ARLINGTON, Texas (WNDU) --- The Fighting Irish faithful quickly filed out of AT&T Stadium once the scoreboard flashed the end of a 30-3 manhandling by the Clemson Tigers at the Cotton Bowl.
While faces of some fans emanated disappointment, there were several people smiling and clapping after a 12-1 season.
"We may have lost a tough one tonight. Clemson’s a fantastic team. We hope they go on and win it all," said Brian Stark, the Fighting Irish leprechaun for the 1987 season. "But I tell you what, the Irish will be back. We’re coming for you guys next year. Let’s go Irish!"
Maura Monahan, a 2017 Notre Dame graduate, remains optimistic after Saturday's loss.
"My favorite part of the season was seeing the team rise above challenges and bring home the win, even when things got tough," she said. "Seeing us bring home the win at home over and over again was so great for the fans. So great to see the team go and bloom this year."
A potential loss wouldn't dissuade Saint Mary's College junior Morgan Chichester from missing the game.
"Regardless of the score and the season, it’s always a great time to cheer on the Irish, and you never know when you get another opportunity like this," she said.
Earlier in the day, parking lots outside AT&T Stadium were abuzz with frenzied Fighting Irish fans. On Saturday, the legion of Notre Dame die-hards set up their tailgates, replete with typical finger foods and favorite beverages.
Tom Dendrinos and Jack Blum, of Baltimore, played pickup football before they headed into "Jerry's World."
"We're really excited," Dendrinos said. "The nerves are kind of high -- big stakes for the game."
Across the parking lot were Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College students, recreating their standard Saturday tailgate under the tent.
"A 12-0 season your senior year, you really can't ask for anything better!" said Maura Newell, of Alexandria, Virginia.