The Irish held their second practice of the week in preparation for BYU on Wednesday and Irish coach Tyrone Willingham reported to the media room after practice in a foul mood—sort of.
"No, I'm not in a good mood," Willingham said when asked about his spirits after practice. "I wish I had a stuffed animal or something that I could go home and kick that I can take out my frustration on."
The third-year Irish head coach says he's still sees things that bother him with only one practice left before heading to Provo to face the Cougars.
"As coaches, you're known as you get closer to weekend, as kind of chasing ghosts—all those possibilities, all those things that can happen," Willingham said. "When you have a game of this nature, with a wide open, spread offensive attack, it doubles."
One concern could be the Irish secondary. Starters were named in the secondary this week after some fierce competition, but inexperience could be a factor in the secondary on Saturday.
Still, Willingham is excited about his untested group of defenders the backend of the defense.
"They've done a good job in terms of working, in terms of preparation," Willingham said of the secondary. "They understand, for the most part, our game plan. There's still some things we need to show them. I like the way they've worked. I like, hopefully, a toughness that they're going to display when we get to game day.
"The thing that I'm asking them to do, and they've worked hard at doing, is trying to make sure they contest every play because that's really the key."
BYU will likely start quarterback John Beck after starting Matt Berry last season in South Bend. Willingham says he's not sure what to make of Beck because he didn't play against the Irish last season.
"With those two quarterbacks, they've kind of rotated them between injuries and playing time," said Willingham, who is 2-0 in season openers at Notre Dame. "When you have a quarterback like that, it kind of makes it difficult for us because we don't know all that he can do.
" That's why I think the first couple of minutes of the game will be very critical in terms of the outcome. If we can get a handle on what he does, what they're trying to do with him, and how he'll be utilized, then I think it will assist our game plan."
Willingham says he hasn't said a lot to his team about BYU game yet, but he has tried to get their mindset straight heading into a road game.
"The biggest thing I've spoke to our team about is how you handle being on the road," he said. "The kind of attitude you've got to take into an opposing stadium. One that we know will be very rowdy and tough on our football team. You've got to go into there with a road warrior mindset, a focused, lock down attitude."
This Irish team seems very confident in interviews this past week. Willingham was asked how this team has become so confident considering the way the ended last season.
"I think it's primarily the job that our coaches have done," Willingham said. "I don't think our coaches have dwelled on negatives. I think they believe they have great potential. If we will execute, and play like Notre Dame plays, then we think we can do good things."
With a number of starting positions being granted this week, we asked Willingham if those starters were set in stone for the season, or if there is still competition for playing time at these positions.
"The ultimate tests are the games," said Willingham. "You have to have a level of trust about the guy next to you. When he does his job and does it well, that trust is heightened. The test is the game. How you play in a game is how you evaluate."
Also practicing for a second day on Wednesday, and in full pads for the first time since his injury, was linebacker Brandon Hoyte. Willingham said he expects Hoyte to play on Saturday.
"I've been very pleased with what he's given us the last couple of days," Willingham said of Hoyte. "I'm not saying yes, but it would lend itself to that he'd be ready to play."
The Irish will have one more practice on Thursday before leaving for Provo on Friday for Saturday's game. The game is set to kick off at 8:22 PM, South Bend time on Saturday.