Irish Ready for Michigan State

The Irish finished their preparation for Michigan State with the conclusion of Thursday's practice. The Irish are hoping to bounce back from their 38-0 loss against Michigan last Saturday with a win against the Spartans in Notre Dame Stadium. The Notre Dames coaches are hoping they can find the answers to fix their problems on both offense and defense.

Coach Tyrone Willingham said he did find some positives in the Michigan performance—one being the running of Julius Jones—but said the Irish are focusing on Michigan State.

Willingham said he was pleased with some of what he saw on film from the Michigan game. "Not only was Julius one of them, but a lot of guys did very positive things," said Willingham of the positives. "What we really lacked was consistency in so many areas. That's the barrier you have to break through when you are playing a really good football team. They don't give you a margin that you can wait three quarters and then come back and get it done – or wait a half and come back get it done – they keep the pressure on you all the time."

Consistency is the problem with the Irish according to Willingham "What we've got to do is - we were close on some things both offensively and defensively. We've got to be consistent against the big stuff. So there were some good things, but obviously not nearly enough to mount the kind of attack we needed against the University of Michigan. But that is not our focus – the University of Michigan – we've got to focus on Michigan State and they bring a good team into our stadium – they're 2-1. They've got some transitions they're going through but they seem to be going through it very well."

Starting right guard Sean Milligan has been nursing his ailing back since the Washington State game. Milligan might not ready to play against Michigan State, Darrin Mitchell will probably play if Milligan can't play on Saturday. "We would probably use some combinations that would include Darin Mitchell," Willingham said.

Willingham said the Irish had a good practice on Thursday but they need to take that to the playing field. "There are always good things in our practice. I don't think there has been a day that we haven't had something positive. So I like that, we have to continue on that trend. But the key is to take practice to the game field and have the consistency that you need in a game."

Irish offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick says the Irish offense needs to get started early against Michigan State. "It's always important in any game, whether is Michigan State or any team to get off to a fast start," said Diedrick. "It sets the tempo for the game and gets the momentum going."

Diedrick was also pleased with the effort of the team this week. "I think all three of our practices were all very good, solid practices--not only great effort but a good deal of enthusiasm. There's a tremendous want to get back on the field."

The Irish offense needs to do one thing on Saturday, "One word, execute," Diedrick said.

Defensive coordinator Kent Baer said his defense went back to the basics this week and focused on the fundamentals. "I don't think you over react too much with it," said Baer. "To me it was fundamentals and technique. We didn't tackle very well, there were certain situations where we didn't respond very well and just going back and working on the basics."

Michigan State poses some challenges for the Irish defense and the Irish will have to control their running game and Agim Shabaj according to Baer. "They run the ball well. They've got a lot of yards running the football for a team that is all one-back. They got a receiver, number two (Shabaj), all I know is numbers. He's a great player, he's kind of the go-to guy. They move him around a lot and give him a lot of situations where they give him the ball. They've done a nice job offensively of trying to get their play-makers the ball."

The Irish seem to be very focused for this game. The frustration of the Michigan loss could mean very some positive things for both the Irish offense and defense on Saturday. Either way, Irish fans will get a better idea of what to expect from the Irish this year at the conclusion of this game.


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