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Irish don’t take Tiger bait

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, January 2, 2007

NEW ORLEANS – The fodder was there. Notre Dame had something to use as a theme to spark a motivational fire beneath the underdog. But the Irish didn’t snap.

LSU wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was the notable exception Saturday, openly stating that the Tigers own a significant speed advantage over Notre Dame. Bowe was quiet and comfortable talking about his perception of the Tigers’ strengths and how they could exploit the Irish defense.

“We have speed and size over them,” Bowe said. “Their cornerbacks are very little, but they play hard. That’s one thing. We just have to go out there and execute.”

While LSU’s offensive coordinator, Jimbo Fisher, and most of Bowe’s teammates stuck to standard lines of a complimentary nature when talking about the Irish defense, the senior wasn’t worried about providing any bulletin-board material for the Irish.

“I don’t want a memory [from the game]; I just want to win,” Bowe said. “It can be by 30 or 40, I just want to win.”

But the suggestion that LSU could win by “30 or 40” wouldn’t do much to motivate Notre Dame, Irish defensive tackle Trevor Laws said. Laws said he heard about Bowe’s comments but didn’t think it would affect his teammates because most teams go into games confident.

“We’ve got a lot of bulletin board material in there,” Laws said. “We’re a good team like they are. … They might really feel that way, but everybody always feels they can beat the team they’re playing, usually if you say so it or not.”

Laws said the generic-quote Irish know not to take any chances on overconfident sound bites.

“We’re coached a little bit more about how to talk to you guys,” he said. “They can say things like that. They can say things if they want to.”

Irish cornerback Terrail Lambert, on the other hand, said he hadn’t even heard of Bowe’s comments.

“We really don’t worry about [what LSU players say],” Lambert said. “We pretty much focus on ourselves. That’s what we think about as a team.”

And though he wouldn’t say anything to provoke the Tigers, Laws said he expects to win Wednesday. A common theme from Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis when he took the Irish job was that the team must enter each game believing it will win. And Despite the talk about LSU’s advantages in speed and size, Laws said Weis’ basic premise has not been lost.

“You can’t go into a game not expecting to win,” Laws said. “It’s really been reinforced that you should go into a game with as much confidence as anyone else, and I think our team is really prepared to get up and play well.”

Irish free safety Chinedum Ndukwe echoed Laws’ sentiments.

“As a competitor, you expect to win,” Ndukwe said. “I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t expect to win. Everybody does.”

And part of the confidence for Notre Dame has come from its practices. The Irish have had daily two-hour sessions and have expressed near-universal happiness of the practices’ tempo.

“Everyone’s exicted, everyone’s hyped up to play in this game,” Ndukwe said. “Everyone’s all really intense. And, I mean, everyone’s relaxed. Everyone’s having a good time. Also, we’re taking care of business, which I think is a good thing.”

Check back for regular updates from New Orleans until Sugar Bowl kickoff Wednesday.

Contact Ken Fowler at kfowler1@nd.edu