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Football Put In Perspective In South Bend

(WSCR) - There are times when sports must take a back seat to life. After the events that have taken place on the Notre Dame campus this week, Saturday will have a different feel than most Irish home games.

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 was canceled.

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 briefing.

"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 memory.

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 Graham said.

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 ahead.

"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.

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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