MIAMI GARDENS, FL – If you refer to Notre Dame’s return to relevancy in college football as the “Waking Up The Echoes”, then the alarm clock is set for Monday night at 8 P.M.
As with some of the elite football programs, the Irish measure true success by national titles instead of every day goals of victories and a post-season bowl game. Its been 24-years since that happened, an eternity for fans and alumni who aren’t used to waiting a generation for their team to top college football’s rankings.
For the first time in the BCS era, Notre Dame will have a shot to take home the school’s 12th national championship in the BCS title game against Alabama at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. The game against the defending champion
“I think it was important for our program to get back to this point where we bring everybody back in the fold, so to speak,” said Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly on the significance of the game for all involved with the Irish program-past and present. “So I think not only winning football games but getting this program back into the conversation relative to National Championships has brought everybody closer.”
The way Notre Dame got to this point certainly helped to do so. An undefeated season came with a collection of thrills and perhaps for some a little too much drama. Six of the Irish’s 12 victories were by eight points or less-including a double-overtime victory at home over Pittsburgh in which the Panthers had a field goal try to win the game go just to the right.
Notre Dame stalked the top spot for weeks before finally taking it late in November when attrition claimed other contenders and left them the top-ranked team in the country. An eight-point victory over USC in Los Angeles clinched their championship spot and their first win-and-get-title game since the 1989 Fiesta Bowl.
“I think you get what you deserve. We had some close games this year, but to win those close games versus losing those close games, you have to have more than just luck,” said Kelly of the regular season. “You have to have a will, a determination. You have to have a confidence. And I believe that all of those things have to be built.
“Every one of those words that I just used have to take place within the workings of your program.”
Manti Te’o is a major piece of the Irish machine that has brought them to the brink of a championship. Aside from his 103 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 11 pass deflections and seven interceptions, Te’o body of work as a leader for the team has made him a popular figure in college football and brought him to the brink of winning the Heisman Trophy.
He returned for his senior season in hopes of leading the Irish to a national championship-a unique journey that was based on simple principles.
“It wasn’t that moment where we were like, man, we’re going to make it to the National Championship. It was just one of those moments where we said, okay, we have a chance here,” said Te’o. “Like Coach (Kelly) said, we constantly worked every day and focused on the day’s tasks and were making sure that by the end of the day we were better than the start.”
Doing so may require a little bit of old-fashioned football, according to Kelly. He believes that the game will ultimately be decided with the play on the lines as much as the people around them. Standing behind his offensive line for this title game will be redshirt freshman Everett Golson, who earned the job early in the season held onto it sans a few relief appearances by Tommy Rees.
Golson threw for 2,135 yards with eleven touchdowns compared to five interceptions in his first season in South Bend.
“Definitely high. I feel like it has to be,” said Golson of his confidence heading into the game against Alabama. “Being that I’m the leader of this team, the leader of this offense, it has to be high. So I’m definitely ready to go.”
So have a generation of fans of the Blue and Gold.