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Eric Olsen and Rocket Ismail fire up the fans

If you see any typos, please excuse them, as my hands are still thawing out. Just walked into the hotel after a long day but figured I’d give a quick update on the pep rally. For those of us who haven’t been back to campus in a few years, there has been a ridiculous amount of change to the university. The Eddy Street Commons are a goliath retail/residential/commercial development that have to be a godsend for students. (They have a Chipotle and Five Guys, so what more do you need?)

The performing arts building is also gigantic, and the new Irish Green is just a really big quad with a stage in the middle of it.

That was the site of the pep rally, which did an admirable job filling in for the JACC as renovations are getting finished. While the open-air environment certainly lets some of the energy sneak out, it was still a pretty great experience. A friend who is visiting Notre Dame for the first time spent more than a few dollars at the book store buying trinkets and t-shirts before taking everything in at the pep-rally. While it pales in comparison to the electric setting of some of the big ones at the JACC, Eric Olsen and Rocket Ismail did their best to get the crowd charged up.

Olsen had some of the best lines of the night, pulling out a copy of today’s Observer and calling out -- by name, no less -- the staff writers that picked against the Irish. Particularly earning Olsen’s scorn was Managing Editor Bill Brink, who gave the Irish no chance to win. (Congrats, Bill -- it’s a nice feeling, right?)

If Olsen’s words were an appetizer, Rocket Ismail was the main course. Rocket had the crowd in a frenzy, as he stalked around the stage, bringing an energy to the microphone that hadn’t been seen in a long time. “This is not a game,” Ismail chanted repeatedly. He had the packed crowd look to their left and their right, each time repeating a manta to their neighbor. “Don’t flinch,” he’d yell. “Go and get it,” he’d chant. “Don’t flinch,” he’d repeat. “This is not a game...”

(Consider this the extent of every conversation I have tonight at the bar...)

Rocket had just about everyone ready to run through a wall -- energizing a crowd that might have been growing cold as the night approached. Charlie Weis shut down the proceedings with a pretty great speech himself, and took offense to the fuzzy logic Steve Sarkisian used when analyzing the two teams playing tomorrow. (Anyone who would do that, is obviously a great mind...)

It’s very clear that the Irish expect to win tomorrow. I’ve been to plenty of pep rallies, and each time you hear similar sentiments that echo the bland rhetoric we’re all used to. But tonight, the members of the team and guest speakers Ismail and Joe Thiesmann all were clearly singing the same chorus: Tomorrow night, we celebrate an Irish win.

We’ll find out in 12 hours.