Irish Ready to Go

The Notre Dame football team ended their preparation for their first game of the season against BYU on Thursday. The Irish closed the week with a spirited practice and will leave for Provo, Utah on Friday for their game against the Cougars on Saturday. The Irish appeared loose on a sunny Thursday afternoon, and so did Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham when he spoke with the media after Thursday's practice.

As the Irish put the final touches on their game plan for Saturday's game, one could hear a number of Irish players singing during the stretching drills. We've heard this before at practice, but it was louder on Thursday, and, well, not very good.

"I'm hoping we do everything better than the way we sing," Willingham said when asked if he hoped his team played better football than they can carry a tune. "We've got a few guys who can probably hold a note, but we've got absolutely no head coach that can hold anything. I promise you that."

With the naming of Preston Jackson, Dwight Ellick, Lionel Bolen and Quentin Burrell as starters for Saturday's game, the Irish will have four starters in the defensive backfield that are seniors, and 10 seniors overall on defense.

Willingham said he's hoping their experience pays off in Saturday's battle.

"We hope when you call on seniors, you expect them to be able to give you great play and great leadership," Willingham said. "They've been the guys who've been in all big stadiums and all the big games. They understand the experience, they understand how you have to prepare and the mindset it takes to go into a hostile environment like we'll have at BYU."

Willingham also expects his defense to see about everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them on the field during the course of the game.

"There's nothing that probably won't get thrown at us in this first game--you're going to see option, you're going to see vertical stretch, you're going to see horizontal stretch, you're going to see screens, you're going to see everything," said Willingham of the BYU offense.

Like many Irish fans, Willingham admits he's excited to see his team play their first game. He said he does get to sit back and enjoy the enthusiasm of a new season.

"When you wake up on a day like today, you can't be help but be exited thinking ‘we sure hope this day flies, let's get us closer to Saturday right now. Let's do away with this practice stuff and let's go right to the game.' You can sit back and enjoy the excitement that comes with starting a new season," he said

The third-year head coach also says he doesn't want any more practice before playing the Cougars. He and his team are ready to kick it off on Saturday.

"No, I don't want any more days," Willingham said. "It's been long enough. I think our guys are ready. I think our coaches are ready. That doesn't mean there won't be surprises. We're done with the practices. It's time now to get on with the game."

The Irish will try to leave behind any lingering thoughts of their disappointing 5-7 in 2003. A win in Provo will be a step in the right direction for Willingham and his team.

"Getting off to a great start means everything for every team," Willingham said when asked how important this game was to his team. "Confidence is only built when you have success. It's about winning. It's about success. And when you do that, you get off to a great start and things just seem to multiply."

Confidence is something the Irish could surely use, and also something they lacked at the end of last season. They could certainly use some confidence heading into the season, and with a victory on Saturday, heading into next week with their game against Michigan.


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