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Irish need to build winning attitude

Chris Hine | Thursday, October 2, 2008

It was hard not to get the feeling of déjà vu while watching Notre Dame’s second half against Purdue last weekend. (But careful, don’t let that déjà vu didn’t make you dizzy and stumble all over yourself, or else the police might think you’re drunk.)

Notre Dame’s offense was about as effective as a windbreaker in a hurricane last season, but in the second half against the Boilermakers, the Irish put up 24 points.

Good enough to bring you back to 2006.

During that season, the Irish offense went out and made defenses from Purdue, Stanford and Navy look like J.V. high school teams. You knew going into those games – games where the Irish were facing a middling opponent – that they weren’t going to be close.

The Irish were going to put on an offensive clinic and the games would be over quickly.

Last weekend was the first time Notre Dame approached that level of performance. It’s the next logical step in the progression of this young Irish team – beating the teams they’re supposed to beat.

The 2006 team was at that level, but there was a problem with that team – it wasn’t quite at the level of other top tier programs, as it suffered crushing losses to LSU, Southern Cal and Michigan.

Before this year’s team can challenge for a national title again, and compete with Southern Cal and other top-tier teams on a regular basis, it has to assert its dominance over teams like Purdue and Stanford like the 2006 team did.

The 2006 team created a feeling in the fan base that every time the Irish played a Purdue or Stanford, they were going to win. There was no doubt. It was a feeling Notre Dame fans hadn’t experienced for a long time.

That being said, look at the rest of the schedule, every team is another version of Purdue and Stanford – there are no upper echelon programs except for Southern Cal.

After watching the Irish last weekend, they should cruise into the USC game with a one-loss record, right?

Think again.

This team lacks the experience that 2006 team had and experience is something a team needs to develop a winning attitude.

Notre Dame is still a young team, and for as many flashes of brilliance this team has, it’ll have almost as many moments that will leave fans scratching their heads. It may happen this week, it may not, but those signs of growing pains will be evident, and the Irish may drop a game or two that they probably should win.

The Irish had a great win over Michigan earlier this season, but then Michigan State brought them back down to earth the following weekend. Why did it happen? Mostly because of experience.

This weekend is a chance for Notre Dame to show it learned its lesson from two weeks ago and begin to develop that culture of winning. Right now, most fans assume the Irish will get trounced when they head to Los Angeles in November.

But if the Irish can have a few more games like Purdue, that attitude won’t be so pessimistic.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the The Observer.

Contact Chris Hine at chine@nd.edu.