September 21, 2012

Borton's Blog: Arsenic and old 'Lace

It's ND eve, and that means little Irishmen everywhere are experiencing involuntary quivers, facial tics and loss of bladder control over the number 16.

Don't remind them how many ounces are in a pound. Don't mention a daughter's "Sweet" birthday. Don't even remind them that all-time great Joe Montana wore jersey No. 16 with the San Francisco 49ers.

They don't care. They don't want to see it. They don't want to hear about it. They just want Denard Robinson gone, off to whatever NFL franchise employs his explosive escape artistry in the coming years.

They've seen enough. They experienced 502 total yards out of him in 2010, in the greatest performance ever by an opposing player in Notre Dame Stadium. They watched, helplessly, as the untied wonder drove Michigan 72 yards to the game-winning touchdown in the final minute.

They mustered hope for retribution a year later, feeling it was inevitable through three quarters. After all, the Irish led 24-7 going into the final period at Michigan Stadium, having shut down Robinson and spoiled the first night game ever at The Big House.

Almost.

What happened in the moments that followed deepened further Robinson's place in Notre Dame infamy, like Harry Oliver, Rocket Ismail and Lake Dawson all rolled into one for Michigan fans. Robinson let fly, and winged his way to more than 300 yards on only 11 completions.

The last one - a two-yard fade to Roy Roundtree, around midnight - rendered Robinson a bona fide Beelzebub to the good priests wandering around muttering to themselves in the post-game darkness.

He did it again. Somehow, some way, he did it again.

Now, it stands to reason the Irish are going to put together all the anti-Shoelace shock troops they can muster. They might do like Nick Saban did, and travel to East Lansing for some Robinson-resistance advice. Then again, they might just ask Saban for some players to slip under those golden domes.

They'll be ready. They'll be waiting. But in their minds, there will linger a seed of doubt.

All-American linebacker Manti Te'o will look to turn himself into a heat-seeking missile, against one of the hottest foes he's ever faced. He go in knowing, though, how Robinson can himself explode.

Maybe this is the year. Maybe Notre Dame ultimately conquers Robinson, like the English finally catching up to William Wallace. Maybe this is the Shoelace version of the Battle of Falkirk.

But doing it, obviously, is a lot tougher than dreaming about it.

The weather bodes ill for someone whose winged feet go well with the winged helmet. Temps in the 50s. Wind. Rain. It stands to reason that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly - even with his affinity for the speed game - might have pulled the spark plugs on the Irish lawnmowers a fortnight ago.

The Irish may indeed exact revenge against Robinson, in their final attempt to do so. But until it happens, until the final seconds tick off the clock, they'll be resting as easily as a sumo wrestler on a bed of nails.


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