Sept. 24, 2002
By Peter J. Stuhldreher
Notre Dame, Ind. – This is September and there is a chill in the air. At Notre Dame, the chilly weather serves as a sign that the football season is progressing. This week, a bye week for the Irish football squad, provides the time to examine the progression of the current season.
Regardless of the first 4-0 start since 1993 for Notre Dame, being on the cover of both this week’s Sports Ilustrated and ESPN The Magazine and head coach Tyrone Willingham being on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption and Fox’s The Jim Rome Show on Wednesday, there is always room for improvement as the Irish hit the practice field for the first time since Saturday’s dramatic 21-17 win over Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich.
This week provides a week for the Irish to assess their play over the past four weeks and work on some areas that need improving as they prepare and look ahead to the next game, against Stanford on October 5.
“(Today) we went back to the basics, working on technique and all the little things,” said junior cornerback Vontez Duff.
Notre Dame has arrived at this point in the season having passed a tough test in every one of its first four games. Maryland, Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State have all presented different challenges for this Notre Dame team, and the Irish have risen to the challenge every week. However, the Irish know that the schedule gets no easier from here.
“We know we can’t relax,” said Duff.
“Anybody that comes in here loves to be at Notre Dame and will bring their ‘A game’ and we know that we have to step up every game and come with our ‘A game’ as well. We know that if we relax, that’s when we will get knocked off and we don’t want to have any losses under our belts. All we are about is wins.”
This attitude of winning and confidence is something that has permeated this storied Notre Dame football program since the days of the Four Horsemen. It has now been rekindled in this 2002 team that sees every game as an opportunity to win and believes that they can win every game.
“(Each game) is an opportunity to win,” said Duff.
“That’s what you do, you get out there and compete and have an opportunity to play a football game. All you want to do is win.”