Irish Hold Bowl Media Day

The Irish practiced indoors from 10:30 to 12:30 on Friday in preparation for their December 28 bowl game against Oregon State in Phoenix. Following practice, Irish Eyes attended the Notre Dame Bowl Day Media Conference which was held at Notre Dame Stadium in the 5th Floor Press Box area. Irish Eyes spoke with some of the players and coach Greg Mattison at the conference.

There is so much talk swirling around the Notre Dame Football program at this time which could be very distracting and difficult for the players as they get ready for the bowl game.

However, senior defensive end and team leader Justin Tuck said the Irish have been focused on the task at hand.

"I don't think it is that difficult," said Tuck. "Our coaches are doing a great job of keeping us focused; plus our leadership is coming into play right now. We know our focus because we are going to go down there to win a football game.

"We aren't thinking of anything else because we don't have control over anything else. All we can control is how we go down there and play. It's been over ten years since Notre Dame has had a bowl game win so our focus is to go down there and get a win. This is a real focused team right now."

Tuck said he's been Impressed with Oregon State's offense.

"They are a good football team; they have a veteran quarterback, a big offensive line, and overall good personnel," said Tuck of the Beavers.

Coach Greg Mattison is leaving the Irish and will be joining the Florida Gators' coaching staff. When asked about his eight years at Notre Dame and some of the memories, he responded, "Notre Dame is a special place, and it is as good a place as there is," said Mattison. "I'm still excited about the day I left Michigan to come here. I think that is one of the best decisions I have ever made just because I have had the opportunity to spend eight years at this great institution.

"I had a daughter graduate from here, and it doesn't get much better than that. There has been some turmoil obviously, but there is everywhere. When you have been in coaching as long as I have, there aren't many guys who haven't gone through it. I just happened to have gone through it three times in the last three years."

Mattison sees a bright future for Notre Dame Football and feels the Irish will be on top soon.

"They're going to be great here," he said. "The coach who comes in here I really think has got some great talent. Our defense should be back the way it was and the offense has everybody back. Notre Dame will get past this bump and I don't think there is a question about that. It is a shame it happened to a man like Coach Willingham because he truly is a great person and a great head coach. But everybody moves on. This is business."

Senior offensive lineman Dan Stevenson was a high school senior and a prospective recruit when the Irish played Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl. Stevenson said he remembers that game well.

"I definitely watched the game," Stevenson said. "It is something the team talks about from time to time and it was something that was obviously disappointing and something that we are not going to let happen again. We didn't come ready to play and we didn't play our best game and it was a tough game. The older guys say it was a very physical game and definitely a lot of emotion on that field and we obviously came up short."

Stevenson is also impressed with this Oregon State team.

"They're definitely good up front," he said. "They have some big guys in the middle and they have an end who is supposed to be very good. So it is going to be a good challenge for the offensive line and that is how we like it. We like to put it on our shoulders, and we going out there and show this is a great offensive line."

The Barrington, Ill. native says the Irish need to end their season with a win.

"It's huge to get a win the last game of the season," Stevenson said. "You don't want to spend the entire off-season working out, going through spring ball, and summer workouts thinking about the last game. Because whatever happens that last game, you tend to keep in the back of your mind and you sort of have a little taste of that in the back of your mouth. So it is huge for us to go out there and get a big win. In the past, we have ended with disappointment; so let's hope USC was our disappointment and we can move ahead."

Senior defensive lineman Greg Pauly was a freshman when the Irish last played Oregon State.

"I remember our freshman year although I didn't participate," said Pauly. "But I remember we basically got our butts kicked and that's not how you want to go out. It was exciting to be on the sidelines, and it was a big game even if I wasn't really a part of it."

Pauly is looking forward to this year's Bowl game and he said the Irish will leave for Phoenix with the right attitude.

"We have been working hard all week and a bowl game is a reward, and we are supposed to go down there and have some fun," Pauly said. "But at the same time, we are going down there to work hard and win."

The Irish return to the practice field Saturday afternoon and then will take off a couple of days to rest up and prepare for final exams.


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