Irish Players Focused on Michigan State

The Notre Dame campus is still buzzing about the stunning 28-20 victory over Michigan this past Saturday. As we walked by the stadium this morning, on our way to interview players, it almost seemed you could still hear lingering echoes of the crowd noise and the students' chant of "Overrated - Overrated."

It is all well and good for the Irish faithful to be savoring this win, but the guys who have to do it on the field every Saturday have put the celebrating behind them. They know going on the road to play Michigan State is never an easy task so the preparation has begun.

The guy who runs the offense on the field, quarterback Brady Quinn, shared some thoughts about the Michigan game and what lies ahead for the Irish.

"We are the toughest critics of ourselves and looking at the tape there are a ton of things I obviously missed out there and could have done better. The offense feels there are some things we could have tightened up with the running game and the passing game." Quinn said.

Quinn said the Irish haven't forgotten the 22-16 loss they suffered at the hands of the Spartans last year in Notre Dame Stadium. The sophomore quarterback says the loss was a game they feel they should've won.

"I think this team remembers the game last year and I know I do," Quinn said. "I think that was a game we really let slip through our fingers and that is something we are definitely going to be looking at this weekend."

Senior wide receiver Carlyle Holiday handled all seven punt returns for a total of 70 yards against Michigan. This performance will probably see him handling these duties against Michigan State.

When this talented player was asked about his prior experience returning punts he replied, "I've been playing quarterback all my life so I never had to be put in that position before. After I switched from quarterback, I think it was a mind set to get the ball in my hands in some kind of way and special teams are a big part of it.

"We spend a lot of time on special teams in practice and after practice we spend more time getting reps and catching balls. And you have to catch so many kicks on your own time so there is a lot of preparation that goes into it.

"I just wanted to make some kind of contribution. Being on the sidelines against BYU can make you do things, and it really kind of hurt me so being on punt returns is a big opportunity for me."

Holiday said the memories of the Michigan State game in 2002 is something that has been on his mind.

"Anytime we play Michigan State, for some reason, it is always close and that's always in your mind," Holiday said. "That is going to be a close game regardless of what the record is.

"Two years ago, it was exciting with that big play Arnaz (Battle) made. It changed our season and was the start of big things to come in 2002. So if we can have that same result with a little wider margin of victory; that would be great."

Defensive end Justin Tuck has already made his presence felt early this season as the senior already has three sacks in the first two games. His next sack will put him in the Notre Dame records as the all-time leader in this category.

Tuck says he's put the Michigan game behind him and has turned his thoughts to Michigan State.

"When you play up there, they are a different team and they seem to have an added hatred for us and they play real hard against us," the quick defensive end stated.

"It's a tough place to play, but it is not going to be hard to get up for this game as they are a great team in their own right, so we will just have to get up for them like we did this past week."

The All-American candidate doesn't think staying focused this week will be a problem.

"If we lose our focus, they could easily embarrass us and that's what our leaders are preaching right now and our coaches were preaching in our meetings yesterday," Tuck said.

"So I don't think we're going to let this slip by mentally.. I think we are going to be geared in and ready to go."

The defense has been impressive in the first two contests especially against the run. But Tuck says his unit still has a lot of room for improvement.

"Obviously, we are not satisfied with the way we have played run defense," the Kellytown, Ala. native said. "When we go back and watch film, we see the mistakes we've made and always you know we are just trying to improve. If you can't run the ball in college football, you will have difficulty winning games so that is our focus right now."

Irish Eyes has a good feeling about this team and its journey to East Lansing. We are seeing a more determined and confident look about the players and believe the win over Michigan was just the tonic needed to bring back the Irish swagger.


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