Taylor Swift’s discography can be used to recover from many of the troubles life throws at us. Breakups. Betrayal. Notre Dame’s 33-20 loss to Louisville.
That was certainly how we coped during the five-hour ride home to South Bend after a late night writing and editing some of the most depressing articles known to the Observer’s football beat. Putting Taylor’s entire repertoire on shuffle, we decided it would be a fun, cathartic activity to assign songs and eras to different players and events of the 2023 football season and have since continued the activity. Here are our top Swifty Notre Dame football moments.
mad woman (folklore): Ryan Day after OSU’s 17-14 victory in South Bend
“Now I breathe flames each time I talk / My cannons all firin’ at your yacht / They say, ‘Move on,’ but you know I won’t”
If there was one thing this matchup did, it was bring irreconcilable Notre Dame and Michigan fans together under a joint cause. Several fans dispersed in the crowd were dressed in Wolverine regalia, having made the trek to South Bend with the sole hope of seeing Ohio State lose. For the Buckeyes, it was “obvious that wanting me dead has really brought you two together,” as Michigan chose between their two enemies. Emotions were subsequently high after the Buckeyes’ last-minute win, and head coach Ryan Day had some choice words in his post-game interview regarding former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz, who had expressed doubts about Ohio State’s physicality during his own primetime interview on College GameDay. Day was certainly giving off “mad woman” vibes as he had certainly not moved on from the comment, and instead breathed flames talking about the 86-year-old.
Red (Red, Taylor’s Version): Irish fans’ love affair with Notre Dame’s Playoff hopes
“Loving him is like trying to change your mind once you’re already flying through the free fall / Like the colors in autumn, so bright just before they lose it all”
Red is one of Taylor Swift’s most emotional, scathing albums, and its titular track all but describes the rollercoaster of emotions that is the 2023 Irish football season. Loving Notre Dame’s season hopes was certainly Red, with the campus seeming to buzz with anticipation as if we were in that Maserati racing down a dead end street toward a potential College Football Playoff showing. However, all but losing those chances after Louisville was definitely “like wishing you never found out that love could be that strong,” as we are still recovering from the blues and grays that come with the depressing aftermath. We can still see it all in our heads, but have to tell ourselves it’s time to let go.
Question…? (Midnights): The coaching staff’s third and fourth down decisions against Louisville
“Situations, circumstances / Miscommunications, and I / Have to say, by the way / I just may like some explanations”
There were plenty of things for Notre Dame fans to agonize over in the loss to Louisville. The offense couldn’t find its rhythm. The defense was solid, but not enough to carry the team. But most baffling of all was the Irish’s continual failures on late downs. Faced with several third and short situations, Notre Dame fired blanks all night. Failed fourth down conversions in the fourth quarter helped turn a disappointing loss into an inexplicable rout. Perhaps most emblematic of these problems was one particular misfire just before halftime. Facing a third and one just past midfield, the Irish opted to not turn to normal short yardage running backs Audric Estimé or Gi’Bran Payne. Instead, Notre Dame dialed up a jet sweep to Chris Tyree, which was doomed from the start. Louisville read the play perfectly and swarmed the backfield. Sam Hartman and Tyree mistimed their exchange and the ball ended up on the ground a yard beyond the line of scrimmage. There were no situations or circumstances where the Irish offense could find success on late downs that fateful night. Needless to say, fans and press alike were left wanting some explanations.
Look What You Made Me Do (reputation): Notre Dame comes out swinging after loss to Louisville and dominates USC
“But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time / Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time”
Look What You Made Me Do (and reputation in general) is mainly based on the theme of vengeance. Notre Dame entered the USC game aggrieved and humiliated. They had just laid an egg on the road in a game that could end up making the difference between playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game and playing in the Gator Bowl again. The Irish, worn down after seven weeks of games, needed to “get smarter and get harder” to beat the nationally ranked Trojans. No doubt, Marcus Freeman & co. had this showdown on “a list of names, in red underlined” after star USC quarterback Caleb Williams dominated the Irish last season en route to the Trojans’ first rivalry win since 2016. When the time for kickoff came, Notre Dame started the game hot and went on to put forth one of their best performances of the season, dominating throughout the contest in a statement 48-20 beatdown. Look what you made me do, indeed.
Breathe (Fearless): Looking ahead to the second half of the schedule
“And I can’t / Breathe / Without you / But I have to / Breathe / Without you”
You could take this one a couple of ways. On one hand, Breathe is a song about heartbreak and breakup. After the Louisville loss, Notre Dame needed to reevaluate its season and its goals. In a span of three weeks, the College Football Playoff went from attainable goal to near-mathematical impossibility. Accepting that a year that started with such hype will fall short of its goals in early October is indeed “never simple, never easy.” But Breathe is also, in a less distinct way, a song about acceptance. Taylor concedes that as hard as it is, she “has to breathe without you.” It serves the Irish no good, and in fact would actively hurt them, to spend the rest of the season harping on what could have been. Instead, they need to face the music, move on and learn to breathe without the hope of a playoff bid. And even though it’s “never a clean break,” and indeed there’s “no one here to save” the Irish … a New Year’s Six bid would be a nice consolation.
invisible string (folklore): Sam Hartman’s relationship with 2 a.m. Eddy Street Five Guys
“And isn’t it just so pretty to think / All along there was some / Invisible string / Tying you to me?”
Hartmania has taken Notre Dame by storm — any post the graduate student quarterback makes on Instagram is sure to be the talk of campus in the days following. One such post regarded a seemingly self-made meme of Hartman’s in which Freeman looks intensely at him during an interview, which Hartman used to describe how he looks at Eddy Street Five Guys at 2 a.m., specifically. Clearly, for Hartman, this is a clandestine match made in heaven, with a single thread of gold tying him to his “favorite spot for dinner.”