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Caoach Weis Presser

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From Miami Herald





Irish return to scene of disappointmentsTOM COYNEAssociated PressPHOENIX - The desert hasn't been kind to Notre Dame in recent years.

But coach Charlie Weis says the Fighting Irish players have a different feeling than last year, when they lost 38-21 to Oregon State in the Insight Bowl.

"A year ago these guys made these made this trip out here and left out of here not feeling very good about themselves," Weis told a crowd gathered at the airport Tuesday to greet the team. "This year we're hoping that taste in our mouth is a little bit different."

Notre Dame was humiliated in its last trip to the Fiesta Bowl, losing 41-9 to Oregon State in 2001. It wasn't much different in 1995, with the Irish losing to Colorado, 41-24.

Not only are the Irish eager to end a desert losing streak, they are looking to stop a seven-game bowl skid that dates to a 24-21 win over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl to end the 1993 season.

Since then, the Irish have lost their final game every year except in 2001 when they beat Purdue 24-18.

Bob Davie was fired the next day, a year after the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oregon State.

Despite the desert drought, Weis said Tuesday the Irish are excited to be back in Arizona.

"I can't begin to tell you how happy we are to be here," he said. "But I can tell you we're not just here to drink margaritas. That's not why we're here."

The Irish players and Weis actually arrived in town on Monday, while the assistant coaches, school officials and their families all arrived at the airport on Tuesday. The Irish began practicing Tuesday afternoon and planned to attend the Insight Bowl game later in the day. Weis even joked about it during the news conference.

"I know most of you are rooting for Arizona State. But I'm from New Jersey, so I have to tell you I'm rooting for the state university of New Jersey myself," he said.

But Weis said one of the highlights of the bowl season this year is the matchup between the fifth-ranked Irish (9-2) and the fourth-ranked Buckeyes (9-2).

"A lot of times when you have these bowl games is you have matchups that are interesting, but they really don't create the same intrigue this matchup has brought on," he said.

Weis said the game is special because the teams are so similar.

Both are from the Midwest and have national exposure. Both have storied traditions. Both have rabid fans. And the teams have only played four times, with the Irish winning in 1935-36 and the Buckeyes winning in 1995-96.

"The fact is that we're both very similar in our approach. We both try not to make mistakes, don't turn the ball over, play solid defense and score enough points to try to win the game."

Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White said it is one of the most talked-about bowl games.

"I'd be less than honest if I didn't admit there is a huge buzz around the country surrounding our game," White said. "That just excites the heck out of all of us who are part of the Notre Dame family."

Weis said one way he can tell the magnitude of the game is the demand for tickets from family and friends.

"They can't get into town fast enough," he said. "I can't tell you what this game is going to cost me. It's going to be a lot. That's all I can tell. Between the tickets and my wife at Nieman Marcus, it's going to be a tough week."

The Irish joking about the game is a big turnaround from a year ago.

At this time last year, players were still grieving the firing of Tyrone Willingham and Weis was busy helping the New England Patriots win another Super Bowl.

White said the Irish are closer to being the elite football program they aspire to be.

"Coach Weis and his staff have done a brilliant job of putting us in play very quickly," he said. "Excited is an understatement. Maybe more like euphoric."

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