Notre Dame Stadium is not all that big. Their press box isn't very impressive, and the scoreboards remind me of the pixelated version from early-90's Crisler Arena that used to blink "BIG NOOK" when Juwan Howard was introduced. The "open bowl" setup lends itself to having the noise escape a la the pre-suite Big House. The student section is small, as is the school in general, about 1/4 the size of the University of Michigan. In short, on paper, Notre Dame is not all that intimidating of a place to play. The reality however, is that the second you enter the stadium, you can literally feel the tradition, like you're in a museum, or a hall of fame. The pageantry of the Notre Dame marching band, the boisterous student section's male and female portioned cheers, the gold helmets, and there's like a garden with shrubbery and ivy, green as Ireland, behind both the benches. Seriously, it's beautiful. And while I've never actually met a Notre Dame fan that actually attended Notre Dame, they are still very passionate, and enjoy looking down their noses at you.
But there's something about the place. Something is different there. It's hard to describe. Sometimes called "luck" or "magic," and often playfully given religious metaphors. This power, this certain something, this twelfth man that Notre Dame possesses for each and every home game...it's real. I've seen it. And I'm not talking about touchdown Jesus, though after staring into his eyes for the better part of 4 hours on Saturday, I know that each time I looked to the heavens for help with my team, he scrambled the signal.
That's why I was never comfortable. A 14-point lead is nothing against the power of that place. Even referees are unable to resist the mystique.
Early on, we knocked Notre Dame quarterback Dane Crist silly, whose last name is an h short of being the messiah, and they brought in Joe Montana's son. Seriously...Joe Montana's son. He rode in to the stadium on a unicorn. He had on his dad's NFL number. And he had giant calves from wearing shape-ups.
With just under 4 minutes to go in the game, the sky, which had been thick overcast, parted, and sun hit the field for the first time all day. And a rainbow in the distance hooked around and landed on the 50-yard line. Ten seconds later, Crist, back in the game for the second half after guzzling holy water, threw a 95-yard touchdown pass to a tight end to give ND their first lead since the first quarter. The PA announcer actually said "95-yard touchdown pass from Dane Crist to Kyle Rudolph, and a rainbow on the 50-yard line."
I'm not making this shit up...except for maybe the unicorn.
But there was Denard. And Denard is something that the football gods, or the gods, or god Himself may have not been prepared for. Notre Dame, despite seeing the films from the previous week, certainly was not. Denard broke the rules of tradition. Denard broke records. He now holds the mark for the longest run in the history of Notre Dame stadium. He is also the first person to use the Heisman pose out of necessity since the guy they modeled the statue after did it in 1934. Denard doesn't know or care who Knute Rockne is, and he doesn't know or care about his own stats. He only cares about the team.
And this is a team my friends. Coach Rodriguez is building his own family here. He's creating his own Michigan men. Don't kid yourself, he created the phenomenon that is known by many as "shoelace." He took a sprinter and made him a football player. Rich Rodriguez created Denard Robinson to take everything that is wrong with these Wolverines, from the placekicking to the punting to the defense's inexperience, and eliminate them from the equation of football completely.
They say special teams wins games, and defense wins championships. We have very little of either, yet we have a chance to win both.