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WVU players gush, rage about playing at Notre Dame

November 20, 1997

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ For a guy whose roots run deep in South Bend, Ind., West Virginia quarterback Marc Bulger is surprisingly nonchalant about Saturday’s game at Notre Dame.

``Right now, I’m just trying to keep it as another game. I love the school and it’s weird for me now to go up there. I’m used to tailgating,″ said Bulger, whose father, James, was a backup quarterback for Notre Dame from 1970 to 1972. His brother also went to school there.

Bulger, who went to high school in Pittsburgh, attended Notre Dame football games, since even playing Pitt meant something to the Irish.

Still, he has tried to remain stoic.

``I’m just trying to get focused and put all that aside,″ Bulger said.

Other Mountaineers are not as restrained or diplomatic.

``I hate the Golden Dome. I hate (former coach Lou) Holtz, and he ain’t there no more,″ WVU safety Gary Thompkins said. ``I do not like Notre Dame. I hate NBC. Anything the Irish are affiliated with.″

Thompkins, who is from Miami, says he is bitter because Notre Dame snubbed him as a recruit out of high school.

Thompkins can blow off some of that steam in a game that has serious bowl implications for both teams.

Notre Dame (5-5) needs to win its last two games to qualify for a bowl. The Irish were 9-point favorites at midweek after winning four of their last five games, including a 24-6 win at LSU last week.

No. 22 West Virginia (7-2) needs to win its last two games to keep alive its hopes for a top bowl bid.

Thompkins warned Irish players not to expect West Virginia to bow to Irish tradition.

``If they do, they’re going to get punched in the mouth. I don’t think anybody can be cocky,″ Thompkins said.

West Virginia already has one big game victory on the road. The Mountaineers beat Miami 28-17 in the Orange Bowl, where the Hurricanes were once unbeatable.

As in that game, when WVU running back Amos Zereoue rushed for 206 yards, West Virginia will count on him to be at his best.

Averaging 140 yards per game, Zereoue returns Saturday after sitting out the Mountaineers’ 41-21 win over Temple with a turf toe injury suffered two weeks earlier on the artificial turf at Syracuse.

Zereoue and West Virginia coach Don Nehlen insist he is ready to play against Notre Dame on grass.

``I should be 110 percent by the game,″ Zereoue said.

He certainly wants to be.

``It’s always a good thing to play on national television. Just going against Notre Dame will be a great test for me and our team,″ Zereoue said.

``It’s Notre Dame. Just being at Notre Dame, with the dome and everything, it’s what college players live for,″ he said.

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