"We've had some tough times, but we've also had some good times even though last week wasn't one of those good times," Harris said, whose team was beat by California 27-3 at Stanford Stadium last Saturday in the team's biggest rivalry game. "There are about three teams in this league that are ahead of everyone else physically. But, I've looked at our final standings in the Pac-10 and where we going to end up and that's an improvement from where a lot of people thought we would finish.
"There's going to be highs and lows because you are trying to instill a new program. When you step away from it and look at it philosophically, you can say there are going to be highs and lows. I was very excited about some of our highs this year and I probably didn't expect some of them. But, I probably also didn't expect some of our lows. Once you get into the season, you're a competitor and you're doing what you can as a coach to give your team a chance to win so the lows hurt you more."
The low of losing to California in a rout at home has to hurt. Stanford had only 16 rushing yards all game long. Starting quarterback Trent Edwards was knocked out of the game with a stinger in the third quarter. Edwards's status for Saturday's game is up in the air and if he can't go, backup T.C. Ostrander, who has thrown only 52 passes in 2005, will get the nod. It was the fourth time in a row that the Golden Bears had beat the Cardinal. For a reward, the sixth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish now travel westward to close out Stanford's up and down season.
"We're getting ready to play a Notre Dame team that's in the Top 10 nationally," Harris said. "They've had a good year and have excellent football players. They're very confident."
"We have to approach it the same way we've approached all of the downs we've had this season," nose tackle Babatunde Oshinowo said. "We just have to think about starting to get ready for the next game. With this being our last regular season game, this [the Notre Dame game] is really just a one-game season for us. It's very easy to get focused for that."
The key to keeping up with the Irish is to score points. The two teams that have beat Notre Dame have scored 44 (Michigan State) and 34 (USC) points. The Irish offense is averaging 38 points per game and has broken the 30-point barrier in every single game expect for one (Michigan). A look at Stanford's offensive numbers do not paint a pretty picture. The Cardinal are 73rd in the scoring by averaging 23.8 PPG. Their rushing offense is anemic (107th in the country at 102 yards per game) and the 211 yards a game they average through the air is in the bottom half of the NCAA.
For the Cardinal, a win here would not only spoil the BCS hopes of Notre Dame but also allow them to play an extra game. The Irish have won the last three in the series, including a 57-7 beating the last time Notre Dame played at Stanford Stadium in 2003. Harris knows his team, despite the blowout loss last week, will be up for the chance to spring an upset.
"I don't think our team will have any problem getting excited about playing the last game of the regular season, the last regular season game for our seniors and the last game ever at Stanford Stadium," Harris said. "It's an opportunity for us to go out and play together and bounce back from a sub-par performance for our team. There are a lot of reasons for us to hit the practice field and be excited about a challenge. But, the bottom line is that we have to perform well and execute in order to be competitive."