Under the Dome: Army win a brief break, but reality remains grim for Irish.

Congrats to Notre Dame for taking care of business vs. Army on Saturday.

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ND’s 44-6 victory was a welcome bright spot in what has been a tumultuous, disappointing season. Beating Army won’t do much to quell the angst. But it was a solid performance. And it beats the alternative.

Just a week ago, the Fighting Irish were left to pick up the pieces after the 28-27 disaster vs. Navy.

It’s difficult to win games. Nobody knows that better than Notre Dame.

At 4-6, and with Virginia Tech and USC still to play, the prospects remain cloudy.

That’s what happens when the coaches and the players under-perform at a school where the expectations are relentlessly high.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

When people look back on this season, the losses that will stand out will be the 38-35 shocker to Duke, the 10-3 quagmire at N.C. State and the frustratingly messy loss to Navy.

No doubt, there were problems in the other defeats. As it turned out, Texas was nothing special, although the Longhorns looked imposing at the time. Same deal with Michigan State, only more so. The Spartans, who lost seven in a row, might be a bigger disaster than ND this fall.

And Stanford also has been an under-performer this fall.

Five times this year, the Irish have allowed at least 17 unanswered points: Texas (17), Michigan State (36), Duke (21), Stanford (17) and Miami (27).

It all adds up to a pretty messy season.

If ND were to win out, that might ease some of the pain. Then again, that prospect seems so remote, based on what the Irish have shown so far, that it’s what you’d call Pie in the Sky.

Whether 6-6, 5-7 or 4-8, the Irish will need to regroup in a big way and try to get back on track next fall.

For all the complaints about Brian Kelly, there are no indications he will be gone, and very direct signs that he will return.

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick’s unequivocal ``he shall return,’’ plus the six-year extension Kelly received in January, ought to settle that debate, unless something unforeseen and shocking develops. Like Kelly deciding to walk away. But coaches in his position rarely do that. And he shouldn’t.

For all of his ups and downs at ND, in seven seasons, Kelly has guided the Irish to the 2012 national championship game and had them knocking on the College Football Playoff door last year despite a serious set of injuries.

You can talk all you want about ND having at least five losses in four of Kelly’s other seasons.

But the truth is, Notre Dame no longer has the advantages it once enjoyed as a national program that garnered special attention. Everyone is on television now. The days when independents ruled is over. And ND, which has ascended in academic status, isn't going to compromise that status. Which is something to be proud of.

By declining to take shelter in a conference, ND doesn’t have the conference goals and excitement that keep other programs rolling in years when national glory is no longer an option.

In short, it’s time for simmering members of the fan base to accept that this season is messy.

If things remain bogged down in a year, that would be a trend that demands serious soul-searching.

Until then, Irish fans are in the same leaky boat as their team.[/membership]