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2020 Notre Dame football fanfiction

| Monday, April 6, 2020

Much has been said about the possibility that this upcoming college football season will not begin as scheduled. Longtime ESPN announcer Kirk Herbstreit stated controversially that he would be “shocked” if college football were to happen this fall. Coach Brian Kelly, though not taking a particular side on this question, responded in his typical fiery fashion by asserting that “Kirk does not know what he is talking about.” Others have suggested that perhaps the college football season will be postponed to next spring.

I share Coach Kelly’s perspective that even though we may not know what the future holds regarding the coronavirus and its impact on the 2020 college football season, we at least ought to maintain a hopeful realism that things will be back to normal in the not-too-distant future. Still, there is a serious possibility that college football will not be played in the fall; maybe games will be pushed back to later dates, or maybe they won’t be played at all. Like Kirk Herbstreit, I really don’t know what I am talking about at this point.

Still, I can dream! Since we cannot currently watch any sports other than the Belarusian Premier League, imagination can serve as a helpful substitute. Notre Dame football fans deserve a comprehensive fan fiction account of the 2020 season this fall, whether or not the season is actually played as scheduled. Of course, I do not claim the ability to predict the future, although if my fantastical predictions end up being accurate, I will take back that statement in a few months. Let’s roll:

Aug. 29, vs. Navy — How does one pronounce Ben “Skowronek”? “Scoh-row-neck?” “Skaw-raw-nick?” One can only guess at this point (Northwestern fans wouldn’t know this, because they do not exist). Regardless, spellcheck wants me to alter the name of our new graduate transfer wideout from Northwestern to “Showrunner,” and I will happily oblige, because that’s what we’ll be calling him after his coming-out party in Dublin when he totals 126 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Plus, Notre Dame’s defense holds Navy to a grand total of zero points thanks to 11 tackles from Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, the best linebacker in college football, and a career-high eight tackles from the perpetually fired-up Bo Bauer. Notre Dame wins 41-0. Anchors away.

Sept. 12, vs. Arkansas — At this point, the only good thing about Arkansas football is the memory of Darren McFadden. Ian Book throws for 281 yards in the first half against this SEC basement-dweller, Showrunner ends up with 95 yards receiving and a touchdown and 5-star running back Chris Tyree impresses with a speedy 61-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. Notre Dame wins 48-10. When asked after the game about Arkansas’s pitiful performance, Coach Kelly replies, “they have a good program. They are well-coached.”

Sept. 19, vs. Western Michigan — Why waste space? 52-3. Kelly: “They have a good program. They are well-coached.”

Sept. 26, at Wake Forest — Our first road test of the season starts off rough, as Wake Forest returns the opening kickoff past midfield and scores a touchdown on their first drive. However, Book immediately responds with a sizzling strike on a deep post to Braden Lenzy for a 75-yard touchdown pass. After a Wake three-and-out, Lenzy strikes again for a TD on a 56-yard reverse, a playcall which, if I were Tommy Rees, I would make literally every single play until a team actually stops it (nobody did last year). The rest is history. Notre Dame wins 52-21. Kelly: “They have a good program. They are well-coached.”

Oct. 3, at Wisconsin — The not-so-frozen “tundra” of Lambeau Field in October becomes the site of Notre Dame’s best away-from-home victory since 2012 at Oklahoma. Book drives out the demons of the 2019 Michigan game and the 2018 Miami game with a stellar performance against top-10 Wisconsin (which had defeated Michigan 27-20 a week earlier), throwing for 273 yards (89 of them to Showrunner, 67 to Kevin Austin) as Tyree and Jafar Armstrong each score a crucial second-half touchdown to put us ahead for good at the end of the third quarter. Wisconsin’s ground game just isn’t the same without Jonathan Taylor, and although their talented quarterback Jack Coan tosses two touchdowns in the first half to give Wisconsin a 14-7 lead at the end of the second quarter, Notre Dame’s defense roars in the second half to hold Wisconsin to a single field goal. The icing on the cake is a Shaun Crawford interception with under a minute left to play as Wisconsin is approaching midfield. Book takes two knees. Notre Dame wins 21-17. Still undefeated.

Oct. 10, vs. Stanford — Stanford comes into this game undefeated and ranked No. 16 after victories over USC and a few other mediocre teams. However, Notre Dame does not let these West Coast pretenders (the Pac-12 is an objectively bad conference) “[come] into our house and [push] us around.” Bo Bauer has the game of his life, making nine tackles and going absolutely bonkers after each one. Kyle Hamilton runs a Davis Mills interception back for six. Tyree runs for 99 yards and a touchdown. Notre Dame wins 38-13.

Oct. 17, at Pittsburgh — The very definition of a trap game. However, unlike in 2018, our offense comes prepared to play against Pitt. Book tosses four touchdowns, two to Showrunner, before the fourth quarter, and Kyle Hamilton secures another pick-six. Notre Dame wins 42-17.

Oct. 31, vs. Duke — I still remember when Daniel Jones walked into our house and pushed us around in 2016. Notre Dame football was a joke back then. But in 2020, Duke football (the Cooper Manning of all Duke sports) poses no serious challenge to us. Braden Lenzy has the game of his life, catching eight passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Once again, Book goes wild and gets to rest through most of the fourth quarter. Notre Dame wins 42-17.

Nov. 7, vs. Clemson — Two undefeated teams, No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 1 Clemson, meet on a cold fall night in South Bend for what is shaping up to be the biggest matchup of the college football season. Then, the game begins, and Clemson goes up 21-0 by the end of the first quarter. Indeed, we are all reminded of the brute fact that Clemson is better than us, and that Notre Dame football is cursed basically forever. The demons still haunt us. Trevor Lawrence throws for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Travis Etienne runs for 154 yards and two touchdowns. We lose 52-3. Dabo Swinney after the game: “They have a good program. They are well-coached.”

Nov. 14, at Georgia Tech — We win 35-17, but does it even matter?

Nov. 21, vs. Louisville — We win 38-21, but does it even matter?

Nov. 28, at University of Southern California — We win 27-21, but does it even matter?

January 1, Peach Bowl vs. Florida — Although some Notre Dame fans complain about our No. 6 ranking, they are wrong. You simply cannot justify placing a team in the playoff that has lost 52-3 to the very same team they would end up playing in the semifinal. Plus, we only beat unranked USC by six. So, as consolation, we get to play No. 9 Florida in the Peach Bowl, which actually goes very well. Book throws two touchdowns to Showrunner in the first quarter, although Kyle Trask and Florida come storming back in the second quarter to take a 21-14. Our defense is on its heels, but Clark Lea makes the necessary adjustments at halftime and our defense only gives up a garbage-time touchdown with 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter after Lenzy and Showrunner combine for 172 yards receiving and three touchdowns (two for Lenzy, one for Showrunner) in the second half. Notre Dame wins 35-28. Yay, we won a New Year’s Six Bowl.

I want to be optimistic. But I just don’t think we can beat Clemson.

Brennan Buhr is a senior Juggerknott from Albany, NY who studies theology, political science (but really, just theory) and history. He loves drinking cold glasses of skim milk and eating salad for dessert when he is not consuming “the living bread that came down from heaven” (Jn 6:51) at the Basilica. He can be reached at [email protected] or @BuhrBrennan on Twitter.

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

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