January 7, 2013
Two series. That is what defined Notre Dame’s defense in this season of resurgence, as the Irish fought to an undefeated regular season and the Bowl Championship Series national title game against Alabama on Monday night.
Two series with that Notre Dame defense backed up near its goal line, protecting a single-digit lead. Two series in which a pair of opponents ran straight ahead, up the middle, close enough to the end zone to measure by feet, or inches. Two series that clinched two victories in the final minutes.
For all the reasons Notre Dame arrived back at the national championship — reasons like Coach Brian Kelly and quarterback Everett Golson and linebacker Manti Te’o — none proved as important or overlooked as the work the defense did when it was backed up near the end zone. Notre Dame stopped Stanford there in overtime, inside the 1-yard-line. The Irish also turned back Southern California at the 1-yard-line in their regular-season finale.
Had either of those teams gained that single yard, Notre Dame’s magical season would have ended in a series of almosts — almost undefeated, almost B.C.S. title game bound.
Instead, Notre Dame highlighted the art of the goal-line stand, a sequence among the most straightforward and difficult in football. It did so, according to the defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, because of the consistency of its approach.
“The goal-line stands are a function of players knowing clearly exactly what to do, playing with whole heart, whole body, whole mind,” Diaco said. “No situation will be too much for us to take on, and no place on the field will we get discouraged, no matter where the ball is placed.”
That mentality carried Notre Dame through so many close games this season. It made the difference between a good team and a great one. It was a mind-set, Te’o said, that the Irish lacked in recent seasons.
Notre Dame’s ability to stop offenses near the end zone, combined with Alabama’s ability to score once its offense closed in, provided an important subplot before the title tilt. The Crimson Tide scored roughly 8 times out of every 10 times it advanced inside an opponent’s 20-yard-line. The Fighting Irish allowed opponents inside the 20 only 33 times, and in those instances, they yielded a scant eight touchdowns.
This led Alabama players and coaches to laud the Notre Dame defense throughout the week that led up to the championship game. The offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier labeled the Fighting Irish’s front seven the best the Crimson Tide would see this season. Receiver Kevin Norwood even paid Notre Dame the ultimate compliment.
“They’re like an SEC defense,” he said, in reference to Alabama’s conference, known for its tough, physical, stout defenses.
For as long as teams have played football, the goal-line stand has proved to be a game-changer, a brute-force sequence, man against man, power against power, strength against strength, that greatly shifted momentum from a team that is about to score to a team that refused to yield any points.
There is little technical artistry involved, the focus instead on simple concepts and difficult execution. Defensive linemen must get underneath the pads of their offensive counterparts, gain leverage and push the offense backward. They call this setting a new line of scrimmage. Linebackers must fill the gaps behind the linemen. Cornerbacks must cover receivers, should an offense pass, or pinch inside from the edge, wary of a running back leaping over the pile.
The defense cannot expect officials to call many penalties that close, in crucial moments. The sheer mass of bodies in such a confined space makes that difficult, as do the stakes involved.
“It’s fight or flight,” Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta said. “You have to make this stop. There’s no other option. You dream of situations like this your whole life.”
Like against Stanford in October. Notre Dame led, 20-13, after it scored first in overtime. Stanford drove to the 4-yard-line. Four times the Cardinal handed the ball to Stepfan Taylor. Four times Notre Dame stopped him short, although in the final instance Taylor inched so close to the end zone that many believe he actually scored.
Everett Golson was born on January 2nd, 1993 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everett_Golson
January 2nd, 1993
1 + 2 +1+9+9+3 = 25 = his life lesson = Exciting. Thrilling. Rooting for the underdog.
January 2nd, 1993
1 + 2 +2+0+1+3 = 9 = his personal year (from January 2nd, 2013 to January 1st, 2014) = Seeking sage advice. Heeding wisdom. Wisdom sets him apart.
9 year + 1 (January) = 10 = his personal month (from January 2nd, 2013 to February 1st, 2013) = Opportunities. Going with the flow. Rolling with it.
10 month + 7 (7th of the month on Monday January 7th, 2013) = 17 = his personal day = Making miracles happen.
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