SOUTH BEND – Amir Carlisle is not shy about saying that he has some extra motivation to perform well this weekend.
Notre Dame (4-2) plays host to USC (4-2) on Saturday night, which pits the junior running back against the team he started his college career with.
I’m not going to lie, said Carlisle, who transferred to Notre Dame from USC after his freshman season. Yeah, there’s an excitement for me personally to be able to face my former team. I’m not going to let that excitement deter me from my focus on the game itself. I’m going to approach this game like any other game, but there is a little extra excitement.
Carlisle understands how exciting a night game in Notre Dame Stadium between the two rivals can be after experiencing it from the other side in 2011.
He was on the Trojans’ return team when USC defeated Notre Dame 31-17 and went on to finish the season 10-2 and ranked No. 6 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.
It was the most, I guess you could say, live environment that we had that season, Carlisle said. It was Notre Dame. (Former USC coach Lane) Kiffin preached that the whole entire week, that this was a big game, this was Notre Dame. And I remember the energy that we had going into that game, it was very high. We got off the bus rocking the bus, so it was a great experience to come here and actually play.
Coach Brian Kelly said Carlisle’s chances to play against his former team will be dictated by the game and how the Irish’s other running backs perform Saturday.
Carlisle was a main part of Notre Dame’s running game to start the season, carrying the ball a team-high 30 times for 154 yards and catching seven passes for 30 yards in the first three games.
But after a fumble late in the Irish’s 31-24 win over Purdue on Sept. 14, Carlisle has run for only 24 yards on eight carries and does not have a reception in the last three games.
Kelly said Carlisle received plenty of reps during practice over Notre Dame’s bye week, and he expects to see a determined player Saturday.
I think you can see he’s pretty focused this week, Kelly said. My guess is he’s going to be excited about the opportunity to play against USC. So we’ll be keenly aware of his want to play very well against USC.
Carlisle said he is doing everything he can to get more opportunities to produce for Notre Dame, which has gotten 323 rushing yards from George Atkinson III, 259 rushing yards from Cam McDaniel and 69 rushing yards from Tarean Folston.
I’m a competitor. I want to play. I do, Carlisle said. It starts on the practice field. I’m just getting better each and every day. I’m going to continue to do what I do in terms of giving 110 percent on every play and when my number is called, I’m going to go out there and do what I can and try to make a play for my team.
Note: A day after defensive end Stephon Tuitt told Notre Dame’s student newspaper, the Observer, he will return for his senior season, Kelly told reporters the junior didn’t mean to declare a decision has been made. Kelly said decisions on players’ futures will not be made until after the season.