FORT WAYNE – Michigan played the Chicken Dance song after beating Notre Dame last season at Michigan Stadium, an attempt to say the Irish were chickening out by opting out of the rivalry series.
If any animosity lingers over that slight, Notre Dame’s players are putting on a united front to hide it.
A hushed, nothing-out-of-the-ordinary tone is coming out of the Irish side leading up to Saturday’s clash, the last for the foreseeable future between the two storied programs.
I don’t get into all of the hype, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson said. We’ve got to prepare for Michigan just like we did Rice. We understand Michigan’s got a great football team.
No. 17 Notre Dame (1-0) and the unranked Wolverines (1-0) are, in terms of winning percentage, the top two schools in college football history.
The Irish feel good enough about a 48-17 win over Rice that they don’t see the need to drag themselves into a war of words in the press.
We played well and really came together as a team, center Nick Martin said.
Cody Riggs is viewing Michigan through a strategic lens, not an emotional one.
I know they have a good offense, he said. I know it’s a huge rivalry, and I can’t wait to play them, but it doesn’t matter what anybody says. It’s another game.
Despite coming off their highest-scoring home opener since 1999, not all is cheery around the Irish locker room; there are a couple of issues being addressed.
The absence of safety Austin Collinsworth, one of four team captains, continues to bother players, particularly on defense.
Irish coach Brian Kelly was upset at the lack of communication between fill-in Elijah Shumate and safety partner Max Redfield.
Austin’s our leader, the cornerback Riggs said. We miss him.
The Irish hope Collinsworth is recovered from a grade 2 sprain of his medial collateral ligament in time to face Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium for the third game of the season Sept. 13.
I love Austin, love playing with him, said senior linebacker Joe Schmidt, who added he feels no additional pressure without Collinsworth.
I feel that way in every game, Schmidt said. I don’t want to say that because Austin isn’t out there, it feels any different. I just want to make sure we are clear and concise. We spent a lot of extra time the past couple of days, me and Elijah, making sure we are on the same page.
And Golson, while conceding he’s forced to look at Michigan as a rival, is far more hung up on cleaning out rhythm flaws on offense.
I need to polish a lot of things, he said. Definitely to get the timing down and be more precise.
Notes: In 31 of the past 43 games, Notre Dame’s defense has allowed two offensive touchdowns or fewer. Irish kicker Kyle Brindza’s 207 career points are fifth-most in school history.