Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Okwara Not Worried About The Talking Heads

September 12, 2019

It’s week three of the college football season and Notre Dame will finally get the chance to play at home. The Irish started the season on the road at Louisville and then had a bye week, so it’s safe to say there is an excitement to get in front of the home crowd on Saturday as New Mexico comes to Notre Dame Stadium.
“It’s going to be nice,” stated senior defensive end Julian Okwara. “We haven’t played at home in a while, so it will be nice to be in front of the home crowd, fans and family. I’m definitely excited to run out of the tunnel and hear the crowd roaring for Notre Dame.”
The rare week two bye week provided the Irish a chance to get back in the film room to correct mistakes and then work through them in practice while not being focused on a game plan last week.
“It gave us time to sit back and work on technique,” said Okwara. “We came out to practice and worked hard. It was a good three or four days of good work. We were able to realize we could get better than last week.
“Physicality and being in our gap. That was definitely we needed to work on and playing free and not being so timid. We need to play with our heart and have fun out there. That’s something we have to build up as a defensive line and a defense. As long we keep that, we’ll be alright.”
Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly somewhat challenged his veterans to raise their level of play earlier in the week and Okwara knows it starts during the week. 
“The veterans are a huge key to getting the younger guys to come out with the right mindset every day to work and being present in the meeting rooms or on the field,” Okwara stated.
One of the challenges heading into Saturday’s game will be preparing to face three quarterbacks from New Mexico. While there is a significant talent gap, it will test the mental toughness of the Irish defense to pay attention to who is in at quarterback and the different keys associated with a different signal-caller.
“It’s a lot of guys playing, but we’re worried about us and what we need to do to get better,” explained Okwara. “Whatever they put out there on Saturday, we’ll be ready for. The coaches are doing a great job of putting us in position with the game plan.” 
As for Okwara, the Charlotte native has a lofty goal of 18.5 sacks this season. It serves as daily and weekly motivation as Notre Dame heads into the meat of the schedule.
“I threw that number out there,” laughed Okwara. “I saw someone had 18 sacks last year. Personally, I saw the sacks I missed and made up a number. Whatever happens, happens. It’s not something I’m chasing every game. When I’m in a position to make a play, I’m there, but whatever guys are making plays, I’m happy for them.
“I have my personal goals like everyone else. It’s something I look at to know I’m here and I came here to work and be one of the best guys to come out of here.”
When it comes to the goals of the defense, Okwara isn’t worried about what happened in week one and the focus is now on the Lobos.
“We’re not worried about whatever everyone else is thinking,” said Okwara. “We’re worried about our job and what we need to improve on. We’re cool with whatever everyone thinks. We have a standard and we need to be bought into that to get ready for New Mexico.”  

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