It's bad enough Notre Dame is beat up.
But coach Bob Davie says the Irish have another problem that's just as pressing they're emotionally drained.
After losing two straight, Notre Dame (5-5) is on the verge of being bowl ineligible for the first time in 13 seasons. To avoid that, the Irish will have to beat No. 25 Boston College at home on Saturday and then find a way to snap a six-game road losing streak at Stanford in the regular-season finale.
And they're going to have to do it without 21 scholarship players who are either injured, suspended or have transferred.
"These kids have to lay it all on the line," Davie said Tuesday. "Those that have a lot we need a lot from. Those that have a little we need a little from. But we need every ounce of juice we have on this football team."
The Irish were passionless in a 37-27 loss to Pittsburgh last week that Davie called the worst feeling in his coaching career. Backup Panthers quarterback John Turman completed just 10-of-27 but threw for 231 yards, including three passes of 40 yards or more. The Irish running attack was once again inconsistent, managing a meager 72 yards on 32 carries.
And Notre Dame was flat. Davie said the Irish didn't play with nearly enough passion to beat the Panthers, who were playing the final game in Pitt Stadium.
"The last two weeks, it's hard for me to sit here and say we made an improvement. I think we took a step back," Davie said. "We weren't quite as passionate in the Pittsburgh game. I think some lessons you learn the hard way, and that's a hard lesson to learn, losing a football game."
In addition to the 21 guys who won't play this week 16 of whom are injured starters Grant Irons, Julius Jones, Anthony Denman and Deke Cooper will miss practice time this week due to various ailments.
With all the injuries, Davie took the unusual step this week of canceling Monday's practice. Rather than suit up, players watched film and walked through some things they normally would've done in full pads.
Davie also has an odd dilemma on his hands. He'll have three new starters on the offensive line with Kurt Vollers, Ryan Scarola and Sean Mahan, who need all the practice they can get. But Davie can't afford to work fellow linemen Mike Gandy and John Merandi too hard because the regular starters are beat-up.
He's also got to be careful with his running backs. While Jones will play Saturday, he won't practice this week. That leaves just a banged-up Tony Fisher for practice, and Davie can't afford to lose him.
"We're beaten down," Davi said. "We just can't spend as much time on that field. We just don't have enough bodies."
Despite all that, Davie has to somehow find a way to fire up a team that's beat up, fine tune an offense that can't run the ball consistently and find a way to scratch and claw to two more wins just so the Irish can finish above .500.
"There's no T-shirt that's going to get this solved, no clever little slogan ... It's coming from within," Davie said.
"With the seniors we have on this team with what we have at stake, I have no doubt that we're going to play hard this week."
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