Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 30, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 37 of 55

38 OCT. 30, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI THE 'L' WORD Former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz (1986‑96) — who achieved his first national renown while at North Carolina State from 1972‑75 — was deemed as one of the great motivators in the game's history. "Motivation is simple," explained the man who would be known as "Dr. Lou" to a more recent genera‑ tion. "You eliminate those who aren't motivated." Yet even he acknowledged that in the course of a college football season, a team will reach an emotional peak maybe three times — and then for each peak a valley is inevitable. Cru‑ cial to overcoming is that on the days you are a little more flat and lethargic, you still can out‑talent the opposition. The "L Word" — letdown — often is a part of athletics, or daily life. It happened to Holtz in 1993 when the week after defeating No. 1 Florida State (31‑24), the newly top‑ ranked Irish fell at home to a Boston College team it had crushed 54‑7 a year earlier. This year 's 6‑1 North Carolina State team might remind one of that 1993 Boston College unit — although the Wolfpack did defeat the Irish last year, 10‑3, in a contest played when Hurricane Matthew was making its way through Raleigh, N.C., among other locations. Like the '93 Eagles, the '17 Wolf‑ pack don't recruit on paper on the same level as Notre Dame, but they possess a savvy, veteran quarterback (redshirt junior Ryan Finley, while BC had Glenn Foley); a dominant, projected first‑round defensive line‑ man (senior Bradley Chubb, while BC had Mike Mamula); and a wealth of experience across the board. Per Phil Steele's 2017 College Foot- ball Preview, North Carolina State was tied for third nationally with Georgia (which won 20‑19 at Notre Dame Sept. 9) for most starters re‑ turning on offense and defense this year with 17 (nine on offense and eight on defense). With the huge volume of experi‑ ence returning to the fold — high‑ lighted by a stellar defensive line — this was a make‑or‑break year for fifth‑year head coach Dave Doeren, who entered this season 25‑26 with the Wolfpack, but more significantly a 9‑23 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Throughout Doeren's tenure, the Wolfpack have usually acquitted themselves well against the top com‑ petition on the schedule — i.e. Clem‑ son and Florida State last year — but poor outcomes against equal or lesser foes left the fans in Raleigh restless. This year, North Carolina State finally upset Florida State and are classified as a dark horse in the ACC race. There also are two dynamics that make this a potentially favorable sit‑ uation for the Wolfpack, even though it has to play on the road. The first is Notre Dame will be coming off a highly emotional con‑ test against archrival USC the previ‑ ous week. This year 's Trojans were not Miami 1988 or Florida State 1993 where they were ranked No. 1, but to many Fighting Irish faithful the outcome versus the Trojans was a ref‑ erendum on whether the 2017 Fight‑ ing Irish are bona fide contenders or still pretenders after last year 's 4‑8 meltdown. How much of a letdown will there be — if any — after a contest where the Irish were projected to be at an emotional peak? Or can Notre Dame maintain its fervor for another week and maybe "save" the letdown for a lesser Wake Forest team Nov. 4. Second, North Carolina State will be coming off a bye after winning six straight games. Will that layoff help them in their preparation, or knock them off their rhythm? Either way, the intangibles likely will play a factor in this contest. GAME PREVIEW: NORTH CAROLINA STATE Top STorylineS Fifth-year head coach Dave Doeren brings a veteran team to South Bend that tied Georgia for third nationally entering the year in returning offensive and defensive starters (17), according to Phil Steele. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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