Irish Back on the Field Monday

The Notre Dame football team was back on the practice field on Monday. The Irish players voted to participate in the Insight Bowl held Dec. 28 in Phoenix and Monday was the first day of bowl practices for their game against Oregon State. We spoke with a number of Irish players and coaches after practice to get their thoughts on their first practice.

The Irish held their first practice without former head coach Tyrone Willingham at the controls. Willingham was fired last Tuesday and the Irish are left to prepare for their bowl without their former leader.

Defensive line coach Greg Mattison said he was excited to get back on the field with this Irish team again.

"They did everything we asked of them," said Mattison. "They're great kids. It was fun to be out there with them."

"Never thought of that because these kids wouldn't do that," said Mattison when asked if the Irish had to be motivated for their first day of practice. "They decided they wanted to go to a bowl game and we as coaches said if they wanted to go to a bowl game, that they're were going to go prepared to win. The bottom line is we're going there to win."

Mattison says Notre Dame's opponent will certainly present a challenge for the Irish.

"Oregon State is a very good team," Mattison said. "They've lost five games and I think every team that beat them is ranked. They're a very good football team."

Offensive lineman Ryan Harris said the first day without Willingham was business as usual.

"It really didn't seem any different to us," Harris said. "We had the same practice style. In terms of practice feeling weird, it really didn't because we still have our coaches here. The only time it seemed different was at the end of practice when they called us all up and coach Willingham wasn't there."

Harris admits he's been following the coaching search, but he says his focus has been solely on their bowl game.

"Everything else is out of our control," Harris said. "What we can control is our ability to go out and win this ball game. That's something that we want to do badly.

"We're not naïve to the radio stations and TV. We just want to focus on the things that we can control such as winning a bowl game—something that hasn't happened here since 1993."

Interim head coach Kent Baer also believes the Beavers will present another big challenge for the Irish.

"I know they throw the ball really well," Baer said of Oregon State. "I know they play good defense. I think they've won five out of their last six. They're probably a pretty hot football team. I know they scored 50 points against Oregon."

Baer also said he felt the first days went well considering the team has a number of days off.

"I thought those kids had a lot of energy today and that was good to see," he said. "We met a couple times as a team and talked about our goals going down there. I was pretty enthused for not having played for nine or 10 days."

The mood was light after practice with a lot of smiles seen on the faces of Irish players and coaches. We asked Baer if the Irish might have more fun with these bowl preparations and maybe even during the game when making some play calls.

"We've talked that about that as a staff," Baer said. "I don't know what they're going to be yet, but we're definitely going to do some things--have a little bit of fun. These kids need to enjoy this experience."

The Irish will be back on the practice field on Wednesday and will also practice Friday and Saturday of this week. Irish Eyes will be there after all practices to bring you the latest on their bowl preparations. Top Stories