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Carson: Saturday’s win a perfect cap to seniors’ home careers

| Monday, November 16, 2015

Well, that was a little strange.

Wake Forest out-gained No. 4 Notre Dame, 340 yards to 282, entered the red zone four times and racked up 23 first downs over the course of Saturday’s game.

Yet it never felt like the Demon Deacons had much of a chance en route to a 28-7 loss.

Notre Dame went ahead 14 by the end of the first quarter and never saw its lead cut below that mark the rest of the way. When the Demon Deacons threatened, the Irish defense held in the spirit of the “bend, don’t break” mantra the 2012 squad had, always keeping Wake Forest out of the game.

There are a fair number of grievances Irish fans could have after this game — that Notre Dame blew a chance to notch a blowout win over a far-inferior opponent, that sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer only threw for 111 yards, that the defense struggled to get off the field at times — but it’s important to keep it all in perspective, especially on Senior Day.

When this year’s fourth- and fifth-years pledged Notre Dame, coming to South Bend wasn’t the sexy pick it might be today. Graduate students like Matthias Farley and Nick Martin watched the Irish fall to Tulsa in the year prior to their arrival at Notre Dame, while seniors like Sheldon Day, Romeo Okwara and Ronnie Stanley arrived the year after the season-opening loss to South Florida — one remembered more for its weather delays than anything that actually happened on the field.

Graduate student center Nick Martin prepares to snap the ball during Notre Dame’s 28-7 win over Wake Forest on Saturday. Martin, a two-time captain, has helped lead the Irish to a 9-1 record this year.Molly O’Neill | The Observer
Graduate student center Nick Martin prepares to snap the ball during Notre Dame’s 28-7 win over Wake Forest on Saturday. Martin, a two-time captain, has helped lead the Irish to a 9-1 record this year.

And go back before that: the 2009 loss to Connecticut, the 2008 loss — on Senior Day — to Syracuse and the now-infamous 2007 loss to Navy that ended the 46-game win streak against the Midshipmen.

Since Brady Quinn’s departure, the Irish have been best known for one thing: embarrassing losses at Notre Dame Stadium.

But over the last four years, Notre Dame has done anything but that.

Point to Northwestern’s win over the Irish a year ago if you’d like — it was a bad loss — but that’s the only significant home blemish these seniors have had over their four years.

But it’s also not what this class is going to be remembered for. While the Tulsa loss sticks out in memories of the 2010 team, the Northwestern one doesn’t. It’s a class that will be remembered for its contribution in the goal-line stand against Stanford in 2012, and its role in the ugly, yet effective, win over Michigan earlier that year. Or maybe Irish fans will have fond memories of the 2013 home win that kept Michigan State from playing for a national championship, or the 2015 dismantling of Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack, plunging Paul Johnson’s squad into the deep, dark depths of a season without a bowl game.

And perhaps most importantly to Irish fans, one that shutout the Wolverines in the final scheduled meeting of that series last year, going 4-0 against Michigan and USC at home in their careers.

That’s what matters.

Saturday’s win wasn’t the greatest thing in the world. The offense definitely could’ve played better — aside from freshman Josh Adams’ 98-yard touchdown run, there weren’t the big plays they’ve become known for — while the defense surely would’ve ceded more points in other game situations when the Demon Deacons could have settled for field goals.

But it was a perfect way for this class to go out.

This year’s 27 seniors and graduate students have left behind a program that’s much different than the one they committed to four or five years ago.

Instead of concerning themselves with whether or not the University erred in going after head coach Brian Kelly, Irish fans are now scoreboard watching every week, cheering on Navy and Temple, having a reason to root against the Big 12.

Rather than worrying about a slew of talent that never panned out, they’re now witnessing guys like Day, Martin and Stanley, who are set to take their talents to the next level.

And they’re not complaining about losses to Tulsa or Connecticut. Instead, they’re concerned about not racking up enough “style points” on Senior Day.

That ain’t a bad place to be.

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

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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