By Bruce Madej
Rodriguez Transcript | Video (WMV)
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Michigan football team plays Notre Dame in South Bend this week. When the two schools meet, it's not "just another week."
First-year U-M coach Rich Rodriguez knows it and so does ND coach Charlie Weis. Both coaches opened their respective press conferences this week saying basically the same thing: "You don't have to worry about getting the players ready for this game."
There is something special about rivalry games and Rodriguez noted that during his Monday press conference. He noted it was great to be at Michigan because you have three of these type of games a year -- Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. He also noted "There are few schools in the country that have that type of rivalry."
Even though the ND rivalry is going to get the players fired up, Rodriguez also noted this team still needs to work on fundamentals. He mentioned the Sunday practice is a time the team would have spent working on Notre Dame, but "This time we worked on fundamentals for half of the practice."
The team is young, very young. On the ride back to the Schembechler Hall after the presser, Rodriguez was looking at the string of starts in this week's press release for the starting 11 on both sides. On offense, he noted after offensive lineman Steve Schilling and tight end Carson Butler (15 each), the numbers were quite low. Rodriguez then just chuckled to himself.
Now, Rodriguez knows what the answers need to be for a major portion of his team, but he still needs to see how fast those answers will come along with a young team on offense.
More Fun Against Miami: It surely was a better day for Rodriguez and the Wolverines after the 16-6 win against the RedHawks this past Saturday, but not only the win put a smile on his face. In an interview with Bernie Smilovitz for the Saturday Michigan-Notre Dame pregame show on Channel 4 in Detroit this Saturday at 2:30 p.m., Rodriguez told Smilovitz the excitement of the first game at the Big House was neat when he ran on the field and touched the banner. But after that, he put his headset on and went to work.
This week, he told Smilovitz that after he ran onto the field and put his headset on, he looked over and saw his 10-year-old son Rhett with an ear-to-ear smile. It was the first time his son had run onto the field with the team, and when Rodriguez saw the smile, it was a special moment.
No Special Moment: Offensive lineman Mark Ortmann is listed as very doubtful for Saturday's game. Ortmann suffered an elbow injury against Miami on Saturday. Rodriguez said he thought he would miss this week's Notre Dame game.
Rodriguez vs. Notre Dame: Rodriguez traveled once to South Bend when he coached West Virginia. The Mountaineers lost that game in 2001 by a score of 34-24. In the interview with Smilovitz, Rodriguez noted that he really wanted to play the Irish again quickly, and since ND plays all of its sports except football in the Big East, the coaches and administrators in the conference were always hoping ND would join up in football too.