Football takes back seat in South Bend

A solemn Saturday in South Bend is ahead for Notre Dame’s

football team. The pageantry and promise that usually accompany a

home game on the picturesque campus is being overshadowed by the

tragic death of Declan Sullivan.

The 20-year-old junior was videotaping the team during practice

Wednesday when the hydraulic scissors lift he was elevated on fell

over during a windy day.

Coach Brian Kelly released a statement Wednesday night after

Sullivan died, but has not commented on the incident since. The

only reaction from players came via several Twitter posts.

The players and coaching staff attended a campus Mass for

Sullivan on Thursday night, but the usual Friday night pep rally

was canceled.

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he’s not sure how the team

would react to such difficult circumstances.

”I have no idea. All we can do is focus on the players’

emotional well-being. I think for some of them this will be an

important motivation,” Swarbrick said during a Thursday press

briefing.

”They’ll want to do especially well. Some may struggle with

this and it may impact their performance. … We care about

winning, but it doesn’t matter right now. What matters is taking

care of these young men and honoring Declan’s memory and getting

ourselves in a position to move forward.”

The Irish will wear decals on their gold helmets to honor

Sullivan, and Swarbrick said the team is dedicating the game to his

memory.

On the field, it is a pivotal contest for the Irish, a 4-4 team

seeking a winning season and even a bowl bid. After Tulsa, Notre

Dame has a bye week before meeting current No. 8 Utah at home and

then closing out the season against Army at Yankee Stadium and

Southern California on the road.

Tulsa (4-3) has scored plenty of points and racked up lots of

yards at times this season, but the Golden Hurricane can also give

them up. Coming off a bye week, Tulsa is averaging 38.4 points and

491.6 yards per game total offense, while giving up 28.9 points and

443.3 yards – including 330 through the air.

After getting run over by Navy last week, Notre Dame must now

contain the speedy Tulsa attack led by quarterback G.J. Kinne, who

is averaging nearly 292 yards per game total offense.

”We’re approaching it as this deal with Notre Dame is a

once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to get a chance to go to

South Bend. We’re going there to compete to win,” Tulsa coach Todd

Graham said.

The Hurricane played at Oklahoma State in the third game of the

season and lost 65-28. Graham says his team must stay close or even

ahead.

”We have to score and we can’t get behind early. That’s the key

for us. You’ll have 81,000 people there,” he said. ”The reward of

a win would be tremendous. We’ve talked about what a win like this

would mean. We want to compete for conference championships, but we

need to take the next step, which is to beat a BCS opponent.”

Notre Dame expects to have leading receiver Michael Floyd back

after he missed last week’s game with a sore hamstring.