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Green: It’s time to hope again for ND

| Saturday, August 30, 2014

Irish head coach Brian Kelly described Notre Dame’s win Saturday against Rice as “clean.”

It wasn’t because the new FieldTurf eliminated the potential for mud stains on Irish uniforms once the rain started coming down.

For the most part, Notre Dame stayed clean by avoiding sloppy mistakes.

The team picked up only two penalties in 60 minutes of play and didn’t turn the ball over.

Every trip to the red zone yielded points for the Irish.

The returners accumulated double-digit positive yardage.

Oh, and that Golson guy had a great game as well, collecting 336 yards, dishing out two touchdown passes and running in three scores.

But just because the game was clean doesn’t mean it was perfect.

Notre Dame started the game with two three-and-outs, missed a field goal and punted once more, all before halftime.

The defense fell apart on a few big plays and got burned for a 19-yard rush, passes of 16, 26 (twice), 30 and 53 yards, the last of which was good for a touchdown.

C.J. Prosise let go of a likely touchdown bomb from Golson that would’ve given the Irish a 21-10 lead instead of 14-10.

No, it wasn’t perfect, but after all, this was the season opener. There always will be early kinks to work out, and there’s plenty of time left in the season to fix those.

It’s not time to panic, but it’s also not time to buy a “Notre Dame: 2015 National Champions” t-shirt or book flights to Arlington, Tex.

Yes, the Owls won Conference USA last year and earned 10 wins, two more than the Irish. Notre Dame certainly didn’t beat a bad team.

But every Irish fan knows the first big test is next week against Michigan, even though Kelly said the final installment of the rivalry “counts the same as the Rice game.”

Still, without several key players Saturday – notably Austin Collinsworth because of an MCL injury and KeiVarae Russell, DaVaris Daniels and Ishaq Williams because of the University’s ongoing investigation into “suspected academic dishonesty” – the overall team looked pretty sharp, putting 48 points on the board and limiting the Owls to only 17.

That’s a 31-point victory, which would fall under my definition of a blowout – not too shabby a way to start the season.

Saturday was what Irish fans wanted to expect but were too afraid to assume would happen.

The 2012 season was great. But then Golson was suspended, and the 2013 season didn’t go as well as everyone had hoped. It wasn’t all because of Golson’s absence, but a lot of people attributed most, if not all, of it to him.

Golson came back this spring, and Irish fans were ready for another undefeated run, even if they wouldn’t admit being so hopeful. Then five players were held out of practice and competition during the investigation, and a little hope drifted away.

So although Irish fans would have liked to assume Notre Dame would pummel a team from Conference USA, nothing seems like a given with this team these days.

But then Golson fired a 75-yard bomb to Will Fuller to retake Notre Dame’s lead at 14-7, and the Irish never looked back.

Things are alright again – at least for now.

Saturday’s victory was clean – it wasn’t perfect, extraordinary or a given. But it was a great start to kick off a season with so many hopes and expectations.

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

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About Mary Green

Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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