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Irish confident after big win last Thursday

Joe Hettler | Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Irish have regained some swagger after last week’s convincing win against Michigan. “I think confidence is built over time, over repetitive playmaking,” Notre Dame linebacker Brandon Hoyte said. “I think last week we had that. On defense and on offense, we established that. “You need to build on that as a team. It’s not just going from play to play, but it’s going from game to game.”Last season’s devastating home loss to Michigan State – the team’s sixth defeat in its last seven games against the Spartans – crumbled Notre Dame’s confidence and had a lasting effect for the rest of the 2003 season.This season, the Irish began the year with a disappointing loss to Brigham Young. Many said the team was finished. But Notre Dame bounced back in convincing fashion, upending No. 8 Michigan at home last weekend. In that game, Notre Dame overcame a 9-0 first-half deficit and scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. The offense moved the ball and the defense suffocated the Wolverines’ offense.Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said he and the coaching staff made no significant changes between the BYU and Michigan games.”We stayed the course more than anything else,” the third-year coach said. “We have always believed in our football team. We believe in their ability to do things. I’ve been on record as saying that at some point our offense will start to step up and will start to play better. “We’re still not there. We still have a long way to go before we can beat a team that I would hope and expect we can.”Hoyte said the players never doubted themselves, even after the BYU defeat.”With all due respect, all of the people in [the press room], not the players, are surprised,” he said. “Everyone talks, everyone has their own opinion about what the Irish is all about. “But the fact is what goes on in that locker room as far as the focus and the mentality and the understanding of what needs to be done, we don’t doubt ourselves. We understand what needs to be done day in and day out, especially on Saturdays.”Now the Irish hope to carry that confidence into East Lansing when they battle Michigan State Saturday evening. Hoyte said to do that, the team hasn’t wasted time enjoying the Michigan win. They turned their focus to this week’s opponent Sunday morning.”To be honest with you, to be really blunt, I could care less what happened in the past,” Hoyte said. “It doesn’t matter last week, it doesn’t matter what happened in the past against Michigan State. We just need to stay focused and focus on what we need to do as a team to build and get better every day.”Irish quarterback Brady Quinn agreed that the team isn’t wasting effort thinking about crushing the Wolverines.”We’re not trying to stay too high after [the Michigan win],” he said. “We know what Michigan State’s capable of.”Offensive lineman Dan Stevenson said the offense felt more confident against the Wolverines and the unit’s performance indicated that.”I think [swagger] just comes with moving the ball on offense,” he said. “It starts with leadership. As long as a couple guys start to have that swag, other guys start to feed off of it. I think we did a good job with that last week against Michigan I think its one of our important keys [against Michigan State].”