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Mazurek: Nothing else to say after Notre Dame loss

| Monday, November 21, 2016

I’m not sure what else there is to say.

I could say that Notre Dame lost to Virginia Tech on Senior Day by a score of 34-31. But Notre Dame has lost many times before.

I could tell you the Irish (4-7) blew 17-0 and 24-7 leads as they let the Hokies (8-3, 5-2 ACC) back into a game they had no business being in. But Notre Dame has already lost two games holding a double-digit lead, and in the seven games it’s achieved such a cushion, it’s given that lead up in four of them.

I could say the Irish played well, but they’ve played well in losses before.

I could say the experience the freshman class is getting will be valuable for next year, but we’ve been looking ahead to next year for the past month.

Simply put, there is nothing I can say that hasn’t been said already. There is no original take I could have. No unexamined angle or minute tidbit I could bring to light.

Because it’s all been said.

Irish junior safety Drue Tranquill makes a tackle while senior Cole Luke looks on during Notre Dame's 34-31 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday. Monica Villagomez Mendez | The Observer
Irish junior safety Drue Tranquill makes a tackle while senior Cole Luke looks on during Notre Dame’s 34-31 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday.

It’s easy to point to the 17-point lead the Irish slowly, yet methodically, blew as a common theme for the season. It’s easy to point to the lack of offensive production and questionable play calling at key points in the game as trends that have plagued the Irish. And it’s easy to point to a defensive collapse that allowed the Hokies to score 13 straight points in the fourth quarter as the reason for yet another loss.

But even the unfortunate penalties and the missed tackles were there too. Everyone remembers the interceptions and the blown coverages, but the missed tackles that allow first downs and the penalties that stall drives are just as crucial to the story of this season.

DeShone Kizer rolled out of the pocket in the third quarter, but as the junior quarterback slid to give himself up as a runner, he was hit in the head by the helmet of a Virginia Tech defender. The hit was not flagged. It wasn’t even reviewed.

Earlier in the third, junior safety Drue Tranquill was matched up with Hokies speedster C.J. Carroll but couldn’t corral him, as the sophomore receiver broke free for a 63-yard gain to set up a Virginia Tech touchdown.

The emotion was present on the sidelines during the game, as it has been almost all year. The Irish players swayed as they did on each kickoff, but each kickoff came on the back of a Virginia Tech touchdown that brought the game one step closer to its seemingly predetermined conclusion.

But after the game, it almost seemed as though there was no emotion. One loss brings cautious optimism. Two losses breeds concern, and three losses incites panic. But at seven losses, there is nothing.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly didn’t yell or cry in his postgame interview. He didn’t make an opening statement, but he made sure he answered every question before he went back into the locker room. Kizer stood at the podium and stared straight ahead as reporters tried to get him to lash out at the officials or announce his potential future in the NFL.

However, just because it was the same, that doesn’t mean it was all bad. For what seems like the millionth game in a row, Notre Dame was one drive — one play — away from winning. For most of the game, the young Irish secondary was able to keep a talented Virginia Tech receiving corps in check, and the Irish came away with two turnovers.

Notre Dame didn’t quit: It hasn’t yet, and if I had to bet, I don’t think it will versus USC next week either.

There may be a time when there is something new to say. That time may come this winter when Kelly makes some coaching changes. It may come during spring practice as a new freshman class arrives on campus, or it may not even come until next September when the scoreboard says “Notre Dame (0-0).”

When that day comes, I, along with many other journalists, bloggers and armchair coaches, will say those things and report those storylines.

But for now, there is nothing to say. Everything that happened in this game has happened before, and it will likely happen again against USC next Saturday.

Except that it snowed. And there were marshmallows.

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

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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