There simply is no way to sugarcoat it: Saturday night’s loss to Florida State was just brutal. With that said, debating whether or not the offensive pass-interference call at the end of the game was the correct call (it wasn’t) is really irrelevant because no matter what the replay tells us, it doesn’t change the outcome of the game. That’s not really that bad, though. Notre Dame is still 6-1 after 8 weeks of college football and ranked #7 in the AP poll with a legitimate opportunity to land a spot in the inaugural college football playoff. So rather than sulk about a gut wrenching loss, Notre Dame fans should focus more on what lies ahead: Notre Dame is among the elite again, and now everyone knows it.
Roughly 13.2 million people tuned in to watch the Notre Dame – Florida State match-up on Saturday night, meaning that 13.2 million people watched Notre Dame go toe-to-toe for 60 minutes with the defending national champions and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Not even the most notorious of Notre Dame haters could spin it negatively. Jameis Winston played lights-out in the second half, and despite his stellar performance, Florida State was still on the ropes for nearly all of the game. There was no fluke, no crazy stroke of luck, just outstanding football being played by both teams for the entire game.
I can recall times during the Weis era and even the first two years of the Brian Kelly era when I would watch teams like Alabama, LSU, and Stanford play and find myself saying “Wow, Notre Dame isn’t even close to that level of play.” And for a long time, this was true. Notre Dame scraped the surface of the elite in 2012, but they were pummeled back down to reality in the National Championship game against Alabama. A year and a half later, Notre Dame had their first real opportunity since the 2012 National Championship game to prove their prominence amongst the college football elite and this time, they delivered.
This game goes beyond the scope of the 2014 season, and Notre Dame will feel the impact of this game for years to come despite what the final score says. Recruits from across the country were tuned in to last Saturday’s match-up and Notre Dame caught the eye of a lot of the recruits who once doubted Notre Dame’s staying power. Don’t believe me? Check out Tom Loy’s page from 24/7, there you will find a plethora of positive reactions from recruits that hadn’t always showed the most interest in Notre Dame. In addition to recruits, the belief within the program that they belong amongst the elite is just going to be fueled after this loss. The players and coachers were eager to prove something again after the National Championship and while they did prove a lot, the fact that they did not bring back a win from Tallahassee is going to prevent the players from becoming content and this will continue to drive them moving forward.
Initially, the takeaway from this game from nearly every Notre Dame fan was anger and resentment against the referees. But after the hangover of the loss goes away, I’m confident that Notre Dame fans will really start to embrace the positives that came away from the team’s loss to Florida State. If nothing else, the fact that Notre Dame fans are pissed off about this loss is something in and of itself. For the first time in a very long time, Notre Dame fans aren’t just satisfied with keeping it close or almost winning. It’s no longer considered irrational for Notre Dame fans to expect a win in every single game. It’s clear after Saturday night’s game that Brian Kelly has nearly the entire fan base believing in him and the direction of this program, and that might just be the most impressive thing the head coach has done so far in his time here at Notre Dame.
For more, follow me on twitter @Twoj7.