It was another classic football season for Notre Dame, one that was filled with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. While there was more than one blowout, there were also games that proved anxious and thrilling for Notre Dame fans. Although the Irish did not complete another undefeated season, they managed to secure a trip to the Camping World Bowl in Orlando and ultimately earned an 11-win season.
The season began at the beginning of September, when Notre Dame traveled to Louisville and proved that last year was no fluke, returning with a strong roster made up of many key players from last season. Although the defense initially stumbled to the point where Notre Dame and Louisville were tied after the first quarter, they improved as the game went on and the offense continued to score consistently. Thus, Notre Dame was able to soundly defeat Louisville for their first win of the season, winning 35-17.
A week later, they faced and annihilated New Mexico (66-14), as both the offense and the defense proved how dominant this team could be.
The team had built great confidence heading into a primetime matchup with the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs. It was there that Notre Dame experienced their first loss of the season, 23-17. Late in the fourth quarter, Ian Book and the offense had a chance for a game-winning drive but the drive stalled out.
The following week the team returned home to face Virginia, looking to secure their first ranked win of the season. Even though Notre Dame was trailing at the end of the first half, they managed to outscore the Cavaliers by 18 points in the second half and finish with a 35-20 win for a 3-1 record.
A week later, the Irish shut down Bowling Green (52-0) and then prepared for one of the greatest rivalries in college football, where they would face USC for the 91st time. Facing a familiar opponent that has struggled in recent years, the Trojans gave Notre Dame all they could possibly handle. Fortunately, quarterback Ian Book rushed for a touchdown late in the game to maintain a 10-point lead. Brock Wright secured an Irish victory when he recovered an onside kick in the final minute of the game. For the 47th time in history, Notre Dame was victorious over USC (30-27).
When Notre Dame traveled to “The Big House” to take on rival Michigan, they experienced one of their most embarrassing losses in the storied history of the rivalry (45-14). The rainy weather, combined with overall sluggishness, sealed the fate for the Irish that night, as well as their hopes of a return to the College Football Playoff.
The Irish were in grave danger of dropping a second straight game when they trailed Virginia Tech late in the fourth quarter, but a Book touchdown with minutes left to play gave the Irish a lead they would not give up. Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah recovered a Virginia Tech fumble on the last possession of the game, giving Notre Dame a gutsy victory over over the Hokies at home (21-20).
The team then traveled to Durham and successfully defeated Duke (38-7), paying revenge for their victory over Notre Dame in 2016. The offense continued to dominate in a 52-20 rout of annual rival Navy, continuing the trend of Irish dominance over the Midshipmen over the past decade.
In the final home game of the season, Notre Dame obliterated Boston College (40-7) and secured a second straight season with an undefeated home record. They then traveled to Stanford and defeated the Cardinal (45-24), finishing their last game of the regular season victoriously.
After being assigned to play Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl, the team traveled to Orlando for the holiday to prepare for the bowl game. Despite reports of sloppy practices, the team showed up, as they defeated Iowa State (33-9). Overall, Notre Dame finished the season 11-2.
While many of the opponents Notre Dame faced this season were not among the Top 25, next season’s schedule promises to be challenging and provide the Fighting Irish with many opportunities to obtain season-defining victories. Next year’s team will return a talented crop of players and coaches, and building off this season’s triumphs and defeats, Notre Dame will look to return to the College Football Playoff next season.