Football: Weis: ‘To hell with Michigan’, but no disrespect to rival
Dan Murphy | Wednesday, September 10, 2008
For the second time in the storied rivalry’s history, an unranked Notre Dame team will face off against unranked Michigan this Saturday.
The first time it happened? Try last year.
The rivalry between the blue and gold and the blue and maize may not have the national implications it normally does, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important for those involved.
“It’s not just the tradition of the schools,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said. “It’s locale. It’s recruiting. There’s a whole number of factors that are involved in it besides just the winning and the losing.”
The Wolverines have hung 38 points on the Irish in each the past two years – both in dominating victories. Both Weis and his players held to their season mantra, saying that the past is in the past and last year’s debacle was no extra motivation this week in practice.
“It’s Michigan and Notre Dame,” sophomore guard Chris Stewart said. “I mean you don’t really need too much more than that.”
Stewart said the game would definitely be physical, but beyond that, the Irish weren’t taking a much different approach than they did in last week’s win over San Diego State.
“Last season is last season,” sophomore running back Robert Hughes said. “We just try to come out and do our jobs each week.”
Several players played down the rivalry by saying it was the most important game on the schedule only because it was the next game on the schedule.
“I’ll be a little bit nervous before I come out of the tunnel, but once the game starts I’m just trying to beat the guy lined up across from me, no matter where he is from,” sophomore wide receiver Golden Tate said.
Younger players may overlook some of the historical significance of a Notre Dame-Michigan game, but that doesn’t mean it is lost.
Offensive coordinator Mike Haywood said his players all understand the opportunity in front of them.
Haywood – who played defensive back for the Irish in the early 1980s – said he still stays in touch with many old teammates and Michigan guys through coaching, which only builds the rivalry.
Last spring, at a booster event Weis made a speech ending with, “To hell with Michigan,” – a play on legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler who once said the same thing about Notre Dame. Weis said that he and Schem-bechler joked about the remark and it was made more in respect to the coach than to fan any fires.
He and Haywood stressed that, despite the rivalry, they both have a lot of respect for the Michigan football team and program, unlike some of their other rivalries.
When asked how this game differed from a game against No. 1 USC Haywood said, “Well, I’ll just say there’s a lot more respect between Notre Dame and Michigan, that’s the best way to say it.”
u Notre Dame will be going for it’s 300th victory in Notre Dame Stadium this weekend and will also welcome home the 1988 National Championship team and its head coach Lou Holtz.
u The Irish have played only three times on Sept. 13 in program history. They are 0-3 with two of those losses coming against Michigan. In 2003,
Notre Dame was blanked 38-0 by the No. 5 Wolverines, and in 1986 they lost a heartbreaker 24-23 in the first game of Holtz’s Irish career.