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Leftovers & Links: Impatient Notre Dame fans need to remember, there are only 12 of these Saturdays to enjoy

Mike Golic and Jessica Smetana join the ND on NBC podcast to recap the shocking home loss to Stanford and assess the Marcus Freeman era after a rocky start.

By no means was Notre Dame’s 16-14 loss to Stanford last week fun. Falling to Marshall in Marcus Freeman’s first home game as the Irish head coach was anything but enjoyable for Notre Dame and anyone affiliated with the program. From a reporter’s perspective, the interesting aspects of this season have taken an unexpected turn, and that is the only reason intrigue persists amid such duds of defeats.

And the Irish (3-3) hosting UNLV (4-3) exclusively on Peacock this Saturday at 2:30 ET may not be the most glamorous of games, but something still seems to have been inappropriately lost among Notre Dame fans this week.

To pull directly from a reader comment on Thursday morning, “Losing to Marshall took the jam out of my donut. The Stanford loss was someone with cleats then stepping on said donut. The rest of this season is me staring forlornly at the donut, thinking about how tasty it might have been.”

First of all, credit for an imaginative analogy. Secondly, this space endorses all mention of donuts, even flattened ones. But to the point here, and leaning into the analogy, is there really no more donut to be had?

Just like the dozen donuts you pick up from the bakery four blocks away, there are 12 Saturdays in a football season. Irish fans wait 353 days a year for those 12 Saturdays. If one or two bad Saturdays are going to ruin the rest, why suffer through that wait at all?

There is an irony here, the patience needed to be a college football fan through nine months of the year immediately forgotten amid fall frustrations.

“Mine would be patience,” former Notre Dame defensive lineman Mike Golic Sr. said this week on the ND on NBC Podcast. “I know that’s something that fans don’t really have, because the expectation at Notre Dame is high. We get that. Played in the title game in ‘13, been in a couple Playoffs since then, so the expectation is going to be up there, I get it.

“But you have to break this down and look at what we have and how we’re playing and realize, we aren’t consistent. We’re coming up short in some areas. You have to preach patience.”

The preseason No. 5 ranking was clearly misguided and yet another endorsement of preseason rankings being an idiotic exercise in general. Freeman was never going to be able to get the Irish hyper-active in the transfer portal in his first winter as head coach. Thus, Notre Dame was always going to lack quarterback depth and quality receivers this season.

“The beginning of the season, we weren’t sure who the big wide receiver was going to be,” Golic said. “Who was going to be that go-to guy. … We’re still trying to figure that out.”

If that was always going to be an issue, always a known and acknowledged one, fans griping about it throughout October is not exactly logical. Relying on a backup quarterback is a dicey proposition for the best of teams, just ask Alabama fans how comfortable they would be without Bryce Young right now. These are the present realities, and nothing in the next six weeks will change them.

The absolute insistences that Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees be escorted off campus by security and barred for life — the exaggeration here is nowhere near as large as it should be — ignore the obvious reality that firing Rees now would 1) not fix the offensive woes 2) mentally decimate a locker room that was so loudly supportive of Rees less than 11 months ago.

“It’s interesting, but what isn’t interesting is the fact that fans are starting to get crazy,” Golic said. “That’s what they do, that’s why they’re short for fanatics. Starting to lose their mind, all of a sudden they know all the plays that should be called and everything, it always gets kind of funny that way.”

Be frustrated and disappointed, of course. Notre Dame should never have lost to Stanford, the kind of loss that quite frankly still has this space stumped five days later. It was clear to see what happened against Marshall: The Irish got beat along both lines. Shocking, but clear.

Against the Cardinal, Notre Dame lost a game that had no defining characteristic, no distinctly lopsided edge toward Stanford aside from fumble luck. It was simply a dumbfounding loss.

But still, Irish fans have only 12 chances to get together to watch the games. One bad donut does not stop you from eating the other 11 in that variety dozen.

If nerves force you onto a stool on the edge of the room away from all conversation throughout the second half, so be it, but the angst of last week’s stubbed toe should not ruin the entire day. If it does, then why remain a fan? Why allow 85 18- to 22-year-olds the ability to so ruin the 12 days you wait 353 for?

This is supposed to be fun. Being a fan is about the community around the team. It’s about the relationships you can stumble into, be it with the three season-ticket holders to your left or with your father amid a fraught few years.

It is not about spending hours a day criticizing an offensive coordinator working with limited options. It is not about lamenting a lost season as soon as a national championship is off the table. If it were, then 130 teams should never have played this year, anyway. Only one will have a worthwhile season.

If nothing else, order more donuts.

Freshman tight end Eli Raridon will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered in a non-contact situation in practice this week, per Freeman on Thursday. Raridon played in five games this season, meaning it will count as a year off his eligibility clock, not making any catches in his appearances.

Raridon tore the ACL he tore in December playing basketball in his senior season of high school.

With Raridon sidelined, Notre Dame will lean even more on sophomore tight end Mitchell Evans, only recently back from a broken foot suffered in July.

Fifth-year defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola (rib contusion) and freshman defensive back Jaden Mickey (abductor strain) are both questionable to face the Rebels. And again, that game is available exclusively on Peacock at 2:30 ET on Saturday.

Ademilola’s injury is making it difficult for him to take full breaths, Freeman said. Assessing that ability between now and Saturday will determine his availability.

Another reminder to vote in the Fanbase Face-off to choose which of four bars will host a watch party when the Irish host the Tigers on Nov. 5.

Given this scribe did not leave Notre Dame Stadium until [this time is redacted to avoid aggravating any Stadium personnel, but it was before sunrise, to be clear] after the primetime loss to Stanford, there is no version of this where an Inside the Irish cameo occurs at the watch party, so no need to vote for O’Rourke’s Public House with that ulterior motive.

Best part of Irish Saturday comes from four-star RB before the loss to the Cardinal
Things We Learned: Avoidable first-year mistakes cost Notre Dame, Marcus FreemanAnd In That Corner … Can the injured UNLV Rebels give Notre Dame another challenge?

Home alone
Patience in practice paying off for Notre Dame WR Tobias Merriweather
Midseason grades for all 29 first-year college football coachesNotre Dame’s struggles may leave Irish fans with unwelcome-but-familiar feeling‘Heaven’ — following the goal posts on euphoric night of greatness on Rocky Top

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