September 03, 2011
See below for updates on the conclusion of South Florida at Notre Dame, later added to the original post.
The old jokes about Notre Dame being "God's favorite team" haven't had quite as much traction lately, for fairly obvious reasons. But what happened this afternoon when double-digit underdog put the Fighting Irish in a 16-0 hole in the first half of the season opener? They halt the game in its tracks:
SOUTH BEND, Ind (AP)—Fans were asked to evacuate Notre Dame Stadium at halftime of Saturday's game against South Florida as lightning flashed near the facility. One storm passed over the area but another was approaching, delaying the start of the second half.
South Florida held a 16-0 lead over No. 16 Notre Dame after the second quarter.
Fans were told they could go to buildings near the stadium to seek refuge. Some of them remained in their seats before they were chased out minutes later by a hard rain. The half ended at 5:12 p.m. EDT and an official said the teams would remain in their locker rooms until it was determined that it was safe for play to continue.
A little less than two hours later, NBC television reports official have just given the all-clear to resume play at roughly 7:30 p.m. EDT. If the Fighting Irish that reemerge from the tunnel pick up where they left off before running into it, most of the crowd would probably prefer to just stay evacuated.
In the meantime, Michigan and Western Michigan have just mutually agreed to call it quits after two weather delays in Ann Arbor, officially giving Michigan a 34-10 win in a little less than three full quarters of play. I suppose that's one way to improve your defensive stats.
An NCAA rule requires games to suspend play for at least 30 minutes after the last reported lightning strike within six miles of a stadium, and the nasty storm front moving over the upper Midwest doesn't look like it's going to relent anytime soon. A Notre Dame spokesman told the Associated Press that teams must play three full quarters for a game to be official, according to NCAA rules. (That rule is news to me, but in decades of watching college football I've never seen a game actually called off after the opening kickoff — temporarily suspended, yes; called off, no — so this is somewhat new territory as the delays extend into the night.) Earlier in the afternoon, Iowa and Tennessee Tech went on hiatus during a hail storm in Iowa City before returning to finish a 34-7 Hawkeye win.
Notre Dame's comeback attempt will resume shortly. For a few hours this afternoon, though, two of the most hallowed hunks of concrete and metal in sports sat in an eerie, empty limbo under gray-black skies, waiting to be refilled. It's not the smoothest welcome back to college football, but one way or another, the show must go on.
UPDATE, 8:38 p.m. ET. As expected, Notre Dame and USF returned to the field for the second half under calmer skies, but after another hour of play and a tentative Fighting Irish comeback bid, play has been suspended again with 4:21 to play in the fourth quarter and South Florida leading, 23-13. Officially, the game is not over. But even if they let the players return to the field, it's pretty much over.
UPDATE, 10:03 p.m. ET. It's over: South Florida finished off the Irish, 23-20, after returning to run off the final four minutes. For the Bulls, it's a big win on one of the brightest stages (metaphorically speaking) in the history of the program. For Notre Dame, it's another trip back to the same old drawing board.