For the first time in a very long while, I had to worry about how I was going to get to see a Notre Dame game. When the Irish are it home, it's no problem; they're always on NBC. Their road games are usually televised on ABC or ESPN, but they are also usually playing decent football. Since they were 0-5 and playing UCLA in the Rose Bowl, the game was only being telecast to the west coast and South Bend. Fortunately, the Internet stepped in and saved the day. I was able to watch the game on ESPN360.com. For streaming video is was surprisingly good quality and there were little to no issues with the feed. I think it may have skipped once or twice, but never during a play so I didn't miss a thing - even the same crappy commercials over and over.
Luckily, I was distracted enough with just figuring out how to watch the game, that I didn't spend a lot of time worrying about how well the Irish were going to play. UCLA was a 21 point favorite and the Bruins' players were trash-talking all week about how they were going to destroy the Irish. I didn't really have much hope that Notre Dame would be able to do much to keep that from happening.
The offense came out and struggled once again, but the defense looked fired up and was making the UCLA offense look a lot like ours. At halftime the Irish trailed 6-3 but they had knocked out UCLA's quarterback leaving them with a walk-on taking the snaps. In the second half, the defense stepped it up a notch and forced about 55 turnovers - Maurice Crum was personally responsible for 50 of those. The Irish scored 17 points in the third quarter - one touchdown scored by the defense, the other set up by an interception deep in UCLA territory - and put away the Bruins for good. In the fourth quarter the offense went into clock-killing mode and pretty much ran the ball on every play. Unfortunately, this didn't result in much yardage but the Irish never turned the ball over and just played a field position game to hang on.
Final score Notre Dame 20, UCLA 6.
All I have to say is: 'Bout damn time! We knew going into this season that the Irish had a brutal opening schedule (Georgia Tech, at Michigan, at Penn St.) and would probably start out with more losses than wins, but everyone pointed to the Michigan State and Purdue games as ones we could win before we got past USC on October 20th. When we didn't win those, 0-8 became a distinct possibility. I even began to discuss the possibility of losing to one (or more) of the last four teams on our schedule (Navy, Air Force, Duke, at Stanford). The season looked to be worse than we could have possibly imagined. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A very, very dim light, but it's there. The Irish managed to pull together to win a game they weren't supposed to and gain a little confidence in the process. I'm not saying that the Irish have saved their season - because there's nothing to be saved at this point - but I do believe this is a sign that this team still has life and can rack up a few more wins before the season is over.
Next week the Irish face #4 Boston College in South Bend, followed by #10 (really?!) USC. The last time Notre Dame was #1, BC managed to stroll into South Bend and knock the Irish off of their perch. Maybe the Irish can return the favor on Saturday. USC just got beat at home by Stanford (suddenly that final game doesn't look so easy) and definitely has it's flaws. Plus, the last time a heavily favored USC team came to Notre Dame, they needed the Bush Push to beat the Irish. Sure, both of these games could turn into three touchdown blowouts but if the breaks go the right way the Irish could keep them close enough to pull out a miracle - especially if the defense is able to play the way they did against UCLA.
Of course, I'm probably just on a high from the win. Or maybe the win just gave me hope. That's all we really have, right?