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Penn State packs sharp bite

Bobby Griffin | Friday, February 25, 2005

The Irish will kick off their 2005 season this Sunday when they visit Penn State, taking a No. 11 preseason ranking into University Park.

The Irish, who have high expectations coming into the season, don’t expect their first game to be easy. Penn State and Notre Dame have played a series of close games in the past.

“We expect a great game because if you look at the history of this game, it’s usually a one or two goal [contest],” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said.

This year should be no different. Penn State will present Notre Dame with a tough game, as the Nittany Lions are ranked No. 18 in the country in the preseason poll.

Corrigan stressed the strengths of Penn State, focusing on the Nittany Lions’ midfield and transition game as key strengths that the Irish need to focus on.

“They are very strong in the midfield, they got a lot of good midfielders, and they cause you a lot of problems there,” Corrigan said. “That’s something that we’re going be concerned about, just keeping them out of the transition.”

Corrigan acknowledged the importance of executing in all facets of the game. For the opening game of the season, getting in rhythm is crucial.

“It’s the first game of the year and you can’t get too caught up in your opponent,” Corrigan said. “We don’t like to do it at anytime, but we certainly want to make sure that for the first game of the year were concentrating on our own execution.”

Notre Dame has a lot of talent on their team coming into the season opener.

The Irish are coming off an impressive 2004 season, when they finished 7-5 overall with a No. 12 overall ranking.

In addition, the Irish retain six starters and 17 monogram winners from last year’s team.

While all of that looks good on paper, coach Corrigan does not feel that rankings matter much at this point.

“It makes no difference to me whatsoever,” Corrigan said. “For us, it doesn’t mean as much as how hard were working, and if we are taking care of the little things we need to do. If we do all that then things like polls and NCAA tournament bids and all that take care of themselves.”

For now, Corrigan and the Irish are more concerned about starting the season off on the right foot, and establishing themselves early on.

“Were going to try to stay focused on the things that are important for us to do as a team, and if we do that I think the rest of it will all work out.”

The first step towards that goal comes this Sunday.