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FOOTBALL: State in their sights

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, September 13, 2005

One streak broken, one more to go. That’s the attitude Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is trying to instill this week.

Just one day after taking down then-No. 3 Michigan at “The Big House” 17-10 for the first time since 1993, the now-No. 10 Irish were faced with another losing skid to stop. Michigan State has won at Notre Dame Stadium the past four times, 11 times in its history – the greatest amount of victories at Notre Dame by an Irish opponent.

“That was a big win for us,” Weis said at his Sunday afternoon press conference. “But with that said, I think they have a small time frame to get back to business because what you can’t ever do is be followed with a bird laying an egg. Trust me, you won’t have to worry about my mood with the players, because it will be very matter-of-fact. I can’t let them feel too good about themselves because we play Saturday against a team that has definitely gotten the best of the rivalry the last couple of years.”

Weis emphasized to his team the history of Notre Dame-Michigan State, saying that his team is going to have to understand the Spartans will be a tough matchup.

“Michigan State has won 11 games here at this stadium, which is more than any one of our opponents in the history,” Weis said matter-of-factly. “Purdue has beaten Notre Dame 10 times, Southern Cal has beaten us 10 times, Pitt has beaten us eight times, but no one has beat us more times [in Notre Dame Stadium] than Michigan State.”

Saturday’s game is the home opener for the Irish, and with that comes distractions with more than 80,000 people on campus. When the Irish are on the road, there are no pep rallies or family coming into town, and as a result, it’s easier to focus on the task at hand.

“I think there’s more distractions when you’re at home than when you’re away,” Weis said. “I think the one thing you can play on when you’re away is that it’s ‘Us against the world.’ Now you’re coming home, and the families start coming in for the games, and the dog and pony show arrives for the pep rally on Friday. It can be quite a distraction.”

And amidst these distractions is a Michigan State offense that scored 91 points in its first two games against Kent State and Hawaii. Quarterback Drew Stanton is 43-for-55 on the year and the Spartans have averaged 316 passing yards in their two games.

As for the Irish, the defense stepped up against the Wolverines, giving up just 10 points and coming up with key stops. However, the offense failed to run out the clock with 3:47 to play and quarterback Brady Quinn struggled with Michigan’s blitz packages. Special teams, meanwhile, kept Michigan returner Steve Breaston in check. Weis hopes this week the Irish can put it all together.

“I think that the goal now is because they have evidence of them playing well on all three elements of our game,” Weis said. “It now … gives me an opportunity to raise the expectations when I’m dealing with each one of them … Because all three elements have all played well in aspects of the first two games, it gives me an opportunity to raise the expectations myself and hopefully bring them along with me.”