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irish insider

The crowd may play a role, but it is not a one man show

| Friday, October 1, 2021

Waves have already been made ahead of Saturday’s top ten matchup. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder, the leader of Notre Dame’s opposition this weekend, may have given the Irish just what they needed to come out on top. Who needs the “Play Like a Champion Today” sign when you have an image of a cartoon character disrespecting your logo to rile you up? 

Bearcats offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock warned Ridder of the noise he would face in Notre Dame Stadium. With a host of chants, Notre Dame’s crowd can be electric when it wants to be, a fierce opponent for any team. However, Ridder responded that the crowd “shouldn’t be loud for long.” Those are fighting words coming into enemy territory. Ridder’s comments immediately appeared on several popular Notre Dame Instagram accounts, along with a video clip from Ridder’s Instagram that featured a disrespectful cartoon depiction involving the Irish logo, with people rallying to the Irish’s cause.

These recent events have illuminated a major, maybe unexpected, aspect of Notre Dame’s 2021 football season: the crowd.

This may sound like old news; of course, the crowd has an effect on the team. They set the mood in the stadium, which can affect the level of play. What is unexpected is the level of influence the crowd can have on the game this year. The thing to watch out for is becoming dependent on the crowd. I’m not saying the Irish are at that point, but there is potential. Brian Kelly always mentions how the home crowd can affect his players; we fans must take this seriously.

Just last week, Notre Dame’s game turned around quite drastically after “Jump Around” was played, causing a sea of red to bop up and down in the stands. Kelly himself said that the Irish looked as though they considered it their fight song, attesting to the improvement of the squad in the latter portion of the game. Compare that to the late home-game wave that lasted for a solid five minutes against Toledo–which was followed quickly by an Irish score–and one can see that the energy of the crowd translates to the energy of the team.

The coaching staff seems to acknowledge this as well. Ahead of the season opener against FSU, the typical Doak Campbell Stadium chants were blasted in practice, preparing the players to use the energy that is being negatively directed towards them into something useful and motivating. Jonathan Doerer, who made the game-winning kick that Sunday night, said that he was unfazed by the deafening chants because of this technique.

However, the same can be true the other way around. At FSU and Wisconsin, the crowd was in favor of Notre Dame’s opponent; the team could distance itself from the feelings associated with the jeers, for those people were never on their side to begin with. If your own fans are not on your side, though, that can be a mental toll in an already taxing contest.

A perfect example is the quarterback situation we have witnessed. Yes, Jack Coan has made mistakes. This assertion is not meant to completely excuse this fact, but when cheers for another quarterback to take the field are ringing in his ears, there is a capacity for negative impacts on the game. Be angry, be disappointed, but take into consideration the power words can have.

Therefore, with Cincinnati already expecting to mute the crowd, the fans must be louder than ever. However, they must use their power to advance the game in Notre Dame’s favor, not detract from it.

But just as the crowd has some level of influence, it is all up to the players. The team must be self-sufficient enough to be prepared to separate the crowd from the task at hand if need be.

The defense stole the show against the Badgers, but they cannot become complacent. The offense, on the other hand, needs to finalize what their plan of action will be. With Drew Pyne officially entering the mix, the issue of inconsistency only increases. Despite the talent of the offense, having a central position be changed constantly does not allow anyone to get into a rhythm, and a weak offensive line provides no help in that department, either. A set, basic structure needs to be put in place–no matter who that utilizes–so that the offense can settle in a little. Once the team itself is secure, then no matter what chants come out of the crowd, they will be prepared to dominate and prove their naysayers wrong. Until then, Irish fans can do their best to motivate, but the responsibility does not fall solely on their shoulders.

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