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Geyer: An expression of gratitude

| Friday, November 29, 2019

I am not an optimistic sports fan.

Having grown up in Ohio, can you blame me? Cavs, Browns, Blue Jackets — I’m not sure you can pick a worse state for professional sports than mine. Loving losing teams hardens you in a way nothing else can. As such, my eternal pessimism has always carried over to my sentiments about Notre Dame football, regardless of how hard I try to look on the bright side each season. But that said, I think the holiday season always brings in the opportunity for reflections of gratitude, so I’ll attempt to use these next 400 words to express what I’m thankful for this year in the world of Notre Dame football.

Independence

I’ll say it — I love being independent. Honestly, is there anything better than watching the SEC tear itself apart every year? Yes, not belonging to a conference has its drawbacks, but that’s trumped by Notre Dame’s meticulous scheduling efforts — read: Georgia in 2017 and 2019, Michigan almost annually, Clemson in 2020, you get the idea. Even more, the Irish don’t have to run the Georgia-Alabama-LSU gauntlet each season. With a few statement wins and a couple of throwaway games, Notre Dame can establish itself as a competitor without taking brutal hits every week.

Admittedly, in the playoff era, being a non-conference team has its pros and cons. Notre Dame can’t redeem a regular-season loss in a conference championship game. However, with a solid record at the end of November, the Irish get to prepare for a bowl game with a week off and movie night while prospective opponents play in some of their hardest games of the year. And with rivalries like USC and Michigan, paired with regularly scheduled opponents like Stanford and Navy, Notre Dame gets some of the consistency being in a conference offers without the stakes of conference rankings.

The final drive of the Virginia Tech Game

Who could look back on this season and not pick out that drive as one of the highlights? The dumpster fire that was the Michigan game filled me with a pretty strong mid-season resentment; speaking freely, that anger lasted for 57 of the 60 minutes of the Virginia Tech game, too. But somehow, the Irish pulled it together to put up a final three minutes that were some of the most glorious I’ve ever seen in Notre Dame Stadium. Even more, that 87-yard march was a turning point in the second half of the season, after which Ian Book and his offense have never looked back.

Ian Book at Duke

Speaking of QB1, I have to take this opportunity to give credit where credit is due. I’ve had my fair share of qualms with Book this season, and though I still think he’s far from perfect, the senior has been in pretty good form since that closing drive against the Hokies. I have always had issues with Notre Dame’s inability to put up style points in the way teams like Alabama and Ohio State can. But in Durham, the Irish did anything but sink to the Blue Devil’s level, and that was in large part due to Book’s historic four-touchdown-pass, 139-yard rushing performance. Putting the offense on his shoulders, he rose to the occasion in a big way — the way a quarterback should, and that’s something hard not to be grateful for.

So there it is. Perhaps the nicest thing I’ve ever written about Notre Dame football. But sorry, reader — you shouldn’t get used to it.

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

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