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Football: Preparing for pain

Michael Bryan | Thursday, September 17, 2009

While Michigan State has won six straight in Notre Dame stadium, Notre Dame’s captains were more concerned with recent results Wednesday – primarily the last two lost to the Spartans.

“I’ve only been here since 2005, same with Kyle [McCarthy],” linebacker and special teams captain Scott Smith said. “Really the only thing that’s been somewhat within our control is what’s happened since we’ve been here. I don’t really look back to what happened in 1993 or anything like that.”

McCarthy said the familiarity with Michigan State’s offense should help in trying to break the six-game home losing streak.

“They do a lot of the same things they did last year, just different guys,” McCarthy said. “Obviously the guys are more than capable of running that offense.”

The 23-7 loss in East Lansing was the first for the Irish in 2008, and featured an anemic Notre Dame rushing attack that resulted in passing out of necessity.

“In the first half [last year] we were trying to pound the ball,” quarterback Jimmy Clausen said. “They had seven, eight guys in the box and we just had to throw the ball if we were going to have a chance to win the game.”

The Irish run game seems to be vastly improved this year, with junior Armando Allen emerging as a tougher inside runner and averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

“In the grand scheme of things, as an offensive lineman at any level of any football team, running the ball is kind of a thing of pride,” senior center Eric Olsen said. “When you’re pushing defensive linemen back and getting up to linebackers and your running back is making great runs behind you, it’s just a good feeling and something that gets everyone excited.”

Both defensive captains agreed that the team was better prepared to recover quickly from the loss to Michigan than those in years past.

“I think we have a much more mature team this year,” McCarthy said. “Last year we were a little young, but this year, those guys have really stepped up into more of a leadership role.

Both units should be prepared for a physical game against a Spartan team angry after last week’s 29-27 upset loss to Central Michigan.

“They like to play physical and the challenge for us for this week is to try and match their physicality,” Smith said.

McCarthy agreed.

“Michigan State is one of the most physical games we play all year,” McCarthy said. “It’s just their mentality, it’s kind of something they have in their program. They get hard-nosed kids and are a tough team to play and we are definitely going to be sore on Sunday.”