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Irish to regroup, recover

Matt Lozar | Wednesday, October 27, 2004

After the disappointing loss to Boston College, the first instinct for a lot of players is to want to get back out as soon as possible and play again.

But the Irish aren’t in that situation.

Thanks to the moving of the Brigham Young game to Sept. 4, the Irish have a bye after Saturday’s disappointing loss and an extra week to prepare for a tough road trip to Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee.

And they’re looking to capitalize on the situation.

“When you have a bye situation, you have to learn to use it to your advantage. Right now, our advantage, it gives us some extra time to get rid of the feeling we have and get back in the saddle,” Willingham said.

“Sometimes you can have a hangover from a defeat, so hopefully, the time that we have, the extra week, will give us an opportunity to not have that, lose it and focus on Tennessee.”

Wide receiver Rhema McKnight agrees.

“It’s actually good for us because we’ve been waiting for a bye week for awhile now,” he said.

“Guys have been beat up, still working pretty hard, but get a chance to rest and be ready for Tennessee.”

The Irish were devastated after the game Saturday. Their emotions will recover over time.

Willingham wasn’t concentrating on getting the team over its feelings at Tuesday’s practice.

“That was not my focus. That will come in time. I think our football team is hurt. I do think we’ll get over it. The focus today was number one to get healthy. Start the process of getting back to where we need to be,” Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said.

“I think if it doesn’t hurt, then why are you doing it. I know they hurt. I know they gave the best they could.”

Now sitting at 5-3, Notre Dame’s schedule isn’t getting any easier with two ranked teams at two difficult venues and an improving Pittsburgh team.

But those are the cards the Irish are dealt with right now.

“We’ve backed ourselves into a position where, you always say you don’t have much margin for error, but right now you have three games remaining and those three games really make your season,” Willingham said.

Even after the blowout loss to Purdue, Willingham and the coaching staff kept the team focused on possibly qualifying for the Bowl Championship Series by getting to nine wins.

Now with a third loss, it’s very unlikely the Irish will reach that level.

Willingham and his staff haven’t talked to the players about it much, but he knows the best the team can do is to win out and to see what happens.

That’s all that’s left.

“I think an excellent record. When I say excellent, that’s not 9-2, that’s gone. I think 8-3, that’s the best we can do at this time,” Willingham said.

“I don’t think that’s a terrible record, it’s not what we wanted, but I think that’s something to play for.”