After a massive win against the Indiana Hoosiers (at the time it was), the hype surrounding the 2022 Cincinnati Bearcats was insane. The Bearcats had a bye week between the Indiana and Notre Dame game, but for those two weeks, the campus of Cincinnati was buzzing unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Every topic the weekend before the game at bars, classes, or parties was centered around the Notre Dame Fighting Irish or the college football playoff.
Like the last game, my three college friends and I left for South Bend the day before the game, but this was a four hour trip that was also lengthened by Indiana state traffic. The drive to South Bend wasn’t the most exciting, but my friends and I passed the time by talking about potential playoff scenarios where the Bearcats could match up against Alabama, Georgia, and even Ohio State.
We eventually arrived to the Notre Dame campus around eight, and our living situation for the next two days were in the dorms. My friend lived in a four-man dorm with a middle living area and it’s required by Notre Dame students that they live their first three years in dorms on campus. Talk about a fun living situation.
As you would expect, there’s not much to do in South Bend, combined with the fact that Notre Dame is located in the supposed “college town”, the cap on fun things to do is really maxed out. We ended up going to a senior’s house party off campus, which was fun, but I could tell the students were ready for the top 10 matchup the next day.
My college friends, my Notre Dame friend and his roommates, and I all woke up at eight sharp for the 2:30 kickoff. I never realized how many Notre Dame fans cared about their football team until I saw the tailgating right outside the stadium. I tried to see where the tents and flags ended, but I couldn’t. The Fighting Irish fans, a lot of them from Cincinnati, were all very friendly as they constantly wanted me and my friends to come over and eat their food so they could ask questions about our shared hometown. Tailgating for six hours seems like a long time, but with my excitement built up for this historic matchup, it felt like we were outside the stadium for six months.
Finally, about an hour before kickoff, me and my two UC friends went into the stadium and found our seats in the very last row of the Bearcat fans in the lower level right on the end zone. Slowly, as the time trickled down before the game started, Cincinnati fans started to take over Notre Dame stadium. Behind me was a sea of red, and unlike the Fighting Irish fans sitting in their bright green shirts, the Cincinnati fans were loud and full of energy. It was like the Notre Dame fans were attending Wimbledon and Bearcat fans were attending the college football National Championship.
Once the Bearcats got up 17-0, the fans in red were turned up to an 11. Chants of “Let’s go Bearcats” echoed throughout the stadium, and when the Fighting Irish faced 3rd downs, it was like they were the away team. After Ridder scored the game clinching touchdown in the 4th quarter, Notre Dame Stadium turned into a Nippert Stadium satellite as I had never seen so many Bearcat fans excited as they were that day. Every time I rewatch videos from that day I get goosebumps because it was something I had never witnessed, and probably will never again.
While Notre Dame fans were rocking and rolling before the game, the mood on campus was completely dead after the game. The students respected Cincinnati after that, but their mood was down in the dumps. We went to several houses outside campus that parents of students were renting for the weekend, but all that was happening was people sitting around in silence. Unlike Indiana, the Notre Dame students lived and breathed football, so that loss was like an actual punch to the gut for them.
The night was winding down around 10, which I had never heard of before in college. Right as everyone was about to go to bed, one of my friend’s roommates came in and asked if we wanted to go to a dorm party. I wanted to get the full Notre Dame experience, so I decided to check it out. We walked in to basically a 12x12 room, with no furniture or chairs, and people were just standing in the room with music blasting. We were only there for 15 minutes, but it was definitely the strangest experience I’d ever witnessed.
I had a blast at both Notre Dame and Indiana. Each weekend was different, but I learned a lot about the culture at both schools. If I had to visit a campus again, it’d definitely be Indiana, but the actual football game at Notre Dame was the best sports experience in my life. Both schools are located in Indiana, but from my travels to both campuses, that’s where the similarities cut off.