Irish performance impresses fans
Lesley Stevenson | Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Notre Dame’s narrow, last-second defeat of Louisiana State University (LSU) in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl capped off the 2014 football season in dramatic fashion, much to the delight of local fans and those venturing to Nashville, Tennessee, from nearby midwestern and southeastern states.
“It was great to see my school’s football team playing so close to home,” junior and Nashville native Jessica Zic said. “Also, I was excited to see that the Notre Dame football team practiced at my high school’s football stadium during the days leading up to the game.”
Junior Lauren Pate, who hails from Memphis, Tennessee, said she jumped at the chance to attend the Dec. 30 bowl game because she missed the football season studying abroad in Kampala, Uganda. She said she made the three-hour trip in the morning with other Memphians and had enough time to walk around and enjoy live music in downtown Nashville before the game.
“I didn’t really keep track of the 2014 football season because I was abroad, but I had heard about the ending of the Northwestern game, so it had me nervous for the ending of the Music City Bowl,” Pate said. “We won though, so I was very happy for that and glad it was the game I got to see for the end of the 2014 season.”
Freshman Katharine Janes traveled with her family from Michigan and said the atmosphere at the game differed noticeably from a typical Notre Dame football experience.
“The game day experience was incredible. The stadium was alive with excited football fans, and it was so much fun to reconnect with friends from school that you didn’t know you would be running into 600 miles away from home,” she said. “… I sat in a few parts of the stadium — ranging from directly off the LSU sideline to the upper bowl on the ND side — but I think that all parts felt incredibly energized.
“It was definitely a different experience than watching a home game from the student section, but it was the best of both worlds to be able to watch part of the game with my family in the stands yet also experience other parts with students from ND.”
Pate said she sat in the student section, right next to the Band of the Fighting Irish. She said the section was “very small but nonetheless lively.”
“All of the fans seemed very excited despite the cold, and very engaged with the band and cheerleaders in all the cheers and songs,” she said.
Senior Russell King, a drum major in the Band of the Fighting Irish, said the band practiced once in Nashville before their halftime show which featured versions of Ariana Grande’s “Break Free” and Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”
“It was cold, but we have fantastic fans who braved the weather to come support us [at practice before the bowl],” King said. “There were about 100 fans who came out that morning. The band had not marched in about a month so it was a well-needed rehearsal to polish the show.”
The band participated in several pre-game events in downtown Nashville leading up to the bowl game, including a battle of the bands with LSU’s band, King said.
“The actual game is only a small part of the Music City Bowl experience,” he said. “A subset of the band played at the ACC Pep Rally, the Alumni Kick-Off at the Rock Bottom Brewery and a ND tailgate at the Acme Feed & Seed.
“However, by far the largest event was the Battle of the Bands. Thousands of people showed up to support both our band and the LSU Marching Tigers. Both bands marched side-by-side but in opposite directions on the main street of Nashville.
“Then, the bands faced each other and went back and forth with our best songs. In my opinion, the knockout punch came with another stellar singing performance of ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ by sophomore clarinetist Michelle Mann. However, LSU countered with their best song and the battle was declared a tie.”
Sophomore Kristen Ochs, who came from Ohio for the game, said the team’s performance in the last seconds of the game, especially senior kicker Kyle Brindza’s field goal in the last four seconds that put the Irish up 31-28, left her optimistic for the prospects of the 2015 season.
“I think this game allowed for a brighter end to what many might call a disappointing season,” she said. “Clearly, things can change quickly since we started out so well with high hopes and didn’t end very well at all.”
Pate said the team demonstrated more poise than she had expected.
“My biggest takeaway was the true grit of our team and how well they performed under the pressure of the game,” Pate said. “I was very impressed. I’m looking forward to seeing how this win will transfer over to next season. I’m hoping it’ll give us a boost of confidence to start and finish the season strong.”