The Irish (1-1) will now turn their attention to Michigan State (1-1). The Spartans also won on Saturday, defeating Central Michigan, 24-7. While the Irish celebrated their victory on Saturday, they also know how important this game against Michigan State will be to having a successful season.
Linebacker Brandon Hoyte said the Irish victory over the Wolverines was nice, but it's time to move on.
"I think it's really huge," Hoyte said of Saturday's victory. "The one thing to understand is you don't get two wins because you beat Michigan--it's only one win. We've got to take it one win at a time. It was a tremendous win. We're happy, but let's face it, it's over, let's move on to Michigan State."
Michigan traditionally runs the football very well, but the Irish held the Wolverines to just 56 yards rushing. We asked Hoyte why the Michigan offensive line didn't appear to be the physical offensive line we're used to seeing out the Wolverines.
"I don't think it was about Michigan," Hoyte said. "I think it was about the way we played. I think the more we realize that as a team, I think the better off we're going to be."
Hoyte knows the Irish have had their problems defeating the Spartans in recent years, but the 5-11, 231-pound senior says he doesn't care about the past.
"I couldn't care less what happened it the past, just as it doesn't matter what happened last week, it doesn't matter what happened in the past with Michigan State," Hoyte said. "We just need to stay focused on what we need to do as a team to get better every game."
While the Spartans lost to Rutgers in their first game, they have been averaging some respectable numbers on offense so far. Their offense is averaging 382 yards per game. Hoyte says he's not concerned about what the Spartans will try to do on offense.
"They're putting up great numbers offensively," said Hoyte. "They tend to play us very hard. That's something to respect. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what the other team does. It's how we focus and how we get the job done."
When looking at stats for total tackles, one will see all three Irish linebackers leading the team in total tackles. Hoyte says the play of the Irish defensive line has been outstanding, and the real reason the Irish linebackers are having so much success making plays.
"I think our d-line is playing exceptional right now," the Parlin, N.J. native said. "I think they're making plays. I think that's what's creating a lot of havoc right now for the other offense. It's just as if a running back for offense, without an O-line, there's nothing. It's no different for a linebacker.
"Anytime you're making plays, those guys are doing a heck of a job. These guys are making plays. They're playing phenomenal."
Senior outside linebacker Derek Curry also agrees with Hoyte on the interior defensive line. Curry said the interior line play has been the biggest reason the Irish have been playing well on defense.
"Our upfront has been playing tremendous," said Curry. "It allows the linebackers to have free reign and play ball. I just want to give those guys a ton of credit. Nobody really sees what they do. They make the biggest difference in the world."
Curry was seen carrying a big chain around his neck as the Irish and the Notre Dame students celebrated their victory over Michigan on Saturday. Curry was asked what the chain represented that he was proudly wearing while celebrating.
"The chain is about unity," the Sealy, Texas native said. "It's about playing together, playing as a team, it's about being unselfish. It's about everybody playing together because you're only as strong as your weakest link.
"It's something our defensive coaches came up with, and I think it's excellent to say what this season is about. All we have is us. Nobody gave us a chance, but we knew what we had in this room."
While the victory over Michigan was nice, the third-year starter says he expect Michigan State to play their best game against the Irish on Saturday night, and the Irish have to be ready for a hard-fought game.
"One thing we know about this game is Michigan State is going to play their best game," Curry said. "They're always going to play their best game against us no matter what their season looks like. We have to prepare for that. They've done some things that we've seen, but they also have some tendencies that we're going to try to pick out this week and execute."
Curry said the Spartans look familiar on film. He said the Michigan State offense does a lot of the same things that both Michigan and BYU have shown on offense in their first two games.
"They have some good receivers," the senior linebacker said. "I don't what the quarterback situation is going to look like, but they have some good receivers. They have the ability to run the ball. They do a lot of similar things that we've seen already so we're going to have some carry over, but it's about going and playing."
The Irish will also be playing in a night game on a road. Notre Dame has already lost in such an environment in their first game against BYU. Curry said the past will not matter in this game.
"We're going to be completely prepared," Curry said of the Irish. "Nothing that happened in the past is going to affect this game. All we do is have to play better than the team. You don't have to be No. 1 in the country every week. You've just got to be better than the team you're playing up against."
The only negative of the Michigan game for Curry and his defensive teammates was the late touchdown surrendered to the Wolverines. Curry said that touchdown might've been what the doctor ordered heading into the game this weekend
It humbled us because we know that we can't just go out there and do whatever we want," Curry said of the Wolverine's lone touchdown. "We still have to execute, regardless of how we're playing, or we'll get burned, and that is what happened on that play. I think that was an eye-opener for us."
Quarterback Brady Quinn found his best friend in the Michigan game—a running game. Quinn said having success in the running game means all the difference in the world for the Irish offense.
"It's just a great feeling of confidence," Quinn said of the running game. "Anytime you know you have the running game, everything is going to be set up for the play action. The backers are still not sure whether or not you're going to run or pass and that gives you a big help."
The running game failed the Irish early in the game. Notre Dame found themselves in a fourth-and-one situation from the Michigan one-yard line, trying to get out of first gear on offense. The Wolverines shut the door on Notre Dame, but Quinn said that series was a wakeup call for the Irish offense.
"We were close. We just weren't finishing," Quinn said of the failed attempt to score. "We were right there, we were knocking on the door, we just weren't putting it in. That was our whole thing coming in the second half. Finishing it off, making the play, making a little extra effort to get in."
Quinn also said the return game and the play of former quarterback Carlyle Holiday in the return game was another big key for the Irish on Saturday.
"Carlyle, he did a great job," Quinn said of Holiday. "He's explosive. Anytime he has the ball in his hands, he can do something with it. Our punt return did a really good job helping him out. The field position game was a big key for us this week."
The victory over Michigan was huge in the confidence department for the Irish. It was also huge in righting the ship that appeared to be heading in the wrong direction. But, the Irish have lost six out of their last seven games against the Spartans, and if they don't take this game seriously, it could be seven out of the last eight.
However, we do believe this Irish team has the senior leadership needed to not let that happen on Saturday. This Notre Dame team has the chance to avenge a lot of painful losses in the next few games. It will be interesting to see if they step up to the challenge.