Dec. 28, 2006
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Notre Dame is looking to go into the offseason feeling good for the first time in a while.
Not only have the Fighting Irish lost eight straight bowl games, they've lost their last game all but one season since 1994 - and that lone victory over Purdue came in 2001 on the day before coach Bob Davie was fired.
So as the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish were greeted Thursday by a five-piece jazz band at the team hotel in their official welcome to the Sugar Bowl, Notre Dame was focused on trying to beat fourth-ranked LSU (10-2) and finishing the season on a positive note.
"To get a win in the Sugar Bowl would be an amazing way to cap off the year," quarterback Brady Quinn said.
The Irish (10-2) have not only lost their final games in recent years, they've been on the receiving end of some embarrassing beatings. They lost 41-24 to Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the 1994 season, 41-9 to Oregon State at the end of the 2000 season, 28-6 to North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl to finish 2002 and 34-20 against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl last season when the Irish defense gave up 617 yards.
The Irish are also looking for their first win against a highly ranked team in several years. The Irish beat then-No. 3 Michigan 17-10 last season, but the Wolverines finished the season 7-5 and unranked and the victory didn't look nearly as impressive in hindsight.
The Irish were 0-2 last season against teams that finished the season ranked in the top 10 and haven't beaten a team that finished the season ranked in the top 10 since beating Washington State 29-26 to open the 2003 season. The Cougars finished that season ranked No. 9.
Coach Charlie Weis, who tries to treat all games the same, doesn't like the term "signature victory" because it goes against his philosophy. He concedes, though, the Irish are eager for a big win - especially the underclassmen who want to send this year's seniors out with a victory.
"It would just be a way to kind of validate their careers. We know how great LSU is, don't get me wrong, but it would just be a great way to finish off their careers," Weis said.
Irish players, though, weren't as hesitant as Weis to put extra emphasis on the game.
"I think it would be a signature win this year. I wouldn't say that in the past," Quinn said. "A win would mean a lot for us this year."
Linebacker Travis Thomas said a win would send a statement: "Showing that we can play with the big boys and cap off the season on a positive note after losing the two big games we had this year."
The Irish lost 47-21 to No. 3 Michigan in the third game of the season and 44-24 to No. 3 USC in the regular-season finale on Nov. 25.
LSU appears to stack up well with Michigan and USC. The Tigers rank second in total defense and have won six straight.
Safety Tom Zbikowski said it's been a disappointing season despite the Bowl Championship Series berth.
"Starting the season seeded No. 2 and you don't finish that way, it's tough to be satisfied," he said.
A win against LSU, though, would go a long way in making the Irish feel better.