Welcome to the Fighting Irish football Domey Awards.
The 2000’s were witness to great adulation, tremendous success, devastating disappointment, and all the drama that college football can provide.
It’s time to look back, hand out some Domey’s, and remember all that was good and bad on the Irish gridiron.
Most Damaging Remote Control Throw
The Domey award for most violent throw of a remote control goes to Travis Thomas and his "off-tackle right" run in 2007 against Navy. The loss was the first to the Midshipman in 44 years, became the most painful image of a 3-9 season, and put the first significant nail in the coaching coffin of Charlie Weis.
The Runner-up trophy goes to Michigan State’s Jason Teague and his 19-yard overtime run in 2005. The 44-41 loss came after the Irish had jumped out to a 21-point lead. The loss also stopped an early season ND surge and sticks out as only one of two regular season defeats in that “oh-what-could-have-been” ’05 campaign.
Thanks Mr. Teague. My remote will forever have a Sparty green band-aid over the “menu” button.
The Darkhorse Domey goes to the 2002 Ryan Grant fumble game against Boston College. A record crowd of 80,935 showed up at Notre Dame Stadium that November day only to watch Pat Dillingham, the 109th ranked ND offense, and Grant give away an 8-0 start to the season to a 5-3 BC team.
Grant's two fumbles sent remote controls flying from Subway Alum homes on 5th avenue to the Youngstown duplexes in eastern Ohio.
So long undefeated season. Thanks for the hope, Tyrone Willingham. Adios, Return to Glory.
Most Rudyesque Career
Rudy only played in one game and only put one sack in his career stat column. But, thanks to cinematic magic, he will forever be remembered in Notre Dame lore as the ultimate example of the kid who came with nothing and left with cult hero status.
Enter Kyle McCarthy.
He came in as a lightly regarded three-star recruit in 2005 and left as a captain, All-American, and legitimate NFL prospect.
McCarthy twice topped the 100-tackle mark for a season and finished his career with a five interception season as a senior. His grit, determination, passion, and outstanding ability to make the big tackle at the big moment will not soon be forgotten in South Bend.
The Runner-up Domey goes to Jeff Samardzija who was ranked as the 43rd best wide receiver in the class of 2004. He entered with no national ranking and no hype, yet exited with all-time records in receiving yards and receptions. The two-time All-American was a vital cog in the offensive machine of the early Weis years.
The Darkhorse Domey goes to the tough, disciplined Mike Turkovich. The 2005 30th ranked offensive tackle and Rivals three-star recruit was a part of the lowest rated Irish class in recent memory. He went on to start 40 games in his career and was a part of the 2008 “Rebound Line” that protected Jimmy Clausen after the 50-plus sack year of 2007.
Oh, and it’s personal too. Turkovich was a graduate of my fathers’ alma mater, Valley Forge Military Academy. Turk helped convert my father to a Notre Dame fan. Thanks, Mike.
Bust of the Decade
Charlie Weis. Sad, but true. The man with a handful of Super Bowl rings and the Jersey-sized ego went to back-to-back BCS bowls with Tyrone Willingham’s players, failed to develop top-notch national talent of his own, and lost games to Air Force, Boston College, Syracuse, UConn, and Navy (twice).
The second place Domey goes, unfortunately, to a very good man. James Aldridge was a five-star recruit out of Crown Point, Indiana, who should have provided Coach Weis with the run game he needed to survive the 2007 and 2008 seasons. But knee injuries, a distinct lack of burst, and depth chart problems stopped Aldridge from becoming the star so many predicted.
Aldridge still became the ultimate teammate and never complained, but a five-star running back who finishes his senior season with six carries and 17 yards is an obvious choice for a disappointing Domey.
The Darkhorse Domey will certainly fire up the message boards: Jimmy Clausen.
If there was ever a six-star persona, Clausen had it. The highly touted quarterback came in with the name, the numbers, and the reputation. But he also came with news reports, cell phone pictures, questionable off-field actions, and even more questionable on-field behaviors.
The sad images of the taunting at the Hawaii Bowl, the Rich Gunnell push, and temper tantrums during his first two years at times out-shined his stunning on-field abilities. Yes, he put up great numbers. Yes, he will become an NFL starter. And yes, he may have cost Charlie Weis his job.
Play of the Decade
You haven’t lived until you’ve jumped and danced around your living room with a riled up 100-pound black Labrador retriever knocking over lamps, soda cans, and bowls of chips screaming at the television as Jeff Samardzija sprints into the end zone to cap off a shocking come-from-behind win.
That chaotic moment came back in October of 2006, when Brady Quinn found Samardzija for a go-ahead 45-yard touchdown with 27 seconds left against UCLA. The 20-17 win put Notre Dame in the top 10 in national rankings and made ND completely relevant for the second year in a row.
And yes, my dog recovered, and I survived. The lamp, however, was never the same.
Brandon Hoyte earned his Runner-up Domey for the most memorable play of the decade in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2004. His crushing sack of Erik Ainge knocked the Volunteer quarterback out of the game with a separated shoulder and opened the door for an ND comeback thanks to a Mike Goolsby 26-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The 17-13 win over No. 9 Tennessee stunned the country and provided a little hope at the end of a tough ’04 season.
Terrail Lambert (who?) is the Domey Darkhorse for the Play(s) of the Decade. His pair of interceptions against MSU in 2006 capped off a furious ND comeback and a 40-37 victory.
The win prevented back-to-back losses to the state of Michigan and helped lay the groundwork for a BCS Bowl season.
Irishman of the Decade
Brady Quinn is the runaway choice for the Player of the Decade Domey. Eighty-six touchdowns in his last three years, 3,000-yard seasons, All-American selections, and Heisman recognition made Quinn an Irish legend.
The second Domey of the Decade is for Justin Tuck who left South Bend with ND records for career sacks (24.5), career tackles for a loss (43), and sacks in a single season (13.5). The 2005 graduate shone bright as a defensive stalwart during the first half of the decade and made an immediate impact in the NFL in helping the New York Giants to a 2008 Super Bowl victory.
The Darkhorse Domey for Irishman of the Decade goes to Golden Tate. Maybe the most dynamic offensive weapon in Notre Dame history, Tate held the 2009 season together with his own two hands and made plays in every facet of the game for the Fighting Weisians. He topped things off with the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in the nation for 2009.
The Domey’s are done. Thanks for a tremendous, if not completely tumultuous, decade.
It’s time to lift one pint to the decade gone by and hoist a second pint to the hope of the next decade to come.
This Guinness is for you, Brian Kelly. Good luck and God Bless. Now, go win us some ballgames.
Photo courtesy of NBC Sports