Sept. 12, 2002

by Peter J. Stuhldreher

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With two days until the two winningest teams in college football history meet to renew their rivalry at Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish wrapped up a positive week of practice at Cartier Field. Thursday represented the final day of Notre Dame’s preparation prior to Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. (EST) contest with the seventh-ranked Michigan Wolverines.

Senior wide receiver Arnaz Battle felt that this week of practice saw the Irish move in a very positive direction as they get ready to face Michigan.

“I think this was our best week (of practice),” Battle said. “I think we came out and executed. There was a lot of energy and focus.”

Head coach Tyrone Willingham also spoke after practice about how positive the week had been for the team.

“It was a solid week of practice,” Willingham said. “We are building and getting ready to peak at the right time.”

Saturday would be the right time for the Irish to peak as they face their toughest test of the season thus far in a strong Michigan program. After a two-year hiatus, the series between two perennial college football powerhouses will resume this weekend. The last meeting between Notre Dame and Michigan in 1999 in Ann Arbor, Mich. saw then-No. 7 Michigan battle to a tough-earned win, 26-22. This weekend provides the Irish with another opportunity to prove themselves against another seventh-ranked Michigan team.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to build on the tradition in this new era,” said Battle, going into his third and final game against the Wolverines. “We are 2-0 for the first time since 1996. Under Coach Willingham, the attitude has really changed. I think that a lot of guys are really focused and ready to go out and beat a top-10 team.”

— ND —