"At the same time we're going away from home and we have to go win," Charlie Weis said. "So there's always — in the next four weeks we're playing three times on the road, so this happens to be one of them. So I think that it also gives you a good opportunity to set a tone for the second half of the season by going somewhere and beating somebody on the road."
Entering hostile environments and coming out on top isn't an aspect that has come easy to this 2008 Irish squad. Both losses that have come on the road against Michigan State and North Carolina were contests marred by turnovers and haphazard decision-making. In the pair of defeats, the Irish turnover margin totaled to a collective mark of negative-seven. However, left guard Eric Olsen sees some progress from the loss at the hands of the Spartans, to the one against the Tar Heels.
"It's definitely different playing on the road, versus playing at home for obvious reasons," Olsen said. "But I think we made a lot of strides on the road playing from Michigan State to North Carolina. Obviously we're still not where we want to be, not getting a win there, but if we make the same amount of strides from North Carolina on, I think we'll be fine."
In terms of achieving these strides, adapting to adversity is one of the main issues the junior lineman sees as a central theme.
"Being able to make adjustments in a hostile environment," Olsen cited as an area for improvement. "Being able to control emotions in a hostile environment and being cool and trying to take their fans out of it and that kind of stuff."
Sam Young, who plays alongside Olsen on the offensive line, echoed his teammates sentiments and feels that winning on the road is all about staying hungry, consistent and aggressive.
"Yeah, I think Eric is right," he said. "We have to play aggressive and play solid. I mean, there are some things we can do better fundamentally and technique-wise and continue to improve and I think we did a good job of being able to get down and hammer those things home. But like I said though, in the big picture, if you take care of the little stuff, it kind of builds on the big picture."
Sophomore wide receiver Duval Kamara, who had a resurgence against North Carolina after being rather quiet, set a list of achievements with others at his position with the aim of aiding the squad in picking up their first road victory.
"Like I said before, in the receiving group, we wrote down a list of things that we need to do to get better, and one of those things was metal errors and we need to fix that and if we believe that we can fix that, then we'll be a great group," Kamara said.
During the bye week, Weis and his staff underwent a period of self-evaluation, examining the positives and the negatives of the first half of the season. With four of the next six on the road, Weis does not want his squad to overlook the winless Huskies, and wants to keep looking to develop his talent.
"Well, for us, Pittsburgh is way down the road for us, because really having the break when we've had it, having it at this time right now, you really have time to kind of, okay, we've raised the bar from where we were two months ago," Weis said. "Two months ago we were here. Now at the halfway mark of the year, we've raised the bar to here. So now that's where we're starting from now. We're not starting from back down here again. So now you've raised the bar to here, so really, Washington is the first opportunity you have to take a step forward from where you've raised that bar."
Now that the bar is raised, some second-half goals have been set and not surprisingly, Irish performance away from South Bend is on Weis' mind.
"Well, there's two obvious ones that you could state, but without getting too specific, the two obvious ones are the fact that unlike the first half of the season where you played four games at home and two games on the road, the second half of the season you're going to have four games on the road and two games at home," he said. "So I think that the first thing you're going to have to do, and it starts this week against Washington, is go away from the can you win on the road question mark and start making the statement that you can. In other words, I want to eliminate the question mark and start doing something about it. And I think that this week's game gives you an opportunity to start in the right direction."
Weis' most experienced offensive lineman in Young couldn't agree more that a win at Washington could get the squad's momentum and confidence up, as they try to run the table.
"Our goal coming into this game is coming out 1-0," Young said. "You look down the stretch of the second half and you want to be able to run the table. We've got some goals for the offense, for example, improve on the run game, continue to improve on the pass game, continue to improve on our protection for Jimmy [Clausen]. Those are the things that if they go the way that we would like them, then our stock's going up."
So as the Irish head into Washington this Saturday, he isn't hoping for a solid victory — he's expecting it.
"I'm looking for the same thing you're looking for, to tell you the truth," Weis said of getting the second half started on the right foot. "But the difference is I don't want to count on hope. I'm counting on it happening. I'm counting on us going from decent to good. So it's my responsibility, along with the assistant coaches, to kind of guide these guys to help make that happen."