The Irish were without interim coach Kent Baer at Wednesday’s practice. Irish Eyes was not able to confirm why Baer was not present, however, the Irish players said the focus has now turned towards Oregon State, at least on the practice field.
“I think it’s a way for us to end on a good note with a win,” said sophomore defensive end Victor Abiamiri of the bowl game. “Win one for the coaching staff. I’ve been here two years and I feel close with this coaching staff. I think it’s something we can do for them.”
“We’re in the beginning stages of making the game plan,” Abimiri said when asked about the Beavers’ offense. “We’ve gone through and looked at them a little bit. We have a long time to prepare and we’re going to go down there with the mindset of winning for the coaches.”
Irish senior linebacker Mike Goolsby was at the game the last time the Irish faced Oregon State in 2002 when Notre Dame was embarrassed in a 41-9 thrashing at the hands of the Beavers.
“I can remember the touchdown celebrations—they patted the guy down in the end zone,” said Goolsby. “I just remember we got our butts kicked. We went down there pretty confident and they handed it to us. I think that’s in a lot of the fifth year’s (seniors) minds.”
Senior defensive end Kyle Budinscak said the Irish players are indebted to this current coaching staff for helping them prepare for the bowl game.
“You’d expect every one of those guys to be concerned about their family right now and going and looking for how they’re going to secure their future,” said Budinscak. “They really want to (coach this game). That’s a lot of credit to them and how much a lot of those guys really care about their players. We respect them so much for doing that.”
“I know everybody wants to talk about our coaching situation above all else,” said Budinscak when asked why none of the reporters wanted to talk about Oregon State. “There will be plenty of time to talk about them. We’re already watching film on them, and the guys that are going to play this game are certainly aware of Oregon State, who we’re playing and our coaches are already game-planning. The people that need to care about that most are most concerned about that right now.”
Abiamiri spoke with the media last Wednesday after head coach Tyrone Willingham was released from his position. The sophomore says the Irish are trying to move on after being dealt a difficult blow.
“I think there’s sort of an optimism of things that are going to be better in the future,” he said. “Everybody’s upbeat about playing in this bowl game. Everybody is upbeat about how different this program’s going to be in the next couple of years.”
Moving on has been difficult as Abiamiri says the team hears the constant bashing of Notre Dame by the media.
“It does bother you,” Abiamiri said when asked if the constant criticism distracted him. “We know we have the talent. We know we can win football games. To hear them say that is all the more motivation to go out there and prove to the country that we can do those things and can be an elite program.”
Departing senior Kyle Budinscak has been through two coaching changes during his career at Notre Dame. We asked the always straight-forward Budinscak why the Irish can’t seem to get back on the winning track.
“There isn’t a single person in this program right now that doesn’t have a hand in us being unsuccessful,” Budinscak said. “Not a single person at any level, at any position that doesn’t have a hand in why we haven’t been successful. It’s certainly not an effort thing. It goes way beyond guys trying hard.
“I think there’s a lot of things that need to happen here as far as the attitude changing a little bit. I don’t want to get too specific about what I’m talking about. The only thing I can really say is everybody has had a hand in this. It’s going to be a challenge to change that, but I’m one of the people that thinks it absolutely can be done here without compromising our standards.”
Many have suggested the Irish need to change their academic standards to be successful.
“No I don’t,” Budinscak said when asked if he felt the Irish had to loosen their academic standards to turn the ship around. “But I think realistically, people want success tomorrow, and that can’t necessarily happen. Maybe it can, and I believe it could.”
The Irish will practice again on Friday and Saturday before hitting the books for finals next week. Irish Eyes will be out there during and after practice bringing you all the latest.