NOTRE DAME — Every Wednesday during the season, a half dozen Notre Dame players meet with the media after practice.
They go to the locker room first, showering, changing and relaxing for a moment before entering the fray of microphones and cameras.
The offensive line doesn’t enjoy such luxuries.
Center Braxston Cave and his teammates along the offensive line wander into the interview room dressed in full pads and cleats and fresh from the field.
“Every day the offensive line stays out for a good 20, 30 minutes by ourselves just going through different techniques or plays we have to do to get ready,” Cave said. “We started doing it in the summer by ourselves, and it carried over.”
The line will need all the extra practice it can get before Saturday with No. 18 Stanford (4-1) coming to town and bringing one of the nation’s top run defenses with it.
Through the first five games, the Cardinal has allowed an average of 77 rushing yards a game (sixth in the country) while racking up an average of 8.6 tackles for a loss (fourth) and 2.8 sacks (20th) per game.
That same defense manhandled Notre Dame last year, recording eight tackles for a loss and five sacks in their 28-14 win over the Irish. And Cave, who was out with a foot injury, could do nothing but watch.
“I had to watch that game from home,” he said. “It wasn’t fun. And I know the guys who were out there have a bad taste in their mouth.”
Tackle Zack Martin was one of those guys, and he knows what to expect from Stanford this time around.
“We’ve got to come and be ready for a fistfight on Saturday,” Martin said. “They’ve had our number the past two years. They’re a physical defense. They’ve dominated all of their opponents this year.
“It’s going to come down to the will of their guys versus the will of our guys.”
After an promising offseason where the Notre Dame line and its new position coach, Harry Hiestand, were touted as one of the best in college football, the Irish linemen struggled to hold off the Purdue and Michigan pass rushes.
They played nearly flawless last week against Miami, helping the Irish quartet of tailbacks to run for 376 yards and five rushing touchdowns and allowing nary but a single quarterback hurry by the Hurricanes.
It was a confidence-boosting performance the Irish line needed before the physical behemoth that is Stanford’s defense.
“I don’t think I’ve been 5-0 since grade school,” Martin mused. “If we want to be 6-0, we’ll have to play the best game we’ve played all year on Saturday.
They’re more physical than any team we’ve seen this year.”