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
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
”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
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
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
”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.