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Notre Dame Football

Hinish knows what win would mean for Notre Dame past, present, future

December 29, 2021
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Kurt Hinish didn’t take the conventional route.

Never in his Notre Dame career, and not Wednesday when the Fighting Irish captain and super-senior defensive lineman was asked about his team’s approach to Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl (1 p.m., ESPN) against College Football Playoff No. 9-ranked Oklahoma State.

Hinish knows the history while also focusing on the present and future of Notre Dame football, which enters the game as the CFP’s No. 5 team at 11-1, winners of seven games in a row.

“I read a statistic earlier this week that Notre Dame hasn't won a New Year's Day Six game in I don't know how long,” said Hinish, whose brother, Donovan, is set to carry on the family name in Irish football. “But, I mean, the goal for us, it's been preaching in all this bowl prep is finish as champions. That's what we want to do. We want to send the seniors out in the right way, they guys who laid the foundation for this program and where it's at right now, and finish as champions.”

There have been bowl “championships” along the way for Notre Dame, including just two years ago when the Irish were vastly under-represented in a Camping World Bowl appearance that turned into a romp past Iowa State.

However, in its last nine biggest postseason appearances, including losses in the Rose, Orange, Sugar and multiple times in the Fiesta Bowl, Notre Dame has not won on the biggest stages of college football.

The Fighting Irish players in their fifth seasons are trying to crest a 2-2 mark in season-ending games; their wins in the Citrus Bowl after 2017 and Camping World Bowl after 2019 are offset by double-digit CFP losses following the 2018 and 2020 campaigns.

“I think the biggest goal for us is sending our seniors home the right way,” said senior captain and fellow defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa. “There's a lot of guys in here that have helped build this program to put it in the place where it is right now. Guys like Kurt, Drew [White], Josh Lugg, all those guys, Avery Davis. Been here with these guys, been here at this place with these guys for five years. It would be great to just send these guys home with a W.”

Isaiah Foskey, a third-year breakout-star for the Irish defense who might face the most pressing decision as it pertains to entering the NFL Draft or returning to South Bend, Indiana, for a fourth year, stresses Notre Dame’s desire to win – for this team and beyond.

“This is a game with just new beginnings, beginning the Coach [Marcus] Freeman era,” Foskey said. “As everyone knows, our new head coach is Coach Freeman. It just brings more of a hype to this game. This is one of Coach Freeman's first game, New Year's Six bowl game. It's just a great atmosphere.

“We're coming into this game to win the game.”

FREAKSHOW UP FRONT

Ever an engaging interview, Kurt Hinish again delivered Wednesday when he was asked to discuss one of the Fighting Irish’s younger contributors on the defensive line – and a cornerstone piece as the program transitions forward into the Freeman era: Rylie Mills.

He's the 6-foot-5-1/8-inch, 283-pounder continuing the carve a greater role and stamp a larger presence along the Irish defensive front.

“I mean, the kid is a freak. If you look at him walking down the hallway, you'd be extremely intimidated,” Hinish said of Mills. “His physical attributes and just his mentality of practicing every day. He's a hard worker. There's no surprise to see that he's seeing success this season. He works extremely

hard every single day. And when you're a physical freak and you work extremely hard, great things are destined to happen.”

Mills already has appeared in 21 career games, including all 12 this season, and owns five career tackles for losses, 3.5 of them quarterback sacks.

 
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