Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Team must ignore Irish legacy, hype

September 19, 2001
Junior tailback T.J. Duckett runs past a Notre Dame player during the game in Spartan Stadium last season. MSU beat Notre Dame 27-21. —

Anytime a team plays Notre Dame, it must block out the hype and tradition that surrounds the Fighting Irish’s football legacy.

“It’s hard to forget about it,” senior linebacker Josh Thornhill said. “Notre Dame is America’s team, so it’s hard to get over that.”

And Saturday, it could be even harder for MSU.

MSU has beat Notre Dame four years in a row - something few schools have accomplished. MSU’s an old foe as well. The school’s have played 64 times in the last 104 years, including an eight-game, MSU-win streak from 1955 to 1963.

Last year’s victory came as MSU trailed and sophomore quarterback Jeff Smoker threw a miracle fourth-down pass to now senior wide receiver Herb Haygood.

“The greatest memory is that he went 72 yards for a touchdown,” head football coach Bobby Williams said. “But when you break it down there was a blitz, we picked the blitz up, and Jeff saw Herb coming there. Herb made the catch and their safety slipped and (Herb) went all the way.”

Just because it has won the last four contests doesn’t mean the Irish’s luck is up, senior tight end Chris Baker said.

“I think they make their own luck, and we make our own luck, and whatever happens happens,” Baker said. “Their seniors haven’t beat us, so it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere.”

But MSU football has a lot of history, too, Baker said. And he’s only concerned with what happens Saturday.

“(Notre Dame football) is definitely a spectacle,” Baker said. “I don’t think about that too much, we have a lot of tradition too.”

Leaving the hoopla on the sidelines won’t be easy for senior defensive end Nick Myers.

“I was a Notre Dame fan growing up,” said Myers, who said he loves the movie “Rudy.” “It’s like a dream running out of Notre Dame Stadium ... We just gotta stay calm, stay focused and execute.”

The game will also have the added pressure of playing on national television - NBC airs all Irish home games.

But MSU has had time to prepare, after Saturday’s game was canceled because of last week’s terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington.

The team practiced last Saturday and had Sunday off.

The team hopes that extra practice will help the underclassmen combat the hype, tradition, TV audience and raucous 80,000-plus fans.

“It’s going to be a challenge - especially for the young guys,” Haygood said. “Hopefully they got all the jitters out in the first game.”

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