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Game revives rivalry

Kate Gales | Friday, September 10, 2004

The Irish will kick-off their home opener against Michigan this weekend in a game that brings together college football’s two winningest programs and brings back a flood of memories for fans imbrued in the storied rivalry. Two years ago, students rushed the field after coach Tyrone Willingham and standout cornerback Shane Walton led the Irish to a 25-23 victory over the visiting Wolverines. Last year, offensive behavior by Michigan fans in Ann Arbor – as well as a 38-0 pounding – left Notre Dame fans with a sour taste in their mouths.”I went to last year’s Michigan game, and [their fans] were jerks,” said Mark Bescher, a 2004 graduate back on campus for the big game. “Now it’s our turn – and we’re going to win.”The 2002 victory is also clearly remembered by older students.”I’m excited [for the game],” senior Mary Kate Castellani said. “It would be really great if they win, but if not, that’s fine – it’s just fun to go to games. [In 2002] I was in the first couple rows, and we were the first ones on the field. It was awesome.”The mood on campus has lightened considerably since last Saturday, when a heartbreaking loss to Brigham Young University left the Irish in a hole for the critical early-season games. “I’m definitely very excited,” said sophomore Angelo Suozzi. “I just hope we come out with more intensity than against BYU.”For his classmate Kristen Aland, the answer is simple. “We’re gonna muck ’em up,” she said, paraphrasing a popular shirt slogan. “Napoleon Dynamite was hunting wolverines in Alaska last summer, and we’re going to be hunting them right here in South Bend on Saturday.”The positive attitude was pervasive.”Despite our loss last weekend and low campus morale, I think we could pull off a great win against Michigan this weekend,” said sophomore Gina Tesi. “I mean, we’re Notre Dame!”Junior Brian Barry, however, was less excited.”Honestly, on the record, ‘Go Irish,'” he said. “Really, I’m only going to the game because they’re my peers and I want to go out and support them.”The 0-1 start has him questioning the football program’s potential in 2004.”It’s a big thing when there’s a chance – but, well, maybe I’ll be surprised,” he said.The future was uncertain but hopeful for most students on campus. “I think that we’ve got a chance, but a lot has to go right for us,” said Suozzi. “I’m also psyched just to be in the stadium.”Regardless of the outcome, the 2004 game is sure to be like most Notre Dame/Michigan match-ups – one to remember, for better or for worse.