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September 19, 2001
Davie Expects Victory,
By The IrishEyes.Com News Service
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (IE) – Like the rest of you, when Bob Davie drives to work in the morning, he's not so quick to lean on the horn if traffic is slow in front of him. "I've noticed a lot more compassion," he said in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Not that Davie is welcoming any charity in his current situation. With an unimpressive career record of 30-20 in his first 50 games as Irish coach, and an 0-1 2001 football team set to face a Michigan State squad it has lost to four straight times, Davie is welcoming scrutiny.
He doesn't want you to look the other way if Notre Dame – an 8-½ point favorite – doesn't defeat the Spartans Saturday. He wants you to beef about it.
"I wouldn't expect it or want it to be any different," said Davie. "Because of how we played the last two games (27-10 loss at Nebraska, 41-9 loss to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl), I want a lot of pressure on me and this football staff.
"There is something healthy about that," he continued. "It shows that we are getting back to a sense of normalcy. I clearly understand the obligations that come with being the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame."
It's at times like these where Davie is exceptionally likable. He answers questions while making direct eye contact. He prefaces his answers by addressing the reporter by his/her first name. He takes on responsibility directly and does not bash his players.
But Davie knows all too well that Notre Dame Nation doesn't need or want a gentleman at the helm if the best he can do is win 60-percent of his games. And Dr. Kevin White isn't wild about seeing winnable games squandered because of bad decisions by the general.
Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 21 last September 23 at Spartan Stadium falls right on Davie's lap. He's the one who called for a fourth-down blitz that led to a 68-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Smoker to Herb Haygood.
"I will never forget last year's game," Davie said. "I thought we were going to win that football game. I wish I had put them in a different coverage. It was the most devastating loss I've had to deal with in all my years of coaching."
Davie doesn't expect a repeat performance Saturday. It's high time, he said, that this losing streak to Michigan State stops.
"Let's face it," he said, "this may not be the best place to say considering we are at Notre Dame, but in '97 and '98, Michigan State just had more talent than we did. In '99 and 2000, we caught up, but let the game slip away. This year, this is a game we should win. If we play well, we will win."
Surely that quote will find its way into the Spartan locker-room in East Lansing. The Spartans have one of the best backs in the country in T.J. Duckett and are 1-0, coming off a flawed opening victory versus Central Michigan.
Davie's confidence in this contest comes from preparation. He says the Irish were not emotionally ready to play at Purdue last week. The reverse is true now.
"I'm proud of the leadership role our athletic department took last week in persuading Purdue not to play," said Davie. "I'm proud we did not practice the day of the attack or the day after. It gave us the chance to bring the team over, watch television, talk about a lot of things. We put that loss to Nebraska in perspective. We could not have played last week. We would have gone out and played, but I didn't want to.
"Then, I would say last Saturday's practice, was when I realized we were ready to go," Davie continued. "We went full pads, and it was like a clean shower. You either hit or be hit when you go full pads. That cleaned some of the murkiness of it. Ever since, we have practiced with urgency. I'm very, very confident that this team will respond."
To beat Michigan State, Notre Dame has to establish its running game. Behind a seasoned, healthy offensive line, it's time for Julius Jones, Tony Fisher and Terrance Howard to step up.
"Coming out of the Nebraska game the number one concern was the running game," said Davie. "We need to be able to run the football. When you play Nebraska, it's very difficult to run the football on them. You go into that game, you're not going to run up and down the field. But I was still disappointed that we could not run or function. We were non-existent. That can't happen again."
Matt LoVecchio will start at quarterback and Carlyle Holiday will "provide a different look" though Davie says "We are not going to upset the rhythm of the football team just to get No. 7 into the game."
Defensively, Davie is hoping to get more out of defensive end Grant Irons ("He just has to be more productive") and more of the same from inside linebacker Courtney Watson ("Our biggest surprise against Nebraska, and I shouldn't even say ‘surprise.' He's done everything we have asked.").
Davie can't even comprehend being 0-5 versus Michigan State.
"I don't want to think about it, it's embarrassing now, it really is," said Davie. "I can tell you there will be a lot of emotion in that Stadium on Saturday and I want it to be positive emotion. I want this to be a football team people can be excited about. And I know it can be. We'll start to see that Saturday."