Irish Players Expect Battle on Saturday

The Irish [5-2] returned from the Meadowlands with a well-earned 27-9 win over the previously unbeaten U.S. Naval Academy [5-1]. The Notre Dame running game recorded a season high 204 yards and was led by Senior Ryan Grant with two touchdowns and 104 total yards.

Last week most of the talk centered on the Notre Dame/Navy rivalry and the 40 consecutive win streak the Irish had built in this series. This week the focus is again on the words "streak" and "rivalry" as the Boston College Eagles come to town.

The rivalry between these two Catholic schools has always been intense but has heated up in recent years. The Irish hold a 9-6 edge in the overall series, but the Eagles have won the last three games.

The last time the Eagles won in Notre Dame Stadium, some of their players tore up chunks of the stadium turf and trashed the visitor's locker room. These actions are seen as disrespectful to the Irish players and fans thus adding more fuel to this heated contest.

Irish Eyes talked with three Notre Dame players to get their thoughts on the upcoming game.

Q&A with senior guard Dan Stevenson

How big is this game with Boston College?

"Oh man. This is just one of those games. Anybody who knows the past about Notre Dame and BC knows that this is definitely, definitely a big game."

Would you rate it up there with USC and Michigan as far as rivalries?

"It's definitely a different kind of rivalry. Michigan-Notre Dame, Notre Dame-USC are some of the most storied rivalries in college football, but it is definitely up there you know. It gets a lot of hype and deserves it, as it is a big game between these two schools."

Is this the type of games you wish you could play tomorrow rather than having to wait?

"Definitely, I mean we have got back on track a little bit and we are feeling good about our team and we feel things are starting to click again so we are always ready to go out there and play again."

Why do you think the Irish struggle against BC?

"I really can't tell you the exact reason. It just seems like they're one of those teams that whenever they play us they bring their best game and it is something we need to rise to the occasion and bring our best game."

Will there be the type of attitude that was shown in the Michigan game this year?

"Yeah, definitely, there is always a lot of hype about this game because of things that have happened in the past, and it definitely is a big game to us. But like I said before, we can't focus on past games and things like that. You got to use them as motivation but at the same time you know we have to go out there and play our best game to achieve what we are trying to achieve this year."

Do you think BC has an animosity toward you guys, and if that is the case, why?

"It's hard to say. They always play us hard and play us tough. I think we're probably one of those teams they circle on their calendar to get ready to play."

Does the fact that BC tore up the grass and trashed the locker room show disrespect?

"That obviously is a level of disrespect that a lot of people find inappropriate and shouldn't take place. You have to look at that and use it as a motivation but at the same time you can't focus on it and get caught up in that."

Q&A with senior linebacker Brandon Hoyte

So is this going to be an interesting week for you?

"Most definitely, we get to start off with a great week of practice and get to start with a huge rivalry that has definitely grown through the years and something that has been in the back of our minds for a long time."

What is it about Boston College and the dislike the two programs have for each other?

"I think over the years, as far as the rivalry is concerned, the amount of play that has gone into it; the great plays that have happened; the great teams that have played each other; I think over a while that definitely grows, and I think we have definitely been a part of that."

USC and Michigan are known rivalries. BC considers this game a rivalry - do you?

"So do we. So do we, and I think over the past four years because we haven't had success versus them so I definitely think that has built up something even higher. But I think the bottom line is those games have no bearing on what is going to happen this Saturday."

What makes a rivalry?

"I think the bottom line is intensity. And once that game is played, I think there is something that lurks in the air when you are out there and between the fans, between the players, and even between the coaches, you just feel a certain urgency that's out there. It is not always something you can control; I just think it is something in the air and you just feel it's something funny when you cross those white lines."

Is it a situation this week of having emotions, but controlling them?

"I definitely think that's a possibility, and I think to play with that controlled aggression. I think that's something we're going to have to face this week, and I think something we are looking forward to."

Does the way they have reacted after winning add to the desire to beat them?

"I think so, but the biggest focus is what we can do as a team this year. I think we are in a great position. I think we have the athletes and we have a great coaching staff who have really put us in a great position to win games this year. Just knowing that this is the next step closer to where we need to be as a football team. I think that is where my focus is really at."

What moments in these games the last three years really stick out in your mind the most?

"I think the feeling over the last three years, walking back to the locker room without a win. And I think that is a motivational factor."

Q&A with senior linebacker Derek Curry

What are the images that come to mind of these games the last three years?

"There aren't any images, but there is one thing I do know about the past with these guys is that we haven't played the way we should have played. We haven't executed the way we should have. We didn't make enough big plays in the past, so that is one thing we are going to have to try and do this year."

Any particular reason why you haven't been able to make big plays against BC?

"I can't say that it's them. I think it's just a matter of us not going out and doing what we are supposed to do, getting a little lackadaisical in some areas - or maybe not pursuing as well - or something like that."

Is their level of intensity higher than yours has been?

"I wouldn't say that."

BC has some young offensive lineman. Does that make it easier to get to the quarterback?

"Anytime you have young guys, the experience level is a little different, just like we have faced some younger quarterbacks this year. It changes up the game plan a little bit, but we are just going to go hard every play. It doesn't really matter who is up there, we know they're going to give it their all because they have some really good athletes and they have some really good, strong ballplayers. So we're going to have to go out and counteract that."

BC considers this the game for them. Do you consider them as a big rivalry?

"I don't know about the rivalry but it is definitely a good game. It is one of the reasons you come to Notre Dame, because every game is a big game and this is definitely one of the big games, especially with the history we've had in the past. So it is a big game for us."

When you mentioned history, does that include some of their actions after games they have won? "A little bit, but it's more about the actual game itself because this is the next step that we need to take - winning this game would be a big step for us this week and that is mainly our focus. Things done in the past really don't affect too much about what is going to happen this year, and this game. Players change, defenses and things like that change, so that is going to be the biggest key, going out and executing better."

Regardless of the all the talk about big rivalry or not, the Irish players know they face a tough challenge this week. The Eagles have a strong offense that is averaging 398.7 yards a game including 263.3 yards passing.

Their quarterback is ranked 24th nationally in total offense averaging 250 yards per game. The Eagles also have one of the nation's top defenses and are ranked this week among the nation's top 15 in four defensive categories.

A win this week for the 24th ranked Irish will improve their record to 6-2 and make them eligible for a bowl game, and no doubt move them up in the polls.


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