With such a devastating loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide, it is hard to tell Notre Dame anything at the moment that will make the Irish feel any better. The magical season has come to an end, and it didn't even really have a chance to end on a positive note.
After seeing all of the hard work end with a 42-14 loss in the national championship, next season seems like a decade from now, and nobody wants to even think about the possibilities it could bring. However, this loss was a good thing for the program and will bring out the fight next year in the Fighting Irish.
For one, this gave head coach Brian Kelly some big game experience to build off of. Oh sure, he has coached in Division II Championships and a BCS bowl before, but as he found out, the national championship is a whole different story. He will learn from this, will be better prepared next time around and will know what to expect when he has the opportunity to lead a new Notre Dame team to the promised land.
After the loss, Kelly gave all of the credit to the Crimson Tide and says his team must improve, according to Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune.
"They're back-to-back national champs," Kelly said. "So that's what it looks like. Measure yourself against that, and it was pretty clear across the board what we have to do."
The Irish have to improve on both sides of the ball, particularly on offense. The team must form an identity on that side of the ball and find ways to score more than once or twice a game. Defensively, they must develop a toughness about them that they clearly didn't have. Oh, the defense was great for the first 12 games of the year, but it looked like a different unit when matched up against the Crimson Tide.
The defenses in the SEC have a rugged attitude that you just don't see in any other conference. They all seem to play with a chip on their shoulder. After being embarrassed on national television, that chip will be hard for Notre Dame to remove next season.
"Nobody had us in this position to start the season," said receiver DaVaris Daniels, according to Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune. "And look how far we've come, so quick."
This may be another way to look at things, as nobody, not even Notre Dame fans, had this team in the national title game with an undefeated record. With many question marks surrounding the team and the toughest schedule to begin the season, the Irish were considered lucky to qualify for a bowl game. This season shouldn't be looked at as a failure, even with the lopsided outcome in the championship.
People calling the team a pretender and saying the Irish were fortunate to even be in the game should only motivate next year’s team. More than half of the starters will return next season, and they are the guys who will have a sour taste in their mouths for several months.
Coach Kelly says his job will be a lot easier because of this loss, according to Mike Griffith of Mlive.com:
So it's clear what we need to do in the offseason, it's clear what we need to do in player development, it's clear what we need to do to continue to coach better and recruit,'' he said. "It's disappointing we lost the football game, but it is going to make my job very easy when it comes to talking to players about how you win a national championship.
Winning a national championship is a process and doesn't happen overnight. The success of Notre Dame this season was incredible to watch, but it was premature. Rome wasn't built in a day. and a program that hasn't won much since 1988 isn't going to beat a veteran ball club like Alabama at its own game in just one short season. You have to crawl before you walk, and despite what the score said last night, Notre Dame is taking steps in the right direction.
Who knows how long it will be before the Irish are competing for a national title again? But if there is anything good that will come out of this loss, it will be a huge motivating factor for next season, which should help inspire a productive 2013 year.
Michael Jordan once said the reason he is successful is that he has failed time and time again. Notre Dame may not want to hear it right now, but the loss to Alabama will only help the program move toward accomplishing its goals to get back on top.