Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 23, 2015 Issue

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 58 of 113

IN THE TRENCHES ANDREW OWENS "It's hard to win in college foot- ball," senior left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. "Every team has got a game plan against us. They do the best they can do and really try to get us off our game. "Wake Forest did a good job of mix- ing their looks up and really giving us a hard time. I'm just very happy about the way our team performed in facing all those looks and that we came out with a win." It's easy to forget just how signifi- cant this senior class has been for Notre Dame. When the fourth-year seniors arrived in 2012, the Irish program had not yet established consistency. Home losses to Syracuse, Connecticut, Tulsa and South Florida were a common oc- currence — outside of the slip-up ver- sus Northwestern in 2014, the senior class generally avoided such pitfalls — and Notre Dame had yet to prove it could compete with the top powers. "Hopefully we're the class that ev- erybody remembers put Notre Dame back on top," senior defensive lineman and team captain Sheldon Day said. "Notre Dame was irrelevant a couple years ago, but now they're relevant once again. That's all we wanted to do. "Coming in as freshmen, that's all we could talk about, a national cham- pionship. We didn't know how much it took to get there, but we're learning about it right now. It's definitely a blessing to go through this experi- ence." At 9-1, Notre Dame's seniors remain in the thick of the national champi- onship discussion. During the week leading up to the Wake Forest win, the College Football Playoff selection committee tabbed the Irish as the No. 4 team in the nation. That status is cer- tainly fluid, but this is the second time in four years that the Irish remained a championship contender heading into late November. After years of mediocrity and failed head coaches, that is significant. "It's important to us to improve upon the foundation that was laid by the se- nior classes before us," fifth-year se- nior linebacker and team captain Joe Schmidt said. "We feel that we have some work left to be done in that area, but the record at home is something that we really wanted to work on. It's a point of pride for us." There are only three — maybe four — games remaining on the schedule for this team, including the postseason. A trip to one coast to see the Green Mon- ster will be followed by a trek west to face a red one in Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. Considering the losses Notre Dame has endured off the field (quarter- back Malik Zaire, running back Tar- ean Folston, defensive lineman Jarron Jones and several others), the fact it has suffered only one loss on the field is impressive. The Irish have proven they can compete against any team in the nation, but the rest of the season will be about winning such games. It would extend the senior class' legacy from program altering to truly transcendent. ✦ Andrew Owens has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since August 2013. He can be reached at

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