In the effort to Win One for the Skipper, the plans are almost complete. The players of USF have put in the offense, put in the defense and put in the sweat.
Alas, there is time for one final piece of advice.
Whatever you do, Skip, watch out for Harry Stuhldreher in the flat. For a dead guy, he is fairly elusive.
Here a Horseman, there a Horseman, and what is a coach to do? Everywhere, there are ghosts and leprechauns and echoes that, for some reason, need to be awakened. USF is about to take on Notre Dame, past and present, legends and latter day, and the danger is that it will carelessly trip over a history book.
And for crying out loud, can't anyone around here tackle Johnny Lujack?
This is what playing against Notre Dame is like. It's like taking a class in mythology. Nobody does lore like the Fighting Irish.
Think of it like this. Notre Dame has almost as many national championships (the school claims 11) as the Bulls have had seasons (14). They have had seven Heisman Trophy winners. They have melded fact and fiction into movies and moments and songs and campfire tales.
Yes, sir, back when your great-grandfather was hunkered around the telegraph, Notre Dame was the skiddoo. As soon as Prohibition was repealed, there were a great many people prepared to toast the success of the Irish. Provided, of course, that wild bears, misled by raccoon coats, did not eat them on their way to the bonfire.
I kid, I kid. As I've written before, I'm a big legends guy. I love Notre Dame's history, even the parts that seem to be borrowed from The Lord of the Rings.
For instance, a lot of people roll their eyes at the retelling of the "win one for the Gipper'' speech. Do you really think Knute Rockne kept Gipp's deathbed plea to himself for eight years? Or do you think the old coach — who was known to embellish a story from time to time — was trying to fire up his team? Bigger question: Does it matter anymore?
As for the Four Horsemen (Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Elmer Layden and Jim Crowley), it should be pointed out that none of them was more than 6 feet tall, none weighed more than 170 pounds and none gained more than 800 yards in a season.
Look, Grantland Rice is one of the titans of sportswriting, but looking back at his "outlined against a blue-gray sky'' game story is a giggle to read these days. In one graph, the backs are a cyclone, and in another, they are a tank with the speed of a motorcycle, and in another, they are the mixed blood of a tiger and an antelope. That's a lot of offensive power for only 13 points.
Oh, and as long as we're talking about Notre Dame history, can someone explain to me one more time how Paul Hornung beat out Jim Brown for the Heisman while his team was going 2-8?
Again, this is Notre Dame. No one can stack history with Notre Dame.
And now for the big "guess what?'' None of it is going to matter on Saturday.
Not a point, not an inch, not a thought. Not the Four Horsemen and not Knute Rockne and not Rudy. Not Touchdown Jesus and not Leon Hart and not Joe Montana eating chicken soup on the sideline to ward off the cold.
The only thing that history really teaches us is that college students don't care anything about history. Boosters care. Coaches care. Sportswriters care. Rudy cares. But players don't care. I am willing to wager there isn't a player on the USF team who can name any of the Four Horsemen or the winners of the seven Heismans. For goodness sakes, why should they?
After all, USF is playing a game; it isn't taking a test. Look, when players want to buy a car, they don't want to hear about the history of the Model T, and when they want a turkey sandwich, they don't want to hear about the first Thanksgiving.
Likewise, when they walk into a football stadium, they don't want to hear about the days of leather helmets. They just want to play.
Keep that in mind as you watch. The Bulls don't have to stop Montana on Saturday. They have to stop Dayne Crist, a very good quarterback himself. It doesn't have to debate whether Tim Brown would have been held in the same regard if he played at, say, Texas. It has to cover reinstated receiver Michael Floyd. And so on.
Nothing against Notre Dame's history, but for goodness sakes, why should USF's players pay attention? During their lifetimes, the Irish really haven't mattered. USF receiver A.J. Love was less than a month old the last time Notre Dame won a national title. The last time a Notre Dame player (Brown in 1987) won a Heisman, it was almost two years before USF quarterback B.J. Daniels was born.
Here's a statistic for you. Since 1997, USF's first, fresh-out-of-the-trailer, who-forgot-the-kicking-tee season, Notre Dame has won 99 games. USF has won 103.
In other words, there isn't as much difference in the programs as you might think. In recent seasons, Notre Dame has lost to Tulsa and Navy and Pitt and UConn and Syracuse. In the book of legends, there haven't been a lot of new chapters lately.
Just wondering, but at Notre Dame, do you think they are talking about the legends of USF? Where does a school turn to get someone to write about four bull riders outlined against a blue-gray October sky? How do you order up some lore?
First, there is a game. Yes, Notre Dame remains a brand name. And yes, even now, a win against the Irish still carries a certain cache for USF.
To win, USF needs to watch Gipp off-tackle.
After that, the Bulls have to make history of the team with all the history.