Greason: ND must be consistent in its effort and preparation
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, September 14, 2018
A lot of the time while watching Notre Dame sports — football in particular — I want to pull an Edna Mode from “The Incredibles” and yell “Pull yourself together” in very close range of a player, coach or team.
Watching the Irish (2-0) play Ball State last weekend took that sentiment to an extreme, though.
My complaint comes in here: The Irish consistently play to the level of their competition. That’s what happened in Week 1 — the Irish, who had been building up to their marquee matchup with archrival Michigan for eight months — nay, four years — came out fired up and ready. And that’s also what happened in Week 2 — the Irish, who were undoubtedly the better team, who undoubtedly possess superior talent and undoubtedly have access to resources that are a cut above those of Ball State (1-1), looked as if they were barely evenly matched with the Cardinals.
Here’s the thing, though. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Games that should be blowouts simply never are when it comes to Notre Dame football. The game is never over; fans can never breathe easily. The opponent always has a chance to get back into the game because the Irish are incapable of putting teams away.
I’m tired of watching Notre Dame play like a team that deserves to earn a berth in the College Football Playoff against some of the top teams in the country and then struggle to hold its own against teams that consider it an honor to even step foot in the hallowed ground that is Notre Dame Stadium. It is time for the Irish to step up to the plate on a weekly basis. To, for lack of a better term, pull themselves together and hold themselves to the same high standard every week.
I hate to compare Notre Dame to other universities, especially those in the SEC, but when was the last time you saw someone unexpected play Alabama close? Not recently. The talent differential between the Crimson Tide (2-0) and some of the teams it plays is equivalent to the Irish and the Cardinals, but the difference is, you don’t see Alabama coming out and underestimating its opponent. You don’t see Alabama coming off a big win and failing to turn up the next week.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly said last week’s lack of offensive performance was a result of poor or unintentional preparation on his part, and while I appreciate that he took the blame for once, I think he has it wrong. I’d like to encourage him to look back at the pattern of what happens when Notre Dame plays teams it is supposed to beat easily.
Temple. Halloween, 2015. The Irish barely scraped out a 4-point win over the Owls — a team many expected them to easily defeat. And then, just two weeks later, Notre Dame took to Fenway Park — decked out in Kelly green from head to toe — to take on Boston College, and, again, barely managed a win against another team the squad was supposed to handily take down. It comes down to the fact that when Notre Dame expects itself to win, even in a borderline rivalry game like Boston College, it seems as if it cannot get enough adrenaline running through its veins to play like the unified front it presents itself as on other weeks.
When Georgia came North of the Mason-Dixon line for the first time in decades, the Irish were ready for the battle it brought. The result did not turn out in Notre Dame’s favor, but the game was still a great one. Were there things Notre Dame could have done better? Sure. There always are. But, as a whole, Notre Dame showed up. The same can be said for the majority of Notre Dame’s premiere games (with the exception of its blowout loss to Miami (FL) last season). When it matters, the Irish show up.
So, how come when it doesn’t matter anywhere near as much, that same level of passion and energy — and therefore success — is nowhere to be found?
The bottom line is that each and every opponent deserves the same level of respect and preparation. Because a loss to a weak opponent will be far more detrimental in the long run to Notre Dame’s Playoff hopes than a win over the same team will be.
So, before the Irish take the field against Vanderbilt this week, I’d just like to say one thing: “Pull yourself together.”
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.