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Geyer: True love

| Friday, November 13, 2020

They always say you never forget your first heartbreak.

As someone who was a Notre Dame student in 2018, I can confirm that. I anticipated an Irish loss in the Cotton Bowl on that bitter December day, but realizing that Notre Dame was on the outside looking in was nonetheless a bitter pill to swallow. Ian Book and his guys seemed like they’d never really be title contenders, and that was a reality that I just had to accept.

But they always say you never forget your first love, either.

After watching Saturday’s game against Clemson, I’m starting to believe that there’s some truth in that aphorism, too — I fell in love with Notre Dame football in a way I never have before. I wanted an Irish win with everything in my being, but deep down, I feared I was looking at the game through rose colored glasses. Fool me once. But something immaculate happened in South Bend last week, and I’m still having my trouble wrapping my head around what it means for Notre Dame as a program.

The Irish have never really been able to get over the hump. They’ve kept it close with big-name teams, and run the table on a solid schedule, but they’ve never been able to convince me that they’re a contender, not a pretender. Last Saturday, that changed. I saw a Notre Dame team unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time.

Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics
Irish sophomore running back Kyren Williams tries to break a tackle as he dives forward during Notre Dame’s 47-40 victory against Clemson on Saturday.

I always prepare for the worst when I watch the Irish play. I observe with bated breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the fatal fumble or interception or three-and-out. In the past, it feels like it’s almost always happened — Chase Claypool couldn’t make the catch against Georgia in 2019. Dexter Williams couldn’t move the chains against Clemson in 2018. Josh Adams couldn’t bring the team along with him as he ran for his life in 2017.

But last week was different.

Being a sports writer has created within me the habit of pinpointing pivotal moments in games as they occur, and usually it’s relatively clear when the momentum shifts or the decisive plays happen. Last weekend it felt like every single play was that play.

In the first half, it was when Kyren Williams broke open the field on the second play of the game. When Ian Book got sacked on the second drive of the second quarter and the Irish had to punt it away. When Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah returned Travis Etienne’s fumble for a touchdown. When Jonathan Doerer was painfully short on his half-ending field goal.

In the second, it was Ian Book’s fumble. It was Travis Etienne’s touchdown with three minutes left to give the Tiger’s their first lead of the day. It was the beautiful ball to Avery Davis. It was Adetokunbo Ogundeji’s sack of D.J. Uiagalelei.

You know you’re watching good football when every play is that precious — it really is a game of inches. If you didn’t believe that before, it would just take watching that Notre Dame-Clemson game to be convinced.

Honestly I don’t have much else to say. Thank you, Brian Kelly. You’ve restored my faith in humanity. In a year that’s been handing out losses left and right, this was a win we all needed. Considering it was the last game I’ll ever see as a student in Notre Dame stadium, it meant even more.

So I’ll be re-watching this game again tonight, but it’ll once again be with bated breath. What can I say? Old habits die hard.

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

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