Much has been made about the NCAA record for consecutive bowl losses throughout the past couple of years among media outlets. However, for players such as freshman defensive lineman Ethan Johnson, all this negative attention hasn't affected the team's outlook in the least.
"I've never really cared too much about what the media has to say about that," Johnson said. "This is my first year, so hopefully we can get a four-game bowl winning streak while I'm here. I think it's important, I mean I'm not even going to talk about it if we were to lose. Hopefully we're going to win, so it will just be over with."
For classmate Michael Floyd, the reaction was nearly identical.
"No, I didn't really care," Floyd said of the losing streak. "It was just me coming in I just wanted to basically just help out in any way, and whatever happens, happens, but we're just trying to start something new here and go off of that."
Regardless of the media coverage in terms of the Irish bowl-losing streak, all of the players are taking this as an opportunity to end the 2008 campaign on a positive note. For senior Pat Kuntz, the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl will be his last game as a player in the program, and the defensive tackle would want nothing more than to alleviate the suffering the ups and downs that this season has brought him.
"Oh well I think definitely just going out there and playing our best game that we've had this season," Kuntz said. "Coming together as a team in every facet: offense, defense, special teams, and just ending the season on a high note with a win and I think that will definitely help the pain that we've gone through at a couple of points this year."
One theme that was shared throughout Notre Dame's locker room was the desire to look at the Hawaii Bowl as the first game of next season, or a way of trying to put the past frustrations behind them.
"I think it's important for the whole school," Golden Tate said. We can break up a long bowl streak and start it off right for next season. It would be a big step for this program, to be 1-0 to start this year."
Tate's teammate and second-leading receiver in terms of yards also concurred with that notion.
"Yeah, we do," Floyd said of looking at the game separate from the rest of the 2008 season. "We want to go out with a kind of bang, and kind of get that streak off of us, and just try to come into this game and win it, and go on into next year."
Quarterback Jimmy Clausen echoed these sentiments.
"Yeah, I do. That's the way we're approaching our game against Hawaii," Clausen said. "Ending this season off right and getting next season started off right, by ending on a high note."
For Johnson, however, he views the opportunity at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl as a way to improve on his own skill set, and have some positives to build upon heading into the off-season.
"No," he said. "Because hopefully next year, I'll be a lot stronger and faster and all that stuff and be better. I look at it as a good way to finish off the season. Get a win and end the season 7-6 and get next year going, I don't look at it like a game from next year, personally, but it would be really, really great to get a win."
Since Kuntz won't be back with the squad next season, he is taking a distinct approach. The same goal of winning, however, is what the senior has in mind.
"Oh, it's definitely important," he said. "I'm not taking the outlook that they are, but I'm just trying to finish my last game with a win, playing the best that I possibly can. To just start writing the script for next year and be ready to continue Notre Dame's tradition."
Building upon Kuntz's desire to play his best game of the season, Johnson feels that his first bowl game as a collegiate player will give him the opportunity to do just that — improve with each passing contest.
"I'm just looking to have my best game of the season being that it's the last game," he said. "I always try to go into the next game improving on what I did last game. Last game, I had my best game this season, and my previous game, I had the best game of my season against Syracuse, so that's pretty much how I try to play, to just keep improving and next year, hopefully get better and better and better."
In a rollercoaster 2008 campaign that has seen its share of positives and negatives, a bowl win could go a long way to pump life into Notre Dame's program. With Weis' recent struggles, a resounding victory would be just what the doctor ordered to silence critics of the program. To achieve this, however, Notre Dame must execute its basic fundamentals and play sound football. After all, that is the perfect remedy to accomplish something the Irish and their players need heading into next season — to get better.