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  • Fight Until You Die

    by SEE

    (The Rock Report) -  2012 will go down as a season with some of the ugliest scores since the 60s. 20-17, 13-6, 20-13(ot), 17-14, 29-26(ot), 22-13… wretchedly ugly when viewed on a schedule, but so, so beautiful when you also see the heart behind the score.

    During this unbeaten run it seemed as if a different player rose to the occasion each game, pulling the team with him to victory.

    That’s the mark of greatness.

    It’s not Zorich and Rice that define the 1988 championship team for me as much as Green, Eilers, Stams and Smagala; unheralded players who fought and clawed their way to victory. When those types of players play championship football, you know you’ve got the makings of a title contender.

    Likewise, while Teo is invaluable, its players like Theo Riddick and Matthias Farley who signal that this is a special team to me. Riddick has spent most of his time as a slot receiver, but appeared to lose his job last year to Robby Toma and began this year backing up Cierre Wood. Farley was the 82nd ranked 3-star cornerback on Scout who was forced into action this year after star senior Jamoris Slaughter went down.

    Those two players had sensational games last night and have, at times, saved this team. Farley’s play has been nothing short of outstanding this year. Last night he led the team in tackles making  saving tackles on McNeal, hits in the backfield and leading coverage the helped keep USC to their lowest point total of the year.

    No one likely remembers Riddick’s twisting diving catch of a Tommy Rees pass on a critical 3rd and 8 vs. Stanford, but without that play, Notre Dame might not be going to the championship game. And he did it again last night.

    Riddick knifed the Trojans, spinning and juking and, at times, plowing through Trojan defenders for 146 yards at a clip of over 7 yards a carry. That’s remarkable given he had no long runs. In fact, Riddick never had a run of less than 2 yards and 17 of his runs were 4 yards or more, that may seem like a trivial stat, but what it means is that Notre Dame’s offense never went backward and consistently put USC on the defensive. It was a Mark Green performance circa 2012.

    Like Green, Riddick proved himself the heart and soul off the offense last night and his effort may have been the difference between a nine-point win and a nail-biter. His words told much about him and this 2012 team.

    “It’s who we are as a team. When you have 11 brothers out there that put it all on the line, then you can believe. You have to get after it every play, every snap, because you never know. It’s fighting. Fight until you die.”

    Riddick picked up yard after yard after the first hit and those yards were demoralizing and frustrating and oh so pretty to watch. It’s been a gift watching Riddick fight through the down times to become a legend in the making. As much as anybody, he symbolizes this team and when this season’s story is finally written, Theo’s name should be mentioned in same sentence with Teo’s.

    I remember thinking the new helmets looked like garish Christmas ornaments under the lights during last season’s debacle in the bend against USC, but last night, those same helmets, slightly nicked and chipped with Trojan pain, sparkled atop the beautiful ugliness of victory underneath.

    27 Responses to “Fight Until You Die”

    1. Go Irish. I’m so proud of this TEAM!!! they did it with heart and soul. ho couldn’t love them? maybe Alabama or Georgia???

    2. You can’t spell TEAM without Manti T’eo.

      This kid is the ultimate team player and represents everything that is right about college sports.

    3. I really like those bright shiny gold helmets. No tarnish.
      Riddick is incredible, one of those names that I will forever savor, right beside Teo as you said.

    4. John Cochtoastin says:

      Really gonna miss this group of seniors. Hats off to Weis for recruiting them and Kelly for coaching them up.

    5. Jack McGee says:

      Remember “Rope A Dope” and how Mohammad Ali got an opponent to exhaust himself puching the air? I have watched carefully every game this season and was remided of that tactic applied to the gridiron. It seemed to me that was Kelly’s tactic as well; let the opponents eat up all the yardage they wanted except the last ten and then the Irish simply allowed no more. Look at the films; it was a version of “Rope A Dope”.
      Very impressive, coach!

      • Likewise, their 4th quarter performance. At one point in the season when I checked, the Irish were outscoring their opponents something like 80-20 in the 4th quarter, testimony to their conditioning. I still have nightmares from the previous era, about really large guys standing around late in the game, hands on hips, gasping for air, and wondering where the hell the ball went.

    6. ElkhartIrish says:

      Every one of those guys is a champion. And let’s not forget Tommy Rees. They wouldn’t be 12-0 without him too.

    7. You can’t spell Trojan without OJ.

    8. Like I’ve said a 1000x, I’ll take ugly wins over pretty losses any day. Riddick ran like a man on a mission last night. One more hill to climb for this team. Let’s remember the ultimate goal is to be #1 again, not anything else.

    9. It’s called Winning Every Play. It’s what all the great teams have. They don’t seek to win all their games, or even win the next game….or even to win the next qtr. The best teams in football try to WIN EVERY PLAY.

      In hockey, we see great teams try to win their shift. In lacrosse and basketball they try to win every possession.

      This team plays to win every play. And by doing that they put constant pressure on the opponent. That’s why we’re winning every 2nd half. Not because we’re more talented, but because the opponent just can’t put up with that pressure/high level.. That’s something that takes a coach 3yrs to develop. And its why you can never a judge a coach until year 3.

      If we play to WIN EVERY PLAY, we can beat anyone. The opponent is nameless and faceless.

    10. This is a special group of seniors indeed, coming to ND on the heels of one of the worst seasons in Irish history. Agree with John Cochtoastin, hats off to Weis for bringing them in and the even more amazing job by BK and his staff for developing them and laying out the plan for success!

    11. Bob Howsam, Jr. says:

      Good article. This year was absolutely a team effort. Everett Golson grew so much as a leader during the course of the season. The offensive line was outstanding and became more dominating as the year went on. Manti has been a beast and deserves the Heisman. But last night, the guy who really sealed the deal as far as I’m concerned was Theo Riddick. He made runs to daylight where there simply was none. He refused to be tackled and showed a toughness and a determination that left me speechless, as did Brian Kelly’s inexplicable failure to give Riddick the rock on that last drive to allow him to punch it in. It was if Kelly had not seen any of the prior plays. His decision to have Golson run the ball twice off empty sets and then have Golson more inexplicably throw a nearly impossible fade route to Eifert could easily have cost us the game. At this point, it thankfully doesn’t matter. But I hope Kelly goes back and looks at the tape of that last drive and does some serious introspection. Theo was a complete beast of a man. For the Irish to beat Bama or Georgia, the lion share of the burden will fall on the D, as it has all season. But for as much as Everett Golson has matured this season, his arm cannot carry the Irish O. It has to be the ground game and the remarkable offensive line. It was nice to see Kelly get GAIII and Wood some touches in addition to Riddick, but the play-calling needs to improve and Kelly needs to trust what’s working. When it’s crystal clear to everyone Riddick can’t be stopped, and Kelly runs three plays in crunch time ignoring Riddick, it scares me. This teams deserves to win the National Championship. I hope and pray we don’t fail to do so because Kelly fails to trust his best players with the game on the line.

    12. Great comments

      We have 6 weeks to prep for NC and gameday. Want some motivation for the team? Have them all read the SI cover and story of the “Notre Dame Miracle”.

      A lot of bullshit with some facts.

      Smear tactics about a girl who had major issues with mental problems and her encounter with a football player. SI made it a side bar priority…official investigation from the University and law enforcement found the incident a tragic case of someone with a personal mental problem. SI lost on the bashing – relevance to the ND football program – a great read but zero relevance and and another shot.

      As SI goes on in the article..

      Next side bar was Declan Sullivans tragic demise in year one with BK. We are the ND family and can not dismiss the tragedy and go on without comment. As an ND parent I can not think we could have been right or justified or made to understand the incident or the ramifications of this loss of life. SI has the facts to publish a story sidebar relevant to the loss of Declan.

      The bashing continues in the SI article about CW and his plead for a training table for the fotball team falling on deaf ears by the University. A relevant post here at ND nation some time ago stated the same kind of non-support for the team in adverse conditions in practice with the team and team managers having no jackets provided to them in the coldest of conditions. CW got the jackets. Another relevant post talked about ND presidents who cared or did not care about the football program at ND. Comments please…

      SI published an article and a cover that tells about half the story of ND football to this point in 2012. Biased for sure. I can not help As a SW Pennsylvania parent of an ND junior this year stating to you the hate for this program is only growing from the likes of the SI articles. Penn State hates us..Pitt fans would love to burn our houses down collectively.

      • I subscribed to SI for years until I grew really tired of it. The photography is world-class but the writing, which used to match the photography, is mediocre and getting worse. Thanks for giving me an excuse to pat myself on the back for letting the subscription expire.

        This team is one for the ages. I personally thought 9-3 would be good. Lose what games? I didn’t know. They started out good and have been getting noticeably better every week, especially Golson, which in turn turns the spotlight to Kelly and Rees, especially Rees. Kelly’s use of him as a spot reliever is something I’ve never seen, and it has worked like a charm. But it would NOT have worked were it not for Rees’ character – his willingness to be used the way Kelly has used him, all for the TEAM.

        Best game? Oklahoma. They came into a very hostile environment and in the 4th quarter when things were getting a little dicey Kelly just turned them loose and away they went.

        Wake Forest – they could have scored in the 50s.

        Apologies for the 9:05 – I inadvertently pushed the wrong button.

      • Bob Howsam, Jr. says:

        I haven’t read the SI smear piece and don’t intend to, but I think the added motivation will be what the haters and supposed experts say between now and the game about how the Irish:(1) don’t belong in the NC Game, and (2) will get trounced.

        One supposed SEC expert is saying the Irish would be the 7th best team in the SEC. I love it and I’m sure Kelly and the players will find plenty of bulletin board material.

        The USC game was actually a great warm-up. The Trojans had two phenomenal running backs, two WRs who will go in the first round of the NFL draft and a fairly stout D. But for SC’s fullback dropping a sure TD near the end and SC failing on 4 tries from the 1, who knows how the game might’ve turned out.

        I hope the Irish find ways to stay sharp between now and the NC Game. That is a tremendously long layoff. Does anyone know if NCAA rules allow them to hold a scrimmage with say … the Buckeyes?

        • Also for motivation, you can add the fact that irregardless of who wins the SEC championship, ND will be an underdog, even though ranked #1. Just bring it on!

    13. You really didn’t/don’t like the helmets? Go on Twitter some night during a game and type in “Notre Dame helmets” in the search box. You’ll see dozens and dozens of comments about them – I’d wager better than 90% are not only positive, but glowing. They’re actually so beautiful that they seem to be winning us an entirely new, and surprisingly large, demographic of fans – girls who don’t know anything about football except that Notre Dame has really beautiful helmets. Responses from young men, while less numerous, are equally positive for the most part, and I’ve yet to see a single negative comment on them from young, male African-Americans. I know, I know – these things shouldn’t matter to recruits. But they do. Those helmets are a godsend. They’re a huge part of the brand going forward and whoever led the charge in getting them right should be promoted.

    14. Bob Howsam,
      While I agree with you that not having Riddick run the ball on the last visit to the red zone was perplexing, criticizing a coach who has exceeded all expectations for a couple of play calls is ludicrous. Obviously, a great coach saw something and called plays he thought were best for the situation he was facing. What is with the constant criticism? The armchair quarterbacks must be complete egomaniacs to think they can second guess the coach of the unblemished, #1 team in the nation.
      Keep your grumblings to yourself and enjoy the moment.

    15. I did some research today on the 3-star players we have playing this year, of course Teo was 5, but look at this list of 3-star recruits since 2008: John Goodman, Mike Golic Jr, Calabrese, Eifert, Toma, Turk, Collinsworth, Bennet Jackson, Rees, Kona Schwanke, Justin Utopo, Golson, Mathias Farley, Nick Martin, Cam McDaniel, Nick Barati, Chris Brown, and I may have missed a couple. Tuitt & Ishaq Williams were both 5 star along with Teo, only three 5s, which also included Crist, Floyd and Rudolph who left. Rest were 4s. But these 3’s became key players, which is what Kelly is known for developing players.

      • Richard Magnone AKA THE ECHO says:

        REMEMBER LOU SAID “HE WAS HERE TO WIN FOOTBALL GAMES FOR ND. NOT SOME OF OUR GAMES,NOT MOST OF OUR GAMES;I’m HERE TO WIN ALL OF OUR GAMES”.(1988) BRIAN KELLY HAS ND #! in 2012. DID ANYONE BELIEVE…I DID & SO DID MANY ND FAITHFUL.
        “WAKE UP THE ECHOS” THE ECHOES ARE SCREAMING. GO ND

      • Bob Howsam, Jr. says:

        Does anyone know where Scout or Rivals rated this year’s current senior class? Talk about coaching em up. Wow.

    16. MICHAEL SHERIDAN SEAN HAYES says:

      ND ’73

      GO IRISH! ND WILL WIN NATIONAL TITLE THIS YEAR.

      MIKE HAYES

    17. jsmittyund03 says:

      I’ve been preaching it since the B/G game, he’s one of the best athletes on the field. IMHO, we didn’t get him the ball enough, and yet, he maintained an entirely team attitude, and was w/o a doubt a captain when it came to sideline encouragement of some of the younger guys. Riddick deserves the team MVP this year. I hope he knows how much we will miss him.

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