This was a year of unparalleled success for Notre Dame. It was a year when the Fighting Irish stood up to the nation and made a declaration that they were still prominent in the college football picture. Here are the Top 10 moments of 2012. Enjoy! Happy Holidays!
10. Aaron Lynch Leaves The Team
When Aaron Lynch left the team during Spring Practice, fans perceived his departure as a negative. But, his departure may have been a positive. Lynch was a drain on locker room morale. He affected players such as Louis Nix III while undermining the authority of the coaching staff and leadership on the team. With Lynch gone, the Fighting Irish were able to build a more cohesive unit this season on the field and off. Lynch is an extremely talented player. However, he failed to player within the system. Lynch wanted to rush the passer more than control the line of scrimmage. This defense was more disciplined and structurally sound. This led to Notre Dame being the top scoring Defense this year.
9. Notre Dame Brings Home The Hardware
It is hard to believe that Manti Te’o will be the most decorated player in college football but did not win the Heisman Trophy in the year that he did it. Te’o brought home the Lott, Butkus, Nagurski, Walter Camp, Maxwell, Lombardi and Bednarik. Te’o was not the only player who brought home awards this post-season. Brian Kelly brought home several Coach of the Year Awards including the Home Depot Coach of the Year Award. Tyler Eifert also brought home the Mackey Award, which is awarded to the most outstanding Tight End. Bob Diaco also brought home the Frank Broyles Award for the best Assistant Coach in the nation.
8. The Fighting Irish Get National Respect
Irish fans have suffered through years of pundits slamming Notre Dame claiming that they will never return to their national prominence. With three appearances on College GameDay and two on the cover of Sports Illustrated, it felt good to finally get some positive publicity. The season began with Rick Reilly’s infamous article about Notre Dame’s irrelevance and ended with Rick Reilly shining Notre Dame’s helmet. It featured a season where Mark May constantly picked against Notre Dame and then ate his words by dressing up in a Leprechaun costume. Notre Dame made the so-called experts look very foolish this season.
7. Notre Dame Storms Into Norman
Notre Dame was a heavy underdog heading into the game in Norman, Oklahoma. Lee Corso selected the Sooners. Notre Dame had a good run but this is where it was supposed to end. Notre Dame did not believe in anything that they were hearing. The Fighting Irish arguably player their best game of the season. Notre Dame dominated from start to finish. This was the game when Notre Dame demonstrated that they could play in the National Title Game. Manti Te’o told reporters on BCS Media Day that this is when the team and he truly believed that they could go undefeated. This was the “turning point” in the season.
6. Te’o Dominates Michigan
On the day that his girlfriend was buried, Te’o played his best game of the year. Te’o had 8 tackles and 2 interceptions against the Wolverines. It was a very emotional experience for Te’o and everyone watching. Notre Dame proved that they could show up when the lights were on. They made up for their embarrassing loss to USC at night the previous year. The Defense dominated Michigan, forcing 6 turnovers.