Monson: Y. passes on tradition vs. Notre Dame
If there's a finer place and time on God's green earth to take in a college football game than on a Saturday afternoon under a blue-but-mostly-gray October sky at Knute Rockne's house, it's unimaginable.
Nor is there a finer time and place to take it in the shorts.
Brigham Young discovered as much, losing 49-23 to the Irish on their historic home field here, in front of 80,000 fans - and in the shadows of all the school's traditional and ecumenical accoutrements: the huge mosaic known as "Touchdown Jesus," the statue of an Old Testament prophet with a hand and index finger extended, respectfully referred to as "First-Down Moses," and the image of former university president Father Corby, his hand raised heavenward, also called "Fair-Catch Corby."
"I won't lie to you," said BYU linebacker Cameron Jensen, in the game's aftermath. "Notre Dame is such a fun place to play. I loved every minute of it, uh, except for when we weren't making plays."
There was plenty of that.
But there was also a lot of good things, most of them encompassed in the dynamic duo of God and football. Football and God.
They lay it on thick around the campus of Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, which at some juncture over the past 90 years - on account of so much worship and winning - designated itself as a cradle of Catholicism and the cradle of college football.
They're not bad this year, either.
On a glorious day after which the Irish players celebrated Mass at the on-campus Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the morning, they celebrated victory at Notre Dame Stadium in the late afternoon.
And get a load of this: It was because the Cougars couldn't afford to, but did, get themselves into a passing contest with the Irish. I know, I know . . . say what? With all of Notre Dame's stellar football tradition, it's never exactly been Pass U., at least not in the more modern era. Throwing the ball, on the other hand, has built BYU's only real tradition.
All of that was backward on Saturday, thanks, in large part, to the Cougars' flat-out inability to cover a decent passing scheme. They were killed through the air, horribly compromising their strong defensive effort against the run.
BYU held the Irish to minus-1 yard rushing in the first half, 44 yards in all.
That's the doughnut.
Here's the hole: All told, the Cougars gave up 467 yards via the pass. Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn completed 32 of 41 passes, including six touchdowns. He had more yardage in the first half - 287 yards - than any Irish QB ever. Receiver Maurice Stovall had 14 catches for 207 yards and four scores. Receiver Jeff Samardzija hauled in 10 passes for 152 yards and two TDs.
That kind of target practice became almost laughable as the Cougar DBs haplessly flailed around in the secondary.
"They attacked us through the air," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "That's where we were vulnerable."
Make that pathetic.
Early on, BYU showed intentions of playing well offensively. But it just could not keep up with Notre Dame's explosiveness, not with the free pass the Irish got from the Cougars' defensive backfield.
"We're taught better than we played," said BYU cornerback Kayle Buchanan. "We struggled. We knew they'd pass."
And did they ever.
At the end of the day, Notre Dame's old tradition gave way to new, startling efficiency, searing that BYU secondary again and again and buttressing the Notre Dame passing record book.
Those records were plentiful, from the first time two ND receivers had caught 10 or more passes in a game to Quinn becoming the first Irish quarterback to throw six TDs in a game. And there were many more.
Perhaps some of those numbers will one day be hoisted in a small, modest place - if there is such a spot - in the school's Sports Heritage Hall, a venerable venue on campus nearly as hallowed as the aforementioned basilica. It is there where Notre Dame's illustrious past is on display, including the program's seven Heisman trophies, double-digit national championships, memorials of all manner for coaches from Knute himself to Frank Leahy to Lou Holtz, and so many Irish All-Americans.
This place is cool.
Soaking it all in is a religious experience.
But not for the Cougars.
It was, for them, just a loss.
A little bit of fun, but mostly a memory to forget.