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Campus electric as gameday nears

Katie Perry | Friday, October 14, 2005

If you could find a way to bottle the hype and hoopla of the events surrounding this weekend’s home football game, you could light up the universe – and then some.

The zeal has been unavoidable. From the fliers that don nearly every campus doorway to the mug shots of USC quarterback Matt Leinart that line campus walkways, from the “Trojans Break” T-shirts to the prematurely-situated ESPN College Gameday stage, nothing has been as pervasive on campus this week as football.

And although it was not the Irish but the Greek who ultimately caused the fall of Troy, students are primed and ready to file into Notre Dame Stadium – their surrogate wooden horse – twice this weekend in hopes of defeating the USC Trojans and ending an epic 27-game USC winning streak.

At 6 p.m. today, Notre Dame will hold its first pep rally in the stadium since the Irish’s 2000 match-up against No. 1-ranked Ne-braska. Coach Char-lie Weis and other athletic officials decided to relocate the event to a larger venue after thousands of fans were turned away from the Joyce Center at the Michigan State pep rally.

The pep rally – which will be the fourth ever held in the stadium – induced a circus of hearsay earlier this week regarding rumored special events and appearances. Although reports have not been confirmed nor made official, students are buzzing with talk of Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and John Mellencamp performing at the event.

“I think it’s cool that John Mellencamp [might] be coming,” freshman James Dubray said. “I think there’s a chance. I’ve also heard through some friend of a friend who works here that Bon Jovi is coming too.”

Earlier statements made by Weis only fueled lofty projections.

“I know one thing, I am not going to emcee this one because I am 0-1 when I have emceed,” he said in an Oct. 11 Chicago Tribune article. “I have a plan for this one as you would expect I would.”

Alumni Association Director Chuck Lennon said Thursday that he could not comment on the rumors.

“We were trying to keep it a surprise,” he said.

But even if The Boss doesn’t help celebrate Notre Dame’s return to glory with “Glory Days” and Bon Jovi doesn’t join the marching band for a heavenly rendition of “Livin’ On A Prayer,” students like senior Matt Fantazier said they would be excited nonetheless.

“I’m looking forward to the pep rally being in the stadium,” he said. “I’m curious as to what they pull out for it, being such a rare occasion, I’m hopeful that it’ll be one to remember.”

Zach Fitter, a junior abroad in London this semester, won’t be able to attend the pep rally but said he shares in the eagerness of Domers lucky enough to be in South Bend.

“The idea of having the pep rally in the stadium seems like a great one to me,” he said. “I’d much rather it be there, where the game will take place the next day, than inside the [JACC].”

Other students, like junior Louie Cavadini, expressed ambivalence for the venue change.

“[I am looking forward to it] because it is so rare, but [I’m also not] because at the last pep rally there was so much energy in the atmosphere and I think a little of that could be lost taking it outdoors to a bigger place,” he said.

Despite the commotion of pep rally rumors and anticipation, students have not lost sight of the significance of Saturday’s game.

Cavadini said the anxiousness for the game is in “a league of its own.”

“We always get excited when we play high ranked teams thinking that something ‘might happen,’ or that ‘we could beat them,’ but this is a game [where] the team is prepared for an enemy that everyone wants to see toppled,” he said.

Fitter said he hasn’t been this excited for a Notre Dame football game since the first one he ever attended when the 8-0 Irish fell to Boston College in 2002.

“This is a completely different team so I expect better results,” he said.

Fantazier also recalled the Boston College game of three seasons ago and said it was a “pretty exciting time” but still did not match the hype of this weekend’s game.

“It wasn’t the same [as this game] because it wasn’t seen as a game that was going to be a battle,” Fantazier said. “This game means a lot, especially for the seniors who have never seen ND beat USC, and we have a real shot this time around.”

Fitter – who plans to watch the game from a London sports bar – said he “like[s] the Irish’s chances.”

“I think people are cautiously optimistic,” he said. “Irish fans haven’t been rewarded in the last few years for their optimism, but I think coach Weis and the players will be as ready as possible for the game.”

Freshman James Dubray said many students are optimistic.

“It seems more like Notre Dame football … There’s definitely an optimism,” he said. “I think that contributes to the spirit of the school. I think if we play well and not like we have the past three years, the game will definitely live up to the hype.”

In a Thursday San Jose Mercury News article, writer Mike Kern said he had no doubt the atmosphere at the game would be “insanity squared.” Cavadini said students are especially keyed up.

“We cannot wait for this game to begin,” he said. “Everyone is anticipating it as it [also] coincides with the end of midterms … The stadium will be out of control on Saturday.”

Between the observable campus decoration and a scramble for body paint, ribbons and other kickoff necessities, students are holding nothing back when it comes to demonstrating Irish spirit this weekend.

“We were going to sleep outside of Gameday,” Dubray said. “I’ve heard a lot of people with that idea. Some friends and I were [also] planning on heckling Matt Leinart when the USC bus arrives on campus.”

Cavadini promised his section of the stadium would be the loudest.

“My group of friends and I wear pink shirts to all of the games – it’s basically the rowdiest section in the place,” he said.

Fantazier said the eclectic fanfare is almost a norm for Notre Dame students.

“The only crazy things I’ve heard of are people going home early for break,” he said. “The fans are excited, and have a lot to cheer for. We’ll be there to support the team as always, hopefully with a little extra on top of it all.”

The added excitement to the already high enthusiasm for football can be traced to a number of factors, students said.

“I’d say a combination of a popular new coach, a successful season thus far, a top 10 ranking and the chance to end the 27-game winning streak of our greatest rival is what makes this coming weekend so monumental in the eyes of Irish fans,” Fitter said.

Many students, like Fantazier, said the success of this year’s team thus far is responsible for the hype.

“If we didn’t look as good as we do, then the expectations would be more of wishful thinking rather than truly thinking we can beat them,” he said.

And students are in fact predicting an Irish victory.

“USC is not unbeatable, just undefeated, and if anyone can find a way to knock off the top ranked Trojans, it will be this Notre Dame team,” Fitter said.

Cavadini said eager Irish fans have a game plan of their own.

“We just have to carry the energy throughout the entire game, as USC is known for comebacks in the fourth quarter,” he said.