Irish Focused on Trojans

The hype for this week's game continues to gain a head of steam. Notre Dame and Southern Cal are meeting for the 77th time. The Irish lead the all-time series, 42-29-5. The Irish - Trojan match-up this weekend marks the first visit to Notre Dame's Stadium by a No. 1 team since Nebraska earned a 27-24 overtime victory in 2000.

Irish Eyes talked with several players to get their thoughts and views on the upcoming battle with the Trojans.

Junior offensive lineman Ryan Harris has been instrumental in the revival of the Irish offense this season. He has started all five games and currently is working on a string of 25 consecutive starts at left tackle.

"Obviously there is a lot more attention being focused on this game, but our focus on offense is the same - score a lot of points and score at least one more point than our opponent at least," Harris said of Saturday's game. "So our focus is still there as an offense, but absolutely we know we have a great opportunity ahead of us and we know we are playing the best team in the country.

"We can't determine what is going to happen in the course of a game, but we know we will feel more comfortable if we can score as many points as possible. And that is our aim and we expect nothing less of ourselves and we want to help our defense by doing that."

Southern Cal has a potent and varied offense. One of the keys for the Irish to be successful will be to control the ball and keep this offense off the field. "This kind of goes in line with us wanting to score a lot of points because the more points we score, the less their offense is on the field," Harris said. "The more we score, the more ball possessions will be less time for them to have to let their players do their thing."

The veteran lineman is expecting a real challenge this week and he has a lot of respect for this opponent, "Southern Cal is a great team and they're No. 1 in the country, and they obviously know how to come back and rebound from a bad half, bad quarter, or a bad series. That is a testament to their coaches and type of players they have in their program," Harris said. "They are very dynamic and know how to rebound and to win games."

The Irish have wrapped up the bye week and are now deep in preparation for the Trojans. One of the drawbacks of a bye week is that players tend to get out of their rhythm and get a little rusty but Harris said, "I don't think rust will be an issue. Coach Weis is preparing us well to play the toughest game of the season we have had so far. Knowing that, we have worked very hard to stay in condition and to stay mentally ready and prepare for the game. So I do not think rust will be an issue."

Linebacker, Maurice Crum Jr., has stepped in and become an important part of the Irish defense. He has come up with some big plays and has gotten better with each game. Although a sophomore, he did not see action last year so this will be his first opportunity to go up against Southern Cal. He is looking forward to the challenge but knows he has to stay focused and avoid all the distractions surrounding this game.

"You have to because if you let it get to you too much then it will be a problem," Crum said of avoiding the distractions this week. "You have to remain calm and you have to go through practice like it is a normal week, but there is a lot of hype around it but you gotta stay calm. It is just another team and another game we got to prepare for and we try not to pay attention to the rankings and just go out there and play football."

The developing linebacker is fully aware of the high powered Trojan offense, including a couple of players who are Heisman candidates.

"That just adds to the whole situation, the fact they have that going for them," Crum said of Trojan quarterback Matt Lienart and running back Reggie Bush. "They are a complete offense. You look at them on tape and they have everything. They have weapons everywhere - two backs and then Reggie [Bush] can play receiver. They have it all and are complete. You just have step up and make big plays when it is needed."

California native and Irish lineman Chris Frome summed it up best when talking about the build up and the media buzz surrounding this weekend's game.

"I think every college fan has been circling this game since the beginning of the season, but you know after all this hype when you get on the field five minutes into the game, it is just another game even though they do have an amazing lot of weapons on offense, this is just another game and we have to play just like it is another game," Frome said.

The veteran defensive linemen will be going up against a very talented Trojan offensive line and as is often the case the outcome of a game is decided in the trenches. "They are quick and they are strong and they have great schemes," Frome said. "What they do is basically the same things a lot of other teams do, but they are just very good at what they do. They are very talented players and what it will come down to is stopping the run.

"They obviously have two great running backs, and it comes back to fundamentals, playing your block, getting off your block. These linemen are real talented, very aggressive, very quick, and have a great knowledge of the game and this shows in their film. But it comes back to us, the front seven, shutting down the run and then getting to Leinart. They are an impressive team, but USC is beatable. A lot of people don't believe that. They are a great team, but they are beatable and hopefully we are the team that can beat them on Saturday."


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