Whittingham speaks highly of ND's tradition

It's a broken-record description of a program's storied past meant as a respectful nod by coaches escorting their teams to Notre Dame for the first time.

First it was Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit. Then it was Tulsa's Todd Graham. This week it's Utah's Kyle Whittingham, whose squad's national title hopes were reduced to ashes last week in a 47-7 loss to Texas Christian, turn to opine about Old Notre Dame.

"When you think of Notre Dame, you think of the Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne, `Rudy' the movie -- that was one of my favorite movies," Whittingham said. "I saw that a bunch. The tradition, the guys they had there -- Joe Montana, Joe Theisman. That's everything that embodies what Notre Dame is."

Or what it used to be. The Fighting Irish (4-5) enter Saturday's game against the 15th-ranked Utes (8-1) having lost 11 straight against top-25 opponents and with postseason hopes on a morphine drip.

"They are 4-5 and have lost a couple in a row," Whittingham said. "Their quarterback was injured against Tulsa, but backup Tommy Rees came in and did a fairly good job. They have a tremendous receiver in Michael Floyd. He has caught over 50 balls. They have good size up front and good size on defense. Manti Te'o is a big, physical presence in the middle. It's just what you expect out of Notre Dame."

Utah defensive end Christian Cox will decide for himself when the team will take an uncharacteristic walk-through at Notre Dame Stadium Friday.

"You get to relax and see what their stadium is really like and see if it's all that it's cracked up to be," he told the Deseret News.

Whittingham's task this week was to keep his team from fracturing to pieces after an eviscerating loss to the Horned Frogs.

"That's when we need our leadership to step forward," he said. "It is nowhere near as much of a necessity as when you are fighting through adversity. We will find out what we are made of this weekend and the leaders need to step to the forefront. We got whipped and we can't feel sorry for ourselves, and we need to move on."

Easier said than done. Center Zane Taylor sure thinks so.

"Football is what I am," he said. "It's what I do and it defines me as a person. So to have so much riding on that game and to lose so badly, it hurts. Right now, I still feel kind of sick to my stomach thinking about the game."