Power failure: Irish are struggling
Nebraska 27, Notre Dame 10
LINCOLN, Neb. – This was the site Saturday night of another indicator
of our rapidly advancing age.
Today's teenagers can't remember life without the Cartoon Network or
Gameboys. And the concept of Notre Dame as a football power seems as
absurd as Russia as a world power.
After the Irish's 27-10 season-opening loss at Nebraska, it doesn't look
like the kids are going to get a history lesson any time soon.
Let's get the asterisk out of the way early: Lesson No. 1 on Saturday
was that you don't play your first game at the No. 5 team in the country
playing its third game.
This was as victory produced as much in the athletic directors' office
as on the football field. (Deliver your high-fives to Bill Byrne,
Notre Dame looked like a team that could have benefited from a couple of
scrimmages against TCU and Troy State, which helped Nebraska fine-tune
its game for the game that was its emotional season opener.
The Fighting Irish didn't even know that Matt LoVecchio was not their
starting quarterback. Fellow sophomore Carlyle Holiday was far superior
– as superior as anyone could be against Nebraska's everywhere,
Excuses aside, this was the game that motivated the Cornhuskers during
summer conditioning drills and two-a-days.
Nebraska proved beyond a doubt that it is the team to take seriously if
you're talking modern powers among these two teams with storied
For the record, 1993 was the last time Notre Dame ever hurt anybody you
The Irish are 3-12 against top-10 teams since that year, when they
finished No. 2 in the nation – their last top-10 finish.
Reasons are speculative, but the value of the "Notre Dame mystique" has
clearly diminished in recruiting – only a couple of years after the
Irish signed a national network TV package with NBC in 1991.
Opponents viewed that deal as the weapon Notre Dame would wield to
perpetual national-title contention well into the 21st century. Talented
athletes like TV, and nothing is more valuable than having every game on
national, network TV.
That was the theory, anyway.
But Notre Dame has produced only two first-round NFL draft picks in the
last seven years. It had three in 1994, four in 1993, and at least one
in eight of the 11 seasons prior to that.
So what if this was the school that invented the forward pass? It didn't
pass or run very well against Nebraska. The Irish had 43 yards of net
total offense at halftime, by which point they trailed, 27-3, and a wet
Memorial Stadium crowd had only a smidge more enthusiasm than it had for
TCU two weeks earlier.
In the end, Notre Dame accumulated 162 yards, while Nebraska relied on
its superior defense and traditional and competent clock-killing running
game for a fast second half.
Nebraska whips Notre Dame? Once upon a time, this kind of news would
have sparked the uprooting of goal posts. This time, it was as dull as
an afternoon against Troy State.
And though it did liven the Cornhuskers' hopes for a championship
season, what Nebraska saw was little more than a Galloping Ghost of
Notre Dame's former identity.
The good news to Irish fans is this should not be the last we hear from
coach Bob Davie's fifth Notre Dame team. Davie has 18 seniors in the 22
starting positions on offense and defense.
The bad news is Davie's record is now 20-30, not good enough at any
traditional power. And certainly not at a school the boasts of having
the highest winning percentage (.752) of any school in Division I.
It's college football's prevailing historical marker, having given us
the Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen and Win One for the Gipper.
Then again, ask a teenager if she or he has ever heard of them.