Mike Tirico has waited for Notre Dame
NBC’s Notre Dame play by play man Mike Tirico speaks with The Post’s Justin Terranova about the showdown with Syracuse, the risk of the team’s quarterback change and watching his old broadcast partner struggle with the Raiders.
Q: You graduated from Syracuse and call games for Notre Dame. What does this game mean to you?
A: This is probably as excited as I have been to call a football game in years, [going] back to when I was first getting started doing Monday night. A kid growing up in New York to call a football game in Yankee Stadium, it’s so rare that they have it, is fabulous. And to have 10 0 Notre Dame against the school you went to, and your alma mater is having the best year they’ve had in 15 years, you couldn’t ask for anything more.
Q: How do you think Notre Dame fans feel about Brian Kelly?
A: It’s hard to say because there is such a range in fandom. The hardcore fans who have followed the program closely and can remove the blind passion, I think they saw last year a team that was different. And this year they’ve seen that turn continue. This team is more mature. They’ve built on the changes made as a program last year.
Q: How did Notre Dame change when it made Ian Book the starter?
A: Brandon Wimbush is an exceptional runner. Book is just a better passer when it comes to getting the ball out quickly to the right guy in a place where he can catch and run. That’s allowed them to be more explosive, play at a faster tempo, allowed them to be a more dynamic offensive team. It’s allowed the guys around the quarterback to grow as players because they are seeing the ball more often, they are more alert. I think the quarterback move was one of the more gutsy things a coach has done because Wimbush’s record was 12 3 as a starter.
Mike TiricoNBC Sports
Q: Is Alabama a notch above any other team?
A: It feels like Alabama and Clemson are. That doesn’t mean they can’t be beaten in one game. I’d be very curious to see how Notre Dame fares against either of those teams. Notre Dame does not get credit for the quality of their defense this year. It hasn’t been dominating, but it’s been extremely effective. Offensively they’ve moved the field up and down against everybody. For all the buildup of Alabama LSU, the best game of the year was our first one between Notre Dame and Michigan. That win over Michigan is the best win in college football this season.
## ## Q: You worked with Jon Gruden on “Monday Night Football.” How has it been watching his struggles as a coach?
A: That has been hard for me. He’s a dear friend and it’s hard to see the struggles given how badly he wanted to get back in and have success, especially in Oakland. It’s been tough to watch, and I really hope they can turn it around. We usually text or talk at least once during the week and just trying to see if his spirits are up, and he’s still determined to find players and win games.