Is Notre Dame Back?

South Bend, Ind. — You had to be there. So much rain came down overnight and on into the morning that people were speculating that the Notre Dame/Michigan game on September 13 would have to be cancelled — an unheard-of possibility in football. The fear was the predicted thunderstorms stirred up by the remains of one hurricane’s “tropical storm” residue, in addition to the westerly rains. The sky was unbroken gray and darker for almost two humid days. I kept telling my worried son (who comes north from San Antonio, where he works with USAA the military insurance — and now mortgage — company, along with my two dear grandchildren Emily and Stephen, for one Notre Dame game a year): “Rich, this is Our Lady’s school. At three o’clock, a half hour before game time, the clouds will part, the sun will break through, and a vision of Our Lady will appear, on her diadem in diamonds the words ‘For Life’ and unfurling from her right hand a blue banner announcing ‘ND–My Guys,’ and from her left hand a long mauve banner inscribed in gold: ‘Sarah!’”

Well, most who heard me repeat this thought it cute, but at 2:57 P.M., to be exact, the clouds did part and the sun shone through, while the rain ceased. Everyone saw this, and I said: “Didn’t I tell you?” I think no one else saw Our Lady appear, just as I had said, but in my mind’s eye, I did. Of course, not everyone I made my prediction to was taken with Sarah, only a few were. How could they see the Sarah banner? (Notre Dame’s faculty seems very much a part of the old Left, labor union anti-Republican to the bone, the Left’s version of “social justice” virtually unchallenged.)

As it happened, the storm blew past to the north — over Michigan — for almost two hours, and Notre Dame stadium enjoyed a pleasant afternoon.

Actually, very pleasant.

In the first five minutes, Notre Dame scored three touchdowns — two, I think, in a 1:47 time of possession. Poor Michigan kept fumbling, just as Notre Dame had two years ago. It was 21-0 after five minutes. It sure seemed that Notre Dame was back.

Through the next 55 minutes, though, Notre Dame scored only 14 more points, and Michigan 17. Michigan racked up more yards both on the ground and in the air. To hold an angry and spirited Michigan to 17 points was a pretty good day’s defense for Notre Dame, and after all they really did halt Michigan cold for the last two quarters.

But Notre Dame’s offence still isn’t back yet. There were splendid flashes of brilliance, both in the speed of the wide receivers under long passes, and a couple of exciting breakaway runs under a roar of cheers, “Hughes, Hughes, Hughes!” — which to the unpracticed ear at first sounds like a series of “Boos!”

It was so good to win. To feel that 2007 has been forgotten. Sophomores and freshmen turned in a superlative afternoon.

Michigan State next weekend, with its great ground attack, might well jolt this team back from cloud nine. The good news is that the game is up in Spartan country. Notre Dame usually wins there, Michigan State winning at Notre Dame. The other good news is that these young kids on the new Notre Dame really want to win, and the veterans maybe more so.

I did like the vision of Our Lady I saw, just as three P.M. struck, even if nobody else did.

Published in National Review Online September 15, 2008