BC looks for respect vs. Notre Dame

NEWTON, Mass. -- Even though Alex Albright grew up about 250 miles from South Bend, Ind., he got a pretty good taste of what Notre Dame football is all about while playing high school ball for Cincinnati's St. Xavier.

"The [BC] community feels a little disrespected just because BC is considered a lesser program. But for me, personally, being from that area, I've been growing up with Notre Dame in my face my entire life," the Boston College senior defensive end said Wednesday, three days before the "Holy War" at Alumni Stadium. "I feel like I know the monster that's coming in a lot more ways than people that don't have experience with Notre Dame."

Four Irish players are also from Cincinnati.

"So it's a lot easier for me to respect them whereas other people feel like we're not getting respect because we're the little guy," Albright said. "But I know their mindset -- I know they're America's team; they're the team that everybody's looking at, so it's only natural that they're going to think we're a lesser program and this is just an opportunity for us to get respect."

After getting shut out for the first time in 12 years in last Saturday's 19-0 loss to Virginia Tech, the Eagles (2-1) have a long way to go to get back to respectable. The Irish (1-3) do, too.

But while their records might not make the game seem worthy of its 8 p.m. Saturday night slot on ABC, BC's quarterback controversy this week is bringing some intrigue to what might seem like an otherwise lackluster matchup.

After BC coach Frank Spaziani said Sunday that Chase Rettig and Mike Marscovetra would battle to replace the benched Dave Shinskie, The Boston Globe quoted an anonymous team source on Tuesday saying Rettig would get the start Saturday.

"I'm comfortable with whoever the coaches are comfortable starting," Albright said. "For me, the change doesn't play a big role. I'm comfortable with whoever they throw in there -- Chase or [Marscovetra] or a walk-on. If they put him in there, I have to be behind them 100 percent."

Albright finally has full confidence in his own game after suffering a season-ending broken arm as a sophomore and a season-ending neck injury last year. He said all his time off the field taught him how to recover from setbacks more quickly.

"Breaking my arm, that kind of set it off," he said. "I looked in the mirror and said, 'Where are you gonna go from here? You gotta suck it up, you gotta keep going.' So when I hurt my neck, it was the same thing: You gotta bounce back. There's no time to look in mirror and feel sorry for myself."

Last week he had a career-high seven tackles against Virginia Tech and he leads the defensive line this year with 13 tackles. He also leads the team with five tackles for loss and has two pass breakups and an interception.

"That's just me becoming more comfortable with the guys playing around me," Albright said. "We have a couple new faces on defense. When you're comfortable with the people around you, you can take more chances and kind of not worry about what they're doing."

No matter how well he's playing, Albright knows the defense will have its work cut out for it against the Irish, whose passing game has been one of the top in the country this season. Notre Dame ranks seventh overall, averaging 315 yards a game with quarterback Dayne Crist completing 60 percent of his passes, including eight touchdowns. Running back Armando Allen is also averaging 75 yards per game.

"He's outrageous," Albright said of Allen. "The cuts he can make, he reminds me of a C.J. Spiller kind of player."

Albright is even more familiar with his friend from high school, Kyle Rudolph, who set a Notre Dame record for tight ends against Michigan with 164 receiving yards.

"He's a great player and having a great year," Albright said. "He is someone we're going to have to contain. [BC sophomore linebacker] Luke Kuechly did a good job on him last year."

But not all of Albright's high school friends slated to play in South Bend made it there. Matt James died in April after falling from his Panama City, Fla., hotel balcony during spring break. The 6-foot-6, 291-pound offensive tackle was a USA Today first-team All-American.

Albright said he and Kuechly, who also played for St. Xavier, might display James' No. 77 somewhere on their uniforms during Saturday's game.

"His parents are going to be here," Albright said. "We try to always stick together as a community."

Albright hopes the Eagles, who beat Notre Dame six straight seasons before losing in South Bend last year 20-16, can put on a show for both his Catholic communities under the lights.

"I love it," he said of night games. "The only part that stinks is you can't go out with your family afterward. But night games have been some of the most fun games here. The student section is the most rowdy. I wish we could play night games all the time."

Justin A. Rice is contributor to ESPNBoston.com. He 's also a staff reporter for the Metro Boston newspaper who covers local news, and can be reached at rice.ju@gmail.com.