Stanford). But that talent has been overshadowed by clumsiness and apathy for nearly 15 years.

That talent needs to shine against teams like Maryland more often. Unfortunately, having shined against Maryland is not enough. That was just one day, one game.

Then again, that was senior running back Jonas Gray’s first career 100-yard game. Junior receiver Robby Toma set career highs in both receptions and yards. Sophomore cornerback Lo Wood even found the end zone.

The special teams unit made no mistakes, even pinning the Terrapins deep in their own territory on one punt. Irish sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees did not make as many knuckle-whitening throws as he usually does. The Irish defense continued its third quarter dominance, holding the ninth of its 10 opponents scoreless in the 15 minutes following halftime.

Are these isolated performances, or the beginnings of trends?

Are these encouraging signs, or the fruit Kelly can finally reap?

Are these the product of a terrible Maryland team, or an it-has-actually-arrived Notre Dame team?

We’ll see what happens on the 19th of November.

Contact Douglas Farmer at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.