How Notre Dames fans show apathy as Irish stumble

Greg McKenna
Correspondent
Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans before the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND — Fans piled out of Notre Dame Stadium in droves. Marshall’s Steven Gilmore had picked off and returned a Tyler Buchner pass 37 yards for a touchdown, putting the Thundering Herd up 26-15 with 4:35 to go.

Across from the visiting fans, who were realizing that the program’s second top-10 win in school history was imminent, the Notre Dame student sections remained largely full, albeit with students frozen in shocked silence.

As the Irish then dawdled while trying to run “hurry-up” offense — losing their starting quarterback for the year and throwing another interception in the process — several students in spots reserved for seniors near midfield broke the quiet. They didn’t mince words.

“Get it together, you f----!” one male shouted, extending two middle-fingers toward the Irish sideline about 20 rows below.

Campus blues

Notre Dame student Ben Miller noted his senior class isn’t accustomed to watching the Irish lose in South Bend. The only other home defeat in the last four years came against then-No. 7 Cincinnati, which — unlike Saturday’s loss — didn’t unequivocally knock Notre Dame out of the playoff hunt.

“A lot of my friends are (saying), ‘Oh, it's our last year; it's too bad that the team couldn't have gone off on a really high note,’” said Miller, who majors in mechanical engineering.

Fellow senior Johnny Carr believes the Irish still have plenty to play for, but he said there is a sense of anxiety going forward.

“I think that people are kind of fearful of re-entering almost a Charlie Weis-type era,” the computer science major said. “I think there's a lot of pressure going into Cal.”

Star defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey said the home crowd won’t be a burden for Notre Dame against the Golden Bears Saturday, even if the Irish start slow. He was adamant on Tuesday that he’s too locked in on the field or sideline to worry about the student section.

It’s hard to go to class on Monday after a loss, though, Foskey admitted. Wins and losses drive the campus mood, and not just among the student body.

“The teachers talk about it too, which I don't really like that much,” he said. … “Everyone still goes to class, though — just have to do it — but it is something that we have to just deal with.”

Fellow captain Bo Bauer, meanwhile, said he understands the displeasure voiced in the stands.

“We should be representing Notre Dame better than what we have been,” the linebacker said, “and so I don't blame them for doing that.”

More:Bo knows frustration of Notre Dame's 0-2 start - 'It just doesn't make sense right now.'

“Fierce urgency”

Sixth-year Notre Dame right guard Josh Lugg goes into detail about what makes new starting quarterback Drew Pyne so beloved among his teammates

Right guard Josh Lugg knows things must improve quickly. Notre Dame’s offensive line was touted as one of the nation’s best in preseason, but the Irish currently sit 110th in the FBS in rushing yards per game and have allowed five sacks, tied for 90th in the country. Lugg, hands still heavily wrapped and beads of turf clinging to the tops of his cleats after practice Tuesday, said the unit has a “fierce urgency.”

“Any chance you have to improve, whether that be between your 9:30 and 12:15 class, throw on film,” he said of the team’s emphasis on accountability. “Find one thing to help Notre Dame win on the weekend.”

He’s also grateful that all his classes for his master’s in business analytics are with 15 other student athletes.

“They’ve been there, right?” he said, “so they get it.”

Unlike Foskey’s experience, there’s no digs from teachers. When Lugg arrived at class on Monday, his professor checked to make sure he was physically OK.

Lugg said the Irish will get to where they need to be. Despite Notre Dame’s worst start since 2011 and the loss of its starting quarterback, some students share his optimism.

Carr believes winning a respectable bowl game could be better for the program’s future than a third semifinal loss in the College Football Playoff. He remembers the 2018 Citrus Bowl, when backup Ian Book entered in relief of injured starter Brandon Wimbush and led the Irish to a 21-17 victory over LSU.

Thirty-three wins and two playoff appearances in three years under Book followed.

“I think we still have the ability to be very good,” Carr said. “We just kind of got to show it.”