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Chain unites entire team

Matt Lozar | Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Everything having to do with the number 38 is over.Now it’s about focusing on a chain.The Irish brought a new point of motivation onto the field, courtesy of Derek Curry, prior to handing down revenge to Michigan.”That chain is about unity, about playing together as a team, about being unselfish. That’s all it’s about,” Curry said. “It’s not about me, the defense, the offense or special teams. You are only as strong as your weakest link. “It’s something our defensive coaches came up with, and I think it’s excellent to say what this season is about. Nobody else gave us a chance, but we knew what we had in this room, so that’s what it was about.”The loss to Brigham Young put a lot of doubts in the minds of fans, but Saturday’s win restored a lot of confidence in the Irish. Now the chain will bring a message of what this team has experienced.”It reminds us of everything we’ve gone through,” defensive lineman Kyle Budinscak said. “Without the effort of everybody on the team, we are all nothing. We’ve worked constantly in the off-season to do something like that. Before we pat ourselves on the back, we have 10 more [games] to go.”The first of those 10 – with Budinscak assuming the Irish go to a bowl game – starts Saturday in East Lansing against Michigan State.The Spartans have been a pesky team for the Irish over the past seven seasons, winning six of those last seven contests between the teams – the best mark of any Irish opponent over that time frame. Nobody can seem to put a finger on why Michigan State has had so much success against Notre Dame. “The one thing about this game is Michigan State is going to play their best game,” Curry said. “No matter what we see on film or what we see before, they always play their best game against us, no matter what the season looks like.”Many of those seven games have been close, coming down to one play in the closing minutes. Like many opponents, Michigan State sees Notre Dame as the biggest game on its schedule. A win over the Irish can make a team’s season.”It’s just one of those cases where they play their hearts out against us,” linebacker Mike Goolsby said. “The whole time I’ve been here, they’ve been great games. Hopefully that won’t be the case this year.”The last time the Irish played the Spartans in East Lansing at night was in 1998 coming off an upset of defending national champion Michigan.The Spartans came out fired up and built a 42-3 halftime lead.All of the ingredients are there again for the Irish to be upset – a nationally televised game, at night and on the road.That’s why this team is trying to use what it learned at BYU to prevent all the hard work that went into stunning Michigan from going to waste. “They play real hard against us, especially a night game,” defensive lineman Justin Tuck said. “It’s a buzz saw. It’s going to be a tough game going in there and coming out with a victory.”The first thing we were talking about after the game was Michigan State. A win against Michigan is great, but it means nothing if you lose [after]. “If we’re not focused, they can easily embarrass you. That’s our focus right now.”