Irish prove how good they are
Fox Sports... Almost
There's not much more to say about Notre Dame football, is there? Everyone in the college football world spent the last nine months asking each other: "Starting off with A&M and Nebraska? What are the Irish thinking? Do they actually think they have a shot at the national title?"
Apparently they did, and they still do. The only difference now? The experts aren't rolling their eyes anymore.
This team didn't have to say a word or rely on someone else to cut some breaks for them.
They proved to the entire country, one possession at a time, that no one but the guys wearing the pads really know how much heart, desire, talent and determination lie beneath a jersey or behind a face mask.
They spotted Nebraska, everybody's all-everything team, a 21-7 third quarter lead before ripping apart the 'Husker coverage units like they belonged to the San Jose State Spartans — Big Red's week-one opponent.
These returns probably wouldn't have meant a whole lot had the Irish defense not been able to contain the vaunted rushing attack of Heisman- hopeful quarterback Eric Crouch and the 'Huskers.
True, Nebraska still did a solid job moving the ball after they reached 21 points, but during regulation they didn't move it the only place that means anything: across the goal line.
Then you throw in all that other stuff, stuff that a confident team won't bring up as excuses for an overtime loss.
First, the defense: they made all those second half stops, and nearly an overtime stop, without captain Grant Irons and while on the field for over 36 minutes of a 60 minute game.
Then there's the offense, a unit that went without starting wideout Javin Hunter in the second half because of an injury.
Oh, and you know Arnaz Battle, the starting quarterback who played the entire game? He apparently broke his wrist on the offense's first play of the game.
The result of this game, just in case you stayed in to watch that Michigan-Bowling Green thriller, was Nebraska coming from behind in overtime to win, 27-24.
Not bad for a bunch of guys who were pegged just another overmatched opponent on a Cornhusker title ending in South Florida at the Orange Bowl.
Heck, this team didn't even just give Nebraska a good game or all they could handle.
They scared Big Red. They intimidated Webster's definition of "intimidator."
But it doesn't stop there with a moral victory in September. For a good team, it never does.
After the game, Battle said: "If we win the rest of our games, we'll have the opportunity to come back and play a quality team like Nebraska."
As of right now, it's very possible that he could miss the rest of the season because of that broken wrist.
I have to admit, when I first heard that news, my spirits fell and I questioned whether this team could achieve its goals with another new quarterback. I'd be lying if I said all the doubt was gone, and I don't think I'm alone in feeling that way.
But that's the beauty of the situation — the Irish have defined themselves in the public eye by making many football fans look foolish. They did this by defining themselves as players and people who refused to accept the verdict of outsiders.
I do think the odds are a little more unfavorable now. In the end, though, I still choose to believe this team when they say something great lies ahead of them this season.
After all, they haven't given any of us a reason to expect anything less.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer
All Sports Stories for Monday, September 11, 2000