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Parting the orange sea

Justin Schuver | Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Sea of Green, meet the Sea of Orange.The Irish had a bye week to prepare, and this Saturday they take on not just No. 9 Tennessee but also one of the most hostile road venues in college football.Neyland Stadium, home of the Volunteers, has a capacity of 104,079 fans and is currently the third-largest stadium in the country behind Michigan Stadium (107,501) and Penn State’s Beaver Stadium (107,282). And when the Volunteer fans break into a rendition of Tennessee’s signature song “Rocky Top,” the Irish are going to know about it.”I know it’s a really big stadium. It’s one of those stadiums that’s stacked really high and has a lot of noise,” Irish linebacker Derek Curry said. “There’s going to be a lot of orange and a lot of energy, but what better place to go and play? What better place to go out and show the country what kind of team you really have? “The energy that [their fans are] going to create is actually going to help our team as well.”Last year, the Irish traveled to Michigan Stadium to take on the Wolverines at the “Big House,” falling by a score of 38-0 in front of a crowd of over 107,000. While the Neyland crowd is slightly smaller, it may be even more of an obstacle for a team to overcome because of the way the stadium is configured.Unlike Michigan Stadium, which is built low to the ground with seats expanding outward, Neyland is built in layers with seats stacked vertically. The result of the set-up is amplified, louder sound and the appearance of closer fans.”From what I here, [Neyland] might be [the toughest place for a team to play],” Irish defensive end Kyle Budinscak said. “One-hundred-and-four thousand people and the stadium goes straight up in the air – it’s just a crazy atmosphere from what I’ve heard.”Notre Dame will do its best to simulate noise conditions at practice this week in order to prepare for the orange partisans at Neyland. The Irish also have to develop special signals and silent counts to overcome the decibel level.But one Irish advantage is they have had eight games to implement their silent communication, so execution shouldn’t be as large a problem as it might have been playing in a place like Neyland earlier in the season.”As far as the communication standpoint goes we’ve already been working on [our hand signals] already before, so right now it’s not really a factor,” Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn said. “I just need to make sure that I’m doing my job communicating to the guys up front and that they’re communicating to each other as well.”While playing on the road brings its share of challenges, the Irish have the mentality to face those obstacles head on. In 2002, Notre Dame traveled to Tallahassee, Fla., and silenced a crowd of 82,000 tomahawk-chopping Florida State fans en route to a 34-24 victory.One reason the Irish were able to win that game and silence the Seminole fans was a quick score – Notre Dame’s first play from scrimmage was a 65-yard touchdown pass from Carlyle Holiday to Arnaz Battle.Irish running back Ryan Grant participated in that game and knows it will take a similar early spark to quiet the Tennessee fans Saturday.”You’ve got to score points to take the crowd out of the game,” Grant said. “It doesn’t get much simpler than that – score.”