Goal: Win for the Seniors

The failings of the 2007 Notre Dame football team have been well-documented this season. The Irish stand at 1-9 and the critics have been out in force. Head coach Charlie Weis doesn't get to hear or interact with the fans a lot, spending almost the entire day at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex. Despite the down year, Weis does appreciate the support of the Irish student body.

"I'm in a bunker over here (at the Gug)," Weis said at his Tuesday press conference. "I don't get too see too much of anyone. Every once in awhile, I get to see some students that ask me to sign a football at a quarter after four. It's about what I see. I really don't see anyone. It's different for everyone else because they see people. All I know, win or lose, when we walk over to the corner and look at the student body, especially after a loss, I can't believe they are all there."

This support can manifest itself one more time on Saturday. Notre Dame will host fellow 1-9 Duke. Kickoff in South Bend is at 2:43 PM and NBC will have the national television broadcast. Both teams are coming off of 41-24 defeats, the Irish to Air Force and the Blue Devils to Georgia Tech. It sort of fits with these two teams.

A sign of how far Notre Dame has fallen this season: on paper, the Irish, whose opponents' winning percentage is at .677, and Duke, whose opponents' winning percentage is at .667, are almost mirror images of each other. The record is one of many stats that are eerily close to one another. Notre Dame is 119th in total offense while Duke is 116th. The Blue Devils are the only team in Division I with a worst rushing offense, ranking 119th to the Irish's place of 118th. Scoring offense: Duke is 108th at 19 PPG while Notre Dame is 118th at 14 PPG. Sacks allowed: the Blue Devils are 116th to the Irish's rank of 119th.

On defense, the trend continues although not as close on offense. Notre Dame is 95th in scoring defense, surrendering 32 PPG while Duke is 102nd, allowing 35 PPG. The Blue Devils are 78th against the run while the Irish are 103rd. Notre Dame has a better total and pass defense while Duke gets after the quarterback better. This all adds up to the Irish being a five-point favorite at home.

As for the contest being at Notre Dame Stadium, it'll be the last time for the seniors to run through the tunnel and play in South Bend. The Irish have lost all their home games this season. Five of the six defeats have been by 13 points or more.

The group won't have at least one their members on the field. Fifth-year senior center John Sullivan, along with junior nose tackle Pat Kuntz and sophomore safety Sergio Brown, are out with injuries after getting banged up in the loss to Air Force. Also, fifth-year senior punter Geoff Price, along with freshman tight end Mike Ragone, are doubtful. The turbulent season continues for these players but a victory in the final home game of the year will hope to lessen some of the sting of 2007.

"That's the big clear message, both for our seniors and for the underclassmen," Weis said. "For the seniors, they've gone through the season and it's been a tough year. They've only won one game. They haven't won one at home. I think the fan support at home has been fabulous, considering how things have went. It would be rewarding for them to win their last game ever at the Stadium.

"As far as the underclassmen go, they have to put their selfishness aside. This is the game for those coming back next year to send the seniors out the right way."

Weis recalled the Senior Day in 2005, the head coach's first at the helm of the Notre Dame football program. Weis could see how big the game was for the outgoing seniors.

"It's definitely an emotional time for people," Weis said. "Sometimes I don't even know how emotional it is. I watched it in the Syracuse game two years ago. Sometimes, when you're coaching, you get into the same thing all the time. Offensively, it took us a half to really get anything going at all. What's happened in their careers the past four years, you try to keep them grounded."

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