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Football

Thomas: Senior Day loss from 2014 remains a painful memory as Irish visit Louisville Cardinals

| Monday, September 2, 2019

College football rivalries are rarely born in one game.

While Notre Dame’s season-opening visit to the Louisville Cardinals may not be considered a classic rivalry clash, the game serves as an opportunity for the Irish to bury yet another harrowing reminder of their infamous 2014 collapse. Irish fans remember well the 2014 season for its incredible promise, the team’s potential shining through in a 6-0 start before a heartbreaking defeat to No. 2 Florida State derailed the season, sending Notre Dame into a 1-5 tailspin.

While the season-ending skid had plenty of gut-wrenching moments and painful losses, one particularly tough loss was a 31-28 Senior Day loss at home to these very same Louisville Cardinals.

The game featured many of the struggles that plagued Notre Dame’s spiraling season. Bad defense, inefficiency in the red zone and missed field goals were just a few of the Irish’s many problems. For the seniors in that game, it was a painful way to conclude their stellar careers. While no players on this year’s squad carry over from that 2014 season, Irish head coach Brian Kelly certainly remembers the painful loss suffered just under five years ago.

In Kelly’s press conferences and interviews, he often preaches the value of moving on from losses, not allowing one poor result to shape their next performance. However, in that 2014 skid, the Irish suffered a horrific home loss to Northwestern, and they were embarrassed by rival USC on a national stage. Since 2014, Notre Dame has posted a 3-1 record versus USC and just last year the Irish marched into Evanston and emerged with a convincing victory over the red-hot Wildcats en route to an undefeated regular season.

Kelly’s Irish preach a “never look back” philosophy, but they do seem to have a tendency to avenge tough losses in convincing fashion. Monday’s opener against the Cardinals will be the first time they meet since 2014, so don’t be surprised if the Irish use the sting of that Senior Day loss to deliver an impassioned performance against Louisville.

While the Irish haven’t had the chance to face Louisville since 2014, their recent performance against the ACC also provides hope for a strong performance on Monday. The past two years, Notre Dame has made a strong statement towards reclaiming their spot amidst the other powerhouses of college football. In that span, the Irish have taken on 10 ACC opponents in the regular season. In those 10 games, the Irish boast an impressive 9-1 record, winning those nine games by an average margin of 22 points.

With Ian Book returning to pace the high-octane Irish offense, a scoring explosion seems likely against a Louisville team that gave up 50-plus points in six of their final seven games on their way to a 2-10 record. 

Despite the most minuscule of sample sizes, the Cardinals make the list of teams Notre Dame has played yet never beaten.

However, come Monday the Irish will be seeking a chance to both avenge a painful memory and pick up their first-ever win against the Cardinals.

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

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