Trip to Notre Dame "Strictly Business"

The Washington football team will venture east this week to South Bend, Ind., the scenic site of a renowned campus and a storied football program. But Head Coach Steve Sarkisian warned Monday he won't be playing tour guide. The Huskies head to Notre Dame with the goal of adding a non-conference win to their 2-2 overall record.

"I think you can make the mistake of going there and treating the thing like a vacation, going there and going to the Grotto and going to the College Football Hall of Fame and going to look at Touchdown Jesus and all that stuff," Sarkisian said this week. "We won't do that. This is a business trip and it'll be like every other trip."

Sarkisian recalled the regrets he had after his first experience at Notre Dame as a member of the USC coaching staff. In his first year there - 2001 - the Trojans rolled out of South Bend with some photos and an unwelcome souvenir, a 27-16 loss at the hands of the Fighting Irish.

"We went and did all the sight-seeing and different things and we didn't perform great," Sarkisian said, adding that he's since discussed the journey with USC Head Coach Pete Carroll, with both coaches acknowledging it's best to avoid the temptation to become tourists when traveling for a football game.

The UW coaching staff will take all necessary measures to ensure players feel the same on this trip as on any other. The team will leave Seattle on Thursday afternoon and stay in a hotel outside of South Bend to avoid distractions. They will practice at a nearby high school, but still do a walk-through at Notre Dame Stadium to familiarize themselves with the facilities.

The players echoed coach Sarkisian's stay-focused mentality regarding the trip, agreeing that the team has their sights set on a road win this week and not much else.

"Obviously I've heard that it's an amazing campus and an amazing place to play," said linebacker Donald Butler. "But I'm just looking forward to playing another team."

"Even though it's a wonderful place to go and be a part of the history there, we still have a job to do and that is to play ball," safety Nate Williams said. "It's the same here or if we go to Hawaii or wherever; we have one job and one job only and that's to play ball and try to win a game for the Huskies."

As much as the tradition at Notre Dame can provide an intimidating atmosphere, the hostile crowd can be just as daunting. Sarkisian admitted that the crowd was not a factor in the Stanford game, saying that the coaches and players could easily hear each other talk. That won't be the case at a stadium that can hold 80,795 Fighting Irish fans.

"It's just like any other hostile environment," Sarkisian claimed. "It's not a whole lot different than going to play at Oregon or coming to play at Husky Stadium. You've got to be prepared for crowd noise. They're a very smart crowd, they know when to cheer and when not to cheer, but it's fun. There are always some good antics with both teams, the bands and whatnot, so it makes for a fun experience."

Quarterback Jake Locker said he very briefly considered playing for the Irish because of his Catholic upbringing. He had his own thoughts on facing Notre Dame this weekend after sitting out with an injury for last year's game at Husky Stadium, a game won by the Irish 33-7. Without Locker at the ready, Notre Dame held the Huskies to only 124 yards of total offense while gaining 459 themselves.

"They're a good football team and obviously a very storied program," Locker said. "I think to go to Notre Dame and play there will be a great opportunity for us. I don't think we can let that distract us either. Obviously we'll go to that stadium and there's a lot of tradition that goes along with it, but we need to understand that it's just another football game and one that we need to prepare really well for and come out and execute against."

If the players have faith in one thing this week coming off a difficult loss, it's the ability of their coaching staff to get them prepared physically and mentally for a tough opponent in an even tougher environment.

"We can't lose focus of what we need to do," Williams said. "I'm sure Coach (Nick) Holt and Coach Sark aren't going to let us lose focus."


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