In case you don’t follow the weekly player interviews as closely as you should, here is what this piece is referring to:
Left tackle Liam Eichenberg was asked about the environment coming Saturday night in Lane Stadium.
"It’s gonna be loud. But our stadium is loud. I’m excited to go in there, kick the shit out of them, get a win, then get out of there."
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) October 4, 2018
Generally speaking, Notre Dame football players rarely give out what is commonly referred to as “bulletin board material.” Perhaps it’s a function of the university and what it stands for, and most coaches are vehemently against making brash statements to the press, but Irish players just don’t trash talk during the week. The last time an Irish player made buzz during a game week (that I can recall) was when Will Fuller tweeted prior to the Clemson game in 2015 that it was going to be “savage”. In that instance, everyone pretended he was making some sort of prediction, and it got played up during the week.
However, in this instance, there is no misunderstanding this one. When a player declares they are going to kick the s%$& out of the opponent, well, that speaks for itself. While it’s not something I would have done as a player, I fully embrace it and think Notre Dame should embrace it as well.
Who Cares What Virginia Tech Thinks?
A lot of the response has centered on the Hokies and how motivated they are going to now be headed into the matchup. I’ve got news for everyone who holds that view: Virginia Tech wasn’t going to be cutting Notre Dame any breaks without those comments. Everyone saw what the crowd and atmosphere did to the Irish in Miami last season. The players admitted to being intimidated! That crowd and those players believe they can affect the Notre Dame football team. It was going to be ruckus no matter what.
So from that view, who cares what kind of way Virginia Tech takes it? The sooner a team gets to realize that the outcome of these games has more to do with them, their preparation, and their mindset, the better. The opponent can do whatever it wants, and feel whatever it wants. They’ve still got to deal with Notre Dame, which in the mind of Eichenberg (apparently) is no picnic for them. So in the spirit of not caring about the opponent, he should say what he thinks, the backlash and the reaction be damned.
“Well He Better Be Ready To Back It Up”
Another common response when a player shoots his mouth. He better back it up. Well, he needs to “back it up” no matter what. The game is being played with a winner and loser, whether he says the right thing or makes a bold statement. Notre Dame said all the right things prior to Miami last year and it was a boat race. Nothing was backed up that night.
What’s the worst thing that can happen anyway? They lose in embarrassing fashion, which is always terrible whether you popped off or not, and any extra embarrassment is incurred by the player, he would be feeling bad anyway. My assumption is Eichenberg always plans to play well and to win. Which brings me to…
This Is How We Want Them To Feel!
The starting left tackle thinks he’s going to beat up on his opponent. This is what we want him to think! What should it matter that he said it out loud? These teams are going to combine for about 130 total plays of physical attrition, but during the week it’s expected they don’t say anything that might offend the opponent? I’m off on that line of thinking.
I’m also off on the business trip way of approaching these games. It’s not a business trip, it’s a physical, competitive contest. And emotion and attitude plays a big part in that. Let the players feel what they feel and say what they think. There is a lot of concern the Irish team could feel complacent after their big win against Stanford, and when a player throws down the gauntlet like that during game week, that gets the competitive juices flowing for everyone.
Hopefully Brian Kelly and the other players can embrace this attitude and take it into Blacksburg. Because the Hokies think the same thing, they just aren’t saying it. Let’s put all the cards on the table and go in their with the goal of dominance, which their starting left tackle seems to possess.
So, cheers to you Liam Eichenberg!