"One of the things I talked to you about last week was getting better between the first and second game," offensive coordinator Mike Haywood began. "That's where we are at this stage right now. We are working on getting better between the second and third game because there was some technique and fundamental issues in which we need to clean up. Each individual player has certain things that we talked to them about that they need to get better at for the upcoming game."
The 11th-ranked Wolverines will be the second-ranked Irish's toughest challenge on the young season. Michigan brings back eight starters on both sides of the ball. The unit guided by new coordinator Ron English has only allowed an average of 29 yards rushing per game (4th in the nation) and 24 total points in two home victories.
"As we proceed to game three, it's about us, just the things that we've got to do to get better," Haywood said. "Technique and fundamentals, making sure we are making the appropriate reads, just making sure we have the right reads at tailback and quarterback, making sure who we are supposed to block and who they are. We're concentrating on getting better each and every day just as we did last week."
The Irish players are echoing the same sentiments.
"We are just going into this game with, kind of starting from the beginning," receiver Jeff Samardzija explained. "Our offense wise we got a lot of things to work out when it comes to our own self. We are just going to go out and work from the beginning on a lot of fundamentals a lot of basics and cut down on the penalties obviously and see what happens from there."
"This week we are just focused on what we have to do, we're not really looking at them at all, we're just worried about us," offensive lineman Dan Santucci said.
"I actually haven't had a chance to watch them too much," running back Darius Walker said of Michigan . "The main thing for this week is we just want to try to get ourselves better. We just want as an offense in general to minimize our penalties and take down our mental errors and those things, so we are really focusing on ourselves."
Samardzija said the reason why the team hasn't seen much of Michigan on film is because they spent the first day of preparation putting in their base stuff.
"We are still getting introduced and trying to work things out," he said.
Notre Dame's offense looked better against Penn State in game two than they did in the opener against Georgia Tech. In a 41-17 victory over the Nittany Lions, the unit had six scoring drives compared to just two the week before.
However, the Irish continued to struggle with drive-killing penalties last Saturday. Twice against Penn State , penalties might have had Notre Dame settling for field goals instead of putting the ball into the end zone. Brady Quinn and the offense overcame another penalty deep in Penn State territory and scored a touchdown. All three penalties came on the offensive line, two holding calls and a false start. There were nine penalties called on the offense against the Yellow Jackets.
"If you talk to any of the offensive linemen playing or not playing, nobody is satisfied with our performance and the way we've performed in games," tackle Ryan Harris said. "Obviously we want to contribute more consistently in the run game and that is something we are focusing on this week to get better week in and week out."
Walker, who has rushed for over 100 yards in both of his games against the Wolverines, gained a team high 56 yards on 20 carries (2.8 ypc) against the Nittany Lions. He had 99 yards on the ground in the opener at Georgia Tech. The 124 yards rushing per game the Irish average, ranks 71st in the nation.
"(The coaches) stressed we as a team what we needed to do," Santucci said. "(They) said as an o-line we need to work on the inside run game and just the run game in general. We want to do that, that's what we want to accomplish this week."
The offensive linemen will have to also worry about a very active defensive line. Both starting ends, LaMarr Woodley and Rondell Biggs each have five tackles-for-loss (tied for first in the country). Woodley has four sacks and Biggs three for a defense that hasn't allowed a point in the first or third quarter this season.
Quarterback Brady Quinn has been pressured a bit in both Irish victories. You can bet the Wolverines are going to bring a lot of pressure.
"As an offense we know our weak points and we know where we could seem vulnerable at," Harris said. "We expect defenses to take advantage of that, whether it's a new or old defensive coordinator, it doesn't really matter. We are really focusing on trying to correct those weaknesses so eventually there is none."
The Irish could have an advantage against the Wolverines secondary. Cornerback Leon Hall is the only solid cover player. While he is guarding either Samardzija or Rhema McKnight, the other could be abusing first-year starter Charles Stewart.
At linebacker, David Harris plays the middle and is the team's returning and current leading tackler. Prescott Burgess and Chris Graham are interchangeable on the weakside, and Shawn Crable plays strongside/rush end.
The Irish players might be saying they are worrying about themselves, but they will be well educated on the Wolverines by Saturday whether they say it or not.
"We are going into this week with an open mind," Samardzija said. "We are ready for anything. Work on things we need to work on, cutting down penalties, being better in the red zone, cut down on mental errors, use that as our base and go from there."