Martin, O-line battle the noise
ANN ARBOR, Mich.
Maize-clad fans waived maize pom-poms. When Notre Dame's specialists took the field an hour before the game, they were booed, loudly. Most of the 115,109 at Michigan Stadium overworked their vocal cords to disrupt the Notre Dame offense.
The outcome may not have gone Notre Dame's way in a 41-30 loss to the Wolverines, but if the Irish were looking for solace, they could take a slice in terms of how the offensive line held up under the noise, and with a new center starting his first road game.
"Definitely a tough atmosphere for that first one," junior center Nick Martin said earlier this week about the venue in which he made his first road start. "It comes down to it's just another game, you've just got to play your game."
The Irish line for the most part played their game. It played a penalty-free game until the fourth quarter and for the most part protected quarterback Tommy Rees in the loss, the first sack coming late in the fourth quarter when it was pin-back-your-ears time for the Wolverine defense.
And at the center was Martin, who was not only working against the Michigan defensive linemen and the crowd, but also was working for the first time with a silent snap count, something put in this week to help combat the noise.
"Obviously the play can't start until you get the ball to the quarterback ... Nothing can start until I do that," Martin said. "Just something that we put in this week. We know it's going to be loud, so ..."
So the Irish worked on it all week, beginning Sunday when the players entered the Guglielmino Athletics Complex to watch Temple tape, the offense also began to implement the silent snap count, something Martin had never before done.
"It's definitely a bit of an adjustment. You've got to be able to see when the ball's snapped because you're not going to really be hearing anything, especially being in that stadium," said starting left guard Chris Watt, who two years ago made his first career road start at Michigan Stadium.
The silent snap count wasn't the only measure the ND coaching staff took to help prepare for the noise. Throughout the week at the team's practice facility, loud music, including Loverboy and Bruce Springsteen, was piped through the speakers.
"Definitely before my time," Martin said with a smile.
Martin on Saturday night proved it's his time at center. Part of his relative calm no doubt came in part because of experience gained two years ago. He didn't play at Michigan because he was redshirting, but he did make the travel roster and learned.
"I already know what the atmosphere's going to be like. I wasn't on the field, I was redshirted, but at the same time I still know how loud it's going to be and how crazy everyone is," Martin said.
He also tapped into the older members of a veteran line, including older brother Zack, ND's starting left tackle, right guard Christian Lombard and Watt.
"Just play your game. Ignore the noise," they told him. "You only have to block one guy every play, so just do your job."