This is the first installment of our series counting down the 12 most memorable events of the 2012-13 academic year. With the last final exams turned in, it’s time to look back at all the highs and lows of an eventful year in South Bend. These aren’t the best times or the worst times, simply the moments we’ll remember most when looking back.
Sophomore Stephon Tuitt scooped a Navy fumble off the turf at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown in Notre Dame’s 50-10 victory Sept. 1.
Sept. 1, 2012
Notre Dame’s football players started their school year 3,600 miles from campus. The Irish returned “home” to Dublin for the first time since 1996 to open the 2012 season against Navy in Ireland’s Aviva Stadium. The game and the week provided plenty of entertainment for the largest group of foreigners to ever invade the Emerald Isle for a single event.
Sophomore Stephon Tuitt’s 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown highlighted a 50-10 blowout victory for Notre Dame. Senior Theo Riddick showed the first signs of what he would bring to the running back position with 107 rushing yards. Sophomore George Atkinson III flashed his speed as well, breaking off a 56-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Prior to leaving South Bend, head coach Brian Kelly told reporters he would feel more comfortable staying on campus for the team’s first game rather than travel to Dublin. In the wake of an impressive win, he was already looking forward to planning the next trip.
“We’ve got it knocked out now,” Kelly said when asked by a local reporter if the logistical challenges of the trip were worth the pay off. “We’ll be back anytime you ask us.”
The stadium itself with its bowl-shaped plexiglass exterior and putting-green clean grass surface was one of the many unique experiences for Notre Dame and its fans.
Along with taking in some of the Irish culture on planned trips the team also got an entertaining crash course on the locals from the media, who turned post-practice interviews into a Super Bowl Media Day atmosphere. Reporters asked the players what type of Irish girls they were looking for during their visit and to “make mean faces” and yell into the camera. All of them seemed to enjoy the trip.
“I love Ireland,” Tuitt said after the game. “I love it. I wish I could come over here just on a vacation, but it’s a wonderful experience. I’m truly blessed to be here. It’s breathtaking.”
The Irish crossed the Atlantic and were back in their own beds by late Saturday night. Most fans stuck around longer to see more of the country and enjoy the promising start to the new year.