Describing college football is a challenging task without uttering Notre Dame in the same breath. No sports tour of any kind is complete without a stop in South Bend, Indiana. The gameday experience here is rich with eye-opening appeal. With the first step on these hallowed grounds, fans truly feel the history of former players, Heisman winners, and legendary coaches who made this game famous. Strolling around the campus prior to kickoff is where these traditions get pieced together – it’s college football’s theme park.
Northwestern did it before. 1995. The Irish opened the season ranked 9th and the Wildcats were supposed to be the welcome mat that Notre Dame trampled over to initiate a fresh new season. But, Northwestern knew that scripts can change. The Wildcats stunned the Golden Domers with a 17-15 victory that the Chicago Tribune dubbed “The Upset of the Century.” This win would propel the purple towards one of the must unexpected Cinderella stories culminating in their first Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl appearance since 1949.
What do you call a BYU fan in a bar?
Okay, overused joke, I know. But, since BYU became independent, they have visited many foreign campuses where a joke like this is fresh. Welcome to Madison, Cougars. Wisconsin fans are primarily quick-witted and knee-slappingly funny, but this bit of humor was only worthy of a smirk and an eye-roll. Nevertheless, it is fun introducing fans who appreciate a top notch college atmosphere to one of the Big Ten’s best.
If I spent all summer writing the perfect script, I still couldn’t have come up with what transpired on Saturday. Yes, much of it was scripted, and planned for nearly ten months. But, perfection reached new heights at Camp Randall…all prior to kickoff. August 31,2013 marked the 50th anniversary of my parents. My loving father, however, passed away 7 years ago. My brother, who shared my father’s name, passed away nine months earlier. That trying year for our family has brought us closer together, and despite my father’s absence, this fiftieth anniversary could not be overlooked.
The hallowed grounds of Notre Dame have become hollowed out by the weak and the mighty. Teams that are not traditional powers (Navy, Tulsa, etc.) have been undaunted by the mystique of Notre Dame Stadium. Coach Kelly is all about retrieving that mystique and making a win over the Irish in South Bend a rarity. In comes hobbling Utah (8-1) and reeling after a pounding from Texas Christian. Ranked fourteenth and seemingly overrated, this could be the Irish’s chance at toppling a ranked team for the first time in a long while.
The t-shirts worn by the Notre Dame student section this year read, “Notre Dame will rise again.” That’s a bold statement considering the tumultuous season the Irish experienced last year. However, a couple of early season wins this year, including one over rival Michigan, has allowed hope to trickle back into South Bend. Will the Boilermakers hammer a dent in the railroad that leads to Notre Dame’s anticipated ascension to greatness? The classic college football setting in South Bend coupled with a perfect autumn Saturday afternoon served as the backdrop for this exciting battle…
Army scored first and last, but Notre Dame walloped them in between. Led by Heisman hopeful, Brady Quinn, the Irish made senior day in South Bend a memorable experience for all who packed inside Notre Dame Stadium. The Black Knights had the intensity, but lacked the offense to keep up with the luck of the Irish. Notre Dame came pouring out of the famed tunnel in their rarely worn green jerseys. When the captains met at midfield, Brady Quinn received the largest ovation – one of many to come on this nippy November Saturday…
Fans that venture to South Bend, Indiana and only watch the game are not real college football fans. Notre Dame is the capital of college football tradition. Walking the campus and visiting the symbols that represent this program are practically part of the ticket price. Prior to the game, we viewed the Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus, the Grotto, a band concert on campus, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It was at this chapel where the team gathers for prayer before going to battle on the gridiron. Our timing was impeccable because the team exited the basilica as we arrived. Led by head coach Bob Davie, the Fighting Irish walked through a tunnel of fans on their way to Notre Dame Stadium.