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Students count down to game time

Amanda Gonzales | Friday, August 31, 2007

The long, agonizing wait for many students will end Saturday at 3:43 p.m. when the Notre Dame football season kicks off in Notre Dame Stadium against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Because of the graduation of quarterback Brady Quinn and wide receivers Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight – and running back Darius Walker’s early departure for the NFL Draft – Notre Dame is not ranked in the top 25 for the first time since Charlie Weis’ first game as coach, against Pittsburgh to start the 2005 season.

But that hasn’t hampered many students’ enthusiasm.

Junior Tony Piskurich is optimistic that Notre Dame will do well on Saturday – and all season long.

“I do have realistic expectations for the season and believe that our new players will be able to contribute to the team,” Piskurich said. “… I do believe we will finish in the top 25.”

Junior Megan Planicka echoed Piskurich’s optimism for the upcoming football season,

“I do believe that it will be a learning experience, but I hope that we upset some teams as the underdog,” she said.

For senior Lawrence Sullivan, this is the beginning of his final football season as an undergraduate student at Notre Dame. When asked if he is sad about this being his final season, Sullivan replied, “I’m not really sad yet, although I may be at the end of the season. … I’m just so excited about football starting again.”

Sullivan is hoping for at least an 8-4 record this season and said he believes freshman Jimmy Clausen will be the starting quarterback for the Irish.

The annual Dillon Hall Pep Rally, the dorm’s signature event, took place Thursday, drawing hundreds of students to South Quad to watch the dorm’s skits and listen to the guest speakers. This year, the guest speakers included Weis, retired Indiana State Police Officer Tim McCarthy, tight end John Carlson, linebacker Maurice Crum and Chris Zorich, a member of the 1988 National Championship football team.

McGlinn freshman Courtney Ensslin said the rally made her more excited for Saturday’s game.

“I love that the students have so much school spirit,” she said.

Another freshman, Lauren Edger was happy to see Weis make an appearance and thought it was nice to get a reprieve from her first week of college classes.

“Since we just started class on Tuesday, this was a nice change of pace,” she said.

For freshmen like Edger and Ensslin, the contest will be their first game as students cheering on the Irish and a chance to execute the student-run cheers that they learned during orientation.

Although this is not freshman Nola Seta’s first Notre Dame game, she said she is still thrilled about Saturday’s home opener.

“I am very excited for the game and can’t wait to do the push-ups when we score a touchdown,” she said.

A win would make it even sweeter for Seta, who is a native of Georgia and has many friends who attend Georgia Tech.

“If we win, I could call all my Georgia Tech friends and brag about the game,” she said. Junior Maggie Condit is also excited to see the freshmen experience their first pep rally and the football game.

“I am glad that they get to share in the Notre Dame experience.”

This season opener marks the 193rd consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium. This will be the 34th meeting between the schools, with Notre Dame leading the series 27-5-1.