Categories
Viewpoint

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State: The wolf rushes into the lion’s jaws

Robb Stark and Tywin Lannister. Daniel in the Lion’s Den. The movie “300.” Rocky Balboa in Russia. Notre Dame football opening the 2022 season at The Shoe. All of these situations are synonymous with underdogs involved in the fight of a lifetime, and if the betting public has anything to say about it, The Fighting are a MASSIVE underdog this weekend. I love Marcus Freeman and his nonchalant attitude towards the -17.5 point line the Irish have been placed at, but nevertheless, Notre Dame will go into this as the largest underdog I think they’ve been placed in the last 20 years. 

But I am not here to talk about the state of Notre Dame Football, or even dabble to make a prediction about the outcome of the game or season. Ever since my 13-year-old self-predicted a 23-21 Irish victory on January 7, 2013, I don’t dare partake in such activities. On the contrary, I would love to speak to the fantastic time that visiting Notre Dame students will have this weekend if they have chosen to attend tomorrow’s game. Easily the most daunting early season matchup in recent memory, the threat of the outcome has not dissuaded undergrads and alumni alike from booking plans to drive into Columbus this weekend. And I applaud them. Because yes, regardless of your outcome in the student ticket lottery, and regardless of the score at the end of the contest, if you are traveling to the game, you are bound for the time of your life. 

Personally, I have had a euphoric experience as an Irish fan in a visiting stadium. The high, lows and adrenaline delivered by traveling and game-winning fields can almost rival game day at Notre Dame. Of course, I am spoiled that this game happened to be played in Tallahassee as we took on Florida State last year during Labor Day weekend, but I almost didn’t attend. Emphasis on almost. An invite to Tallahassee was extended to me early last August when I was told that a group of friends were planning to make a weekend out of the trip. They invited me and others to do the same. Skeptical at first, I cataloged almost every excuse in the book to avoid further conversations about attending. “The job search”, “homework”, “Who will walk my dog?” (I’ve never had a dog), “All my money is tied up in long term municipal bonds” were all excuses involved in my fight against the inevitable. But deep down, I really wanted to go. And finally, after a push from my mom, my bests friend and I decided to go over Spicy Siracha Caesar Salads at Bru Burger. Florida State vs. Notre Dame was on. 

We immediately booked $120 round trip flights (yes, the good old days), and flew out of O’Hare in the middle of the night to make it to Atlanta. From Atlanta we rented a car to make it Florida’s capital by Saturday afternoon. After Popeyes and Sunday mass at the Florida State Union, a truly incredible weekend was underway. The game itself was one of the best of 2021, and it prompted me to cry twice, once during the “Amazing Grace” tribute to Bobby Bowden and once again when the Seminoles tied the game at 38 all. Long exciting touchdowns by Michael Mayer were matched on the defensive side of the ball with the most impressive interception of the season by Kyle Hamilton. The game was a nail-biter through and through, and just when I thought it was over, the Irish won it on a game-winning field goal. And while the rest of the world listened to Brian Kelly comment on executing his players on national television (they’re just kids Brian!!), the Tomahawk chop continued to play on over and over in my head. But an Irish victory was reason for a fitting celebration, and I’ve got to tell you, our group of weary travelers from South Bend, now confidently self-dubbed the “Seminole Seven,” took every bit of deliberate enjoyment leaving the premises of Doak Campbell Stadium. 

So a piece of advice to students traveling to Columbus, Ohio this weekend. Be safe, be smart and win or lose, the 46556 will welcome you back Monday morning as the conquering heroes you are. And to Tim, Jack, Micah, Camden, Peter and Ryan. 

Go Irish and Long Live the Seminole Seven!

Stephen Viz

Stephen is a One Year MBA candidate and graduate of Holy Cross College. Hailing from Orland Park, Illinois, his columns are all trains of thoughts, and he can be found at either Decio Cafe or at Mendoza. He can reached at sviz@nd.edu or on Twitter at @StephenViz

Categories
Sports

Notre Dame Men’s Soccer squad eyes College Cup return

The easy response to Notre Dame men’s soccer’s season-opening loss is an overreaction. Last year was a one-off, a fluke. Losing their top two goal-scorers may be too tall a task to overcome. Such thoughts became more prevalent as No. 4 Notre Dame fell to unranked Seattle, 3-1, in the opener. However, that final score was hardly indicative of the quality with which the Irish played. Notre Dame outshot the Redhawks 19-10 and out-possessed the visitors 52-48%. They doubled up Seattle in corner kicks, 10-5. 

Despite this, the Redhawks defended well and forced a lot of shots off-target. The Irish saw a few efforts clank off the post and crossbar. Seattle’s All-Western Athletic Conference keeper Akili Kasim made three solid saves and controlled his box well throughout the contest. His offense did enough with their counter-attacks to score three times. 

“Overall there were probably more positives than negatives, but it doesn’t feel that way when you lose a game,” Irish head coach Chad Riley said after the loss. 

So are the overreactions justified?

It’s easy to forget how the Irish kicked off their season last year. Oft-forgotten after Notre Dame blitzed through the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament to reach the College Cup was the fact that Riley’s squad opened the season 1-3-1. Their vaunted defense gave up three goals in the season opener. Three games later, they dropped a 4-3 decision to Michigan State. 

Of course, the Irish proceeded to win eight of their next nine games and ultimately reached college soccer’s ultimate stage, falling in penalty kicks in the semifinals. A season-opening loss, albeit a surprising one, is hardly reason to give up on this squad. 

As Notre Dame gels defensively, there’s every reason to believe they’ll return to last year’s form. With sophomore Josh Ramsey and junior Paddy Burns, the Irish return two starters from last year’s strong backline. They also added an experienced center back transfer in Seton Hall’s Maurice Williams. That trio worked along with sophomore Kyle Genenbacher as the starting defensive quartet for the Irish last Thursday. 

Junior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd returns as one of the top keepers in the country. He anchored the Irish during last year’s postseason return and he figures to do the same this year.

The Irish also got some offense from their defenders. Burns finished second on the team with four shots, while Genenbacher rang up his first career goal in the 81st minute. The Irish looked strong defensively in the opening 45 minutes, not allowing a shot on target. But they faltered in the three-goal second half. 

“Seattle U was very clinical, but there were some key moments defensively where we could look at ourselves and do a better job,” Riley said. 

Offensively, the Irish know they need to find some scoring after graduating Jack Lynn and Dawson McCartney, their two leading scorers from last fall. Sophomore forwards Matthew Roou and Eno Nto may take on some of that burden, alongside senior striker Daniel Russo. Roou led the team with five shots against Seattle, and Russo added a pair. Nto couldn’t deliver an on-target strike but created some opportunities for the Irish while working on the wing. 

Another potential offensive X-factor is Matthew Radivojsa. After playing in 17 games as a freshman, Radivojsa missed last season with an injury. He came off the bench and provided a spark, delivering two quality shots. One forced a diving save and the other banged off the post. Riley noted that receiving quality minutes from the junior and sophomore midfielder Bryce Boneau, who is also coming off injury, was a good sign for the Irish. 

Along with Boneau and Radivojsa, the Irish also got important minutes from their freshmen. Four of the six freshman field-position players saw action in the opener. Wyatt Borso led the way, starting and playing 43 minutes. Sebastian Green recorded a shot on target in his 37 minutes. KK Balfour and Mitch Ferguson also saw the field for the Irish. 

“Some of it is positional,” Riley said, regarding the minute breakdown for the freshmen. “All the first-year guys did a great job coming in. It’s gonna be a class that’s going to feature a lot over their four years. They’ve had a great start.” 

The road doesn’t get easier for Notre Dame. They play Michigan State and Indiana next week, with ACC play opening the following weekend. There will be a learning curve, but the Irish have a lot of experience from last year’s College Cup team and some new, young talent that will need to develop. But the potential and the ceiling is there. Despite an opening hiccup, a return to the College Cup remains the vision for the Irish. Riley emphasized that despite losing some of that goal-scoring and intangible leadership, he’s confident in the crew he has this fall. 

“I think we have great leadership,” Riley said. “And they’re figuring out how to do it in their own way.”

Aidan Thomas


Contact Aidan at athoma28@nd.edu