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Irish not quite ready to give up on season

Joe Hettler | Thursday, October 9, 2003

At 1-3, many Notre Dame football fans may not like the team the Irish put on the field every Saturday.

Coach Tyrone Willingham couldn’t disagree more.

“I’ve gone on record at some point of saying that I like our football team,” Willingham said. “We could be very easily sitting here right now being 3-1 and not 1-3. I like a lot of the things that I’m seeing from our football team.”

Willingham believes the biggest task facing his team is staying positive in the midst of the adversity they are facing this season. If the Irish can do that, Willingham thinks the team can turn around their sluggish start.

“I would like to believe [staying positive] is a natural process of who I am and what I do because I think I’ve figured out there’s not much you can accomplish by being negative,” Willingham said. “Even though there are many around you that choose that, maybe even wish you to go that route, I don’t think you can accomplish anything.

“Hopefully our football team is paying attention to its leadership. If it does, it will stay on the positive track.”

Willingham has a history of turning around poor starts. His 1999 Stanford team started the season losing several games before finishing 8-4 and 7-1 in conference play – good enough to reach the Rose Bowl that season.

Willingham said he thinks the Irish can have that same type of turnaround, but they can’t try and win all their remaining games at once. The team must take it one game at a time.

“What we have to continue to do is continue to improve, believe in self, the individual and team, and I think we can get some things done,” Willingham said. “But it is impossible to write that story that you’re writing unless we do it game by game.

“I’m glad that you noted that. Our focus cannot be all that we have in front of us, but simply Pittsburgh this week.”

Notre Dame had their first of two bye weeks last week, and that gave the coaching staff a chance to reevaluate goals and set new ones for the remainder of the season.

“We set goals for the season, which obviously have to be readjusted as you go through the season. We set goals for individual areas that we look at each and every week to see if we can hit those targets,” Willingham said. “We’re constantly doing that, constantly trying to provide goals, areas for our team to really point, direct themselves to, direct themselves to help us be a better football team.”

But Willingham knows that none of the team’s goals will be reached unless they begin acting on them, instead of believing in them.

“Obviously we’ve got to do some things better,” he said. “That is the key to what we’re doing. Believing and not doing things better doesn’t get us anywhere. We have to put it all together.”