It's been a while since I pulled out the pick and strummed, so I figured I'd give Mike Royko a break for a bit and bring back a little old-school NDN. If it's April and it's Notre Dame, the Blue-Gold game is right around the corner. Well, the event with that name is, anyway, because it's certainly different than it used to be. Notre Dame's spring program has morphed from a standard three weeks of practice and a standard scrimmage to a two-month staggered schedule concluding with players running plays on a field under a scoring system that changes every year.
The 85-scholarship limit the NCAA imposes sometimes leads to more than its fair share of brinksmanship. Players chose to leave for whatever reason, recruits do or don't make their grades, spring football results in injuries, etc. etc. No matter what happens, when the whistle blows this fall, you only can have 85 football players signed for scholarships. When you're currently at 89 players, as Notre Dame was earlier this week, that means four guys who had scholarships last year won't have them next year, and arrangements must needs be made. Players with eligibility remaining won't be able to return. Some are ready to move on, others may not be, but regardless of motivation, the number must be reached.
With two minutes remaining in a soggy Citrus Bowl, LSU seemed to have things well in hand. They had overcome multiple special teams gaffes to take a three-point lead on kicker Jack Gonsoulin's first made field goal of the game, Notre Dame's offense had looked better stopping itself than accomplishing much, and the defense needed just a stop to bring home a victory. Enter the unlikely battery of Book & Boykin. Not an intellectual property law firm, but the architects of an incredible 55-yard touchdown pass that delivered a fruitstand shot to the Tiger faithful and got Notre Dame their 10th victory of the 2017-18 season by a score of 21-17.
Kabong steps in for Vannie, who is taking some time off. Only four times in the last 20 years have the Fighting Irish managed to complete a season with a win total in the double digits. Brian Kelly and his charges will attempt to make it five on New Years Day when they take on the LSU Tigers in the Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. While the game falls outside the vaunted "New Years Day Six", attrition on both sidelines has created an interesting storyline, as both teams' fanbases look to see which group will overcome their recent adversity.
In her first book three years ago, Lisa Kelly shared the thoughts and memories of Notre Dame football alums and and how the Notre Dame experience helped guide them through the shoals of life to satisfaction and success. Now she goes further in her new installment, The Men We Became: More Echoes from the End Zone, to share more memories and the success of the Notre Dame Value Stream in crafting top-notch players and people. Lisa samples the spectrum of alumni careers, from the perhaps typical (medical, legal, financial) to the certainly unusual (clothing, mentoring, writing), finding the common thread of the positives Notre Dame brought into the lives of these men.