Irish Prepare For Pittsburgh

The Notre Dame football team practiced on Tuesday in preparation for their game against Pittsburgh on October 11th. The Irish have a bye this week and will have two weeks to prepare for the Panthers and to try to solve their problems on offense. The Irish players and coaches seemed in good spirits and the mood was light during an unusually cold last day of September.

Offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said his offense will use this week to work on fixing their problems and to experiment a little with some new people at various positions. "I think you can experiment a little bit but it depends on what you want to get out of the week," said Diedrick. "I think we want to go back and work on a few things and really try to improve ourselves at each position. It's a similar format that you would have during a normal week. The things that you stress, probably a little bit more of individual technique and improvement."

The Irish rushing attack has been dismal and Diedrick said he wasn't pleased on Saturday or on Sunday after watching film. "I think my assessment after watching the tape is the same as my assessment from the press box. How we address those issues is go back and work on the areas where we felt we broke down, sustaining blocks and missed assignments."

Diedrick said they will give some players an opportunity this week to try to make a move up the depth chart. "Probably not moving some people around, just trying to look at some different people. I think moving some people up a little bit, see if they can execute a little bit better."

Head coach Tyrone Willingham was excited after practice and seemed very pleased with what he saw in his team on Tuesday. "That fact that we had an opportunity to get out and start to get to work again and our young men played pretty well," said Willingham. "They seemed to bring a certain level of energy and focus to them, and that was good."

Cedric Hilliard sat out of practice riding the stationary bike. Willingham said Hilliard should be able to play next week. "I guess what I can say is he's in, okay, as opposed to being out. You have my hands tied on that."

Offensive guard Sean Milligan should be considered out according to Willingham. "Sean Milligan, right now, is out, as opposed to being in."

"Yes, it could be" was his response when asked if Milligan could be out for a while.

Willingham's team has had a rough start this year. The Irish have been in a cycle of having a good season followed by a bad season for some time now. Willingham says he doesn't think about the cycle the Irish appear to be in. "No, I don't and maybe that's a mistake on my part. I don't think the past has anything with the future, unless you let it. If I begin to focus on the good/bad year, then there's a good chance you follow that same trend. My focus has always been we play them one game at a time. If we win this next game, it gives us the best chance to win the next one and that's the way you go about it."

Willingham said he and his coaching staff have sat down and came up with a game plan for this off-week. "We listed several things we wanted to do. Number one is always getting healthy. You've got to get your football team healthy, so that is number one. Number two, depending on what you need to focus on, you isolate that, and then we're looking at getting individual improvement, getting to play a lot better at each position."

The Injuries are starting to pile up for Willingham and he's thankful for a bye week. "Injuries are always a problem. I mean football is a physical game and we play physical teams. So I think somebody asked Cedric Hilliard, Sean Milligan, and Jeff Thompson last week. It's a physical game and you always want to get your team as healthy as possible."

So how far are the Irish from becoming a good team? "That's a tough question," said Willingham. "It is because we played one ballgame where it looked like we were light years away. We played some other ballgames that showed real flashes of the team we could be. So you're kind of bouncing right now to figure out exactly where that spot is."

Willingham's 2002 started the season 8-0 last year and have struggled this year. He says there is quite a bit of difference between the attitude of the fans and his team but he said that is to be expected. "How can you not, when you're 1-3, gosh, people look at the team different, the team feels different. It's not so much the outside, it's the inside and how you feel about yourself. And usually if you're not doing something well, you don't feel good. You don't like who you are, you don't like what you're doing. So that's the way all our coaches and players feel."

The Irish find themselves in a difficult situation being 1-3. They head to Pittsburgh to play a very explosive Panther team before returning home to face rival USC. The mood and confidence of the team is the most important factor and Willingham has made this team believe in themselves before when they have little reason to believe. He'll have to do that again this week to avoid what could be a very ugly season for the Irish. Top Stories