Speeding south from Philadelphia after my afternoon, improbable, Temple upset over East Carolina, I grab my friends Tim and Suzie for a night contest in Landover. Friends from grad school, they were kind enough to put a roof over my head and grab an extra ticket to the Notre Dame vs Navy tilt in FedEx field – home of the Washington Redskins. We pull into the tailgate lots well after dark, while the cavernous stadium glows at the top of the hill like a circular alien spacecraft. While some of the fans stumbling around the parking lots have clearly made a full afternoon of the festivities, we’ll have only an hour to tailgate before pressing into the stadium. That gives us just enough time to make a full assault on the snack table, the entire tailgate graciously supplied by Suzie’s friend Meredith. A sweet potato chili in particular grabs my attention, and as an icy wind whips through the parking lot, the spicy comfort food warms the belly for a chilly night ahead. Washed down with a handful of Guinness’, we’re ready for the contest ahead.
Readers familiar with the blog know my utter contempt for NFL stadiums. Cold, soulless beasts that they are, the sterile complexes typically occupy cultural deserts in a toxic waste part of town. FedEx field is no different in that regard, it’s simply a giant concrete donut dropped coldly into a sea of asphalt. But on a night like tonight, with the mercury dipping well into the 30’s accompanied by gusting winds, the well appointed luxury concourses of an NFL stadium are a welcome respite. I set my prejudices aside for the evening, as the enclosed, heated walkways offer cozy shelter during breaks, and we warm ourselves in big, overstuffed leather chairs. A few kids rattle away on video football games on the Xbox kiosks alongside, a much needed relief for them from the insufferable exhaustion of having to watch, you know, actual football….
The game itself is a painful one, at least for the multitudes of Irish fans in attendance who collectively make up about half of the crowd. When Notre Dame jumps out to an early 28-7 lead, Tim and I high five assuredly, hoping that a few promising backups like quarterback Malik Zaire or speedy tailback Greg Bryant might get a few extra practice snaps. But like so many other frustrating Brian Kelly coached squads, the Irish find a way to turn what should be a blowout contest, into a complete nail biter. The scrappy Midshipmen battle back, launching a full on assault with their triple option rushing attack that the Irish defense appear helpless to stop. Entering the fourth quarter, the Middies own a 31-28 lead and the Irish’ remaining playoff hopes are in serious question.
Fortunately, the Irish open the final frame with a pair of touchdowns as the offense once again finds it’s rhythm. Running back Tarean Folston barrels for a 25 yard run for the second touchdown, en route to a spectacular 149 yard night for the talented sophomore. While Navy would bring the game close once again with a fourth quarter touchdown of their own, the Irish would eventually roll to a precarious 49-39 win. Given the early shenanigans from the new College Football playoff committee, a colossally biased collection of charlatans, the ugly win will not bode well for Notre Dame’s position in the rankings. But that’s what happens when they fail to close out easy opponents and dominate football games like they should. Dominance is, unfortunately, not a hallmark of this Brian Kelly led squad.
Special thanks to my friends Tim and Suzie for hosting me for the weekend, and making their first appearance on the Pigskin Pursuit after all these years of loyal following. Can’t wait to catch you guys again in a couple of weeks!
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