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    Jerome Bettis Stars in New EPA Ad

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    If you checked out Irish UNDerground last month, you may have read about Jerome Bettis and his efforts on Capitol Hill. The Bus also recently teamed up with the EPA to talk about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which will help limit pollution from power plants. Here's more on the former Irish running back's recent work.

    Fuel Fix - The Bus is on the EPA bandwagon.

    Jerome Bettis, the iconic Pittsburgh Steelers running back affectionately known as "The Bus," is starring in a new Environmental Protection Agency ad touting the need for new regulations to limit pollution from power plants, POLITICO reported.

    Bettis, who suffers from asthma, has campaign for two new regulations - the MACT and Cross-State Air Pollution - that aim at cutting air pollution produced from power plants and ease health issues associated with the smog.

    The EPA released its first-ever standards for mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants, capping a long debate with Republicans and utility companies over the new regulations.

    The agency is still working with business, states and Republicans over regulations that would regulate cross-state air pollution. Texas and Gov. Rick Perry have vocally opposed both measures.

    Bettis, who meet with EPA Chief Lisa Jackson last month, said the regulations are important to reduce air pollution and ease health concerns, including asthma, associated with the pollution.

    - Dan X. McGraw

    A Model That Works

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    The Responsibility Project

    The Responsibility Project by Liberty Mutual recently featured a roundtable on the state of college sports and includes Troy Vincent, who says around the 4:10 mark, "Notre Dame has a model that works for student-athletes."

    Vincent played college football at Wisconsin and is currently the vice president of the NFL Player Engagement Organization.

    Rudolph Named To NFP All-Rookie Team

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    rudolphrookie.jpgProps to former Irish tight end Kyle Rudolph on being named to the 2011 NFP All-Rookie offensive team. Here's an excerpt from NFP's site on Rudolph, who scored his third professional touchdown on - appropriately - Christmas Eve while guiding Minnesota to a 33-26 win over Washington.

    NationalFootballPost.com - 2010 had one of the best tight end classes ever. This year wasn't quite as good. Two stood out from an average class and they were Rudolph and Lance Kendricks with St. Louis. Kendricks is more of a move tight end while Rudolph has the bulk, size and power to play as an inline tight end and the speed and finesse to be a move type. He put up good numbers with 39 catches and 3 touchdowns.

    Notre Dame 14, Florida State 18

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    Live Chat - Football vs. Florida State

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    It's time.

    Time for the Champs Sports Bowl. Time for a win. Time for Notre Dame football.

    Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

    Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

    Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

    Following Flynt - It's Finally Here

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    While the NFL often has a two-week break between the conference championships and Super Bowl, college football is the only sport where teams have anywhere from a month to almost six weeks between their final regular season game and postseason bowl. After weeks of meetings, film sessions and practices, it's finally time for Notre Dame and Florida State to hit the field at Citrus Bowl Stadium for the 22nd Champs Sports Bowl.

    The Irish are at an interesting crossroads, particularly at the quarterback position. Though Tommy Rees has led the team for much of the year, Andrew Hendrix saw significant action against Stanford and should see plenty of time in tonight's game. With Everett Golson sitting out this season to preserve his eligibility, there could be a three-man quarterback battle come spring practice and training camp. How Rees and Hendrix perform tonight could certainly factor into who has the upper hand heading into next season.

    In a matchup reminiscent of the great teams of the 1980's, last year's Irish squad jumped out to a 27-3 halftime lead, on their way to a 33-17 Sun Bowl victory over the Miami Hurricanes.

    Today, it's a bit of a flashback to the 90's, specifically the 1993 "Game of the Century" between the #1 Seminoles and second-ranked Fighting Irish. Though it doesn't have the hype or significance as those games of years past, it presents a similar opportunity to last year's bowl - a chance to send these seniors off with a victory and resounding final memory of their Notre Dame football careers.

    That's not to say the coaches, staff and underclassmen aren't also deserving of a win. They've put in months of work and made their share of sacrifices as well.

    However, people might forget that this senior class came to Notre Dame on the heels of a 3-9 season. They have gone through a coaching change and countless season-ending injuries. They have endured the tragic Declan Sullivan accident and the passing of former student manager and team intern Xavier Murphy. Yet they've stuck together and represented Notre Dame in a way that makes us proud to call ourselves students, alumni and fans of this university.

    All cliches aside, they have show significant growth and maturation since 2008 (or in the case of the fifth-year players, 2007 season), have helped to shift the culture of Notre Dame football and have created the foundation for the next great Irish team of the future. They've been involved with service projects like St. Baldrick's Day and started new traditions, such as "Trick Shot Monday."

    It's going to be an exciting afternoon here in OrlaNDo, and hopefully the exclamation point on a great week. As a recent graduate, I feel as though I've been along for the entire journey of the fifth-year players (my classmates) and senior class, sharing in the victories and heartbreaks over the past few seasons.

    But it was this 2011 season, working with the team, in which I have seen a different side of Notre Dame football. I've gotten to know some of the players, coaches and staff, and my connection to the team runs deeper than it did while rooting from the student section. Tonight, I would love nothing more than to see this group hoisting the trophy and celebrating a Champs Sports Bowl victory at midfield of Citrus Bowl Stadium.

    Go Irish. Beat FSU.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

    Following Flynt - Almost Game Day in OrlaNDo

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    It's crunch time here in OrlaNDo. Tomorrow is the day the Irish have been waiting for since they fell to Stanford in Palo Alto on Nov. 26.

    With only about thirty hours until game time, the team headed out to the Hilton Orlando Hotel for the Champs Sports Bowl kickoff luncheon. They will have a short break at the team hotel later this afternoon, before a trip to the Citrus Bowl Stadium for a final walkthrough and team photo.

    As I wrote about yesterday, both the Irish and the Florida State Seminoles visited Give Kids The World village on Tuesday morning. It was not only a great service event, but also a way for the teams to enjoy some time together for a good cause before they clash on the field on Thursday.

    The "Our Team, Our Story" video above highlights some of the activities that the players participated in, but also provides a glimpse of the very entertaining dance-off that broke out between the teams. Several of the players showed off their moves during the "Cupid Shuffle" and "Teach Me How to Dougie," with Brandon Newman, Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick stealing the show.

    Bowl games always give gift packages to the players from each team, often including an assortment of clothing and electronics. For this year's Champs Sports Bowl, each player received a gift card to Best Buy, and the Irish went on their shopping spree last night after dinner. It was awfully entertaining to see over 100 Irish football players enter Best Buy at once, like kids in a candy store, trying to decide what to purchase.

    With no academic responsibilities during the semester break, the Irish have certainly had their share of fun this week, but they've also balanced it with their usual football activities, meetings and practices. Though today is only Wednesday on the calendar, it's a Friday in the eyes of the team. Right now they're focused on one task and one task only - beating Florida State tomorrow, closing out 2011 with a W and heading into the new year with momentum for the 2012 season.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

    Following Flynt - Irish "Give Kids The World"

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    Screen shot 2011-12-27 at 4.29.54 PM.png

    With kickoff just over 48 hours away, today was the equivalent of a Thursday if this were a normal game week. Some rain passed through OrlaNDo this afternoon, as the Irish hit the practice field for the final time this season. They will hold one final walkthrough tomorrow, before battling Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29.

    But before focusing on football after an early lunch at the hotel, the Irish joined the Seminoles for a great morning at the Give Kids The World Village in nearby Kissimmee. Give Kids The World is a "70-acre, nonprofit 'storybook' resort, located near Central Florida's most beloved attractions, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations."

    As Louise, one of the volunteers at GKTW said to the players as they arrived, "You want it to be the best Tuesday of their lives, and you're going to make that happen for them today."

    Taking some time away from football, the Irish and the Seminoles brightened up the lives of many children, and spread joy to their families, simply by spending quality time with them.

    For fans, sometimes the emotional interest invested in the outcomes of games causes us to overlook the fact that teams are more than collections of athletes. People always see the hard-hitting, physical and aggressive side of college football players.

    But sports and life, are about much more than that. They are about the children's laughter and the smiles on the faces of their parents as they get ice cream from Darius Fleming and autographs from Michael Floyd and Harrison Smith, take pictures with Manti Te'o, dance with Mike Golic Jr. and Andrew Hendrix and play catch with Carlo Calabrese and Jamoris Slaughter. (These, just a few of the special moments I saw this morning.)

    The children and their families enjoyed their day, not because they got to spend it with athletes who've scored big touchdowns or made important tackles, but because they were struck by the kindness of complete strangers. They were surrounded by a team of young men, a group of student-athletes whose lives, at the end of the day, will be measured in the positive impact they had on the world and those around them, not in the accolades they achieve on the football field.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

    Following Flynt - Tradition Tuesday

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    When Notre Dame and Florida State meet on Thursday in the 22nd Champs Sports Bowl, the game will not have the BCS implications that many may have suspected at the start of the 2011 season. Ranked No. 16 and No. 6 respectively in the preseason Associated Press polls, both the Fighting Irish and the Seminoles fell short of expectations. Still, this week's game at the Florida Citrus Bowl has particular intrigue because the winning program will have momentum and a leg up on preparation for the 2012 season.

    But the future is not the only reason this matchup is being discussed as one of the more interesting non-BCS bowl games of 2011. It is also about the past. Over the long history of college football, Florida State may only be a blip on the radar. They started playing football in 1947 and have won two national championships, compared with Notre Dame's eleven titles.

    However, the Seminoles are one of the most accomplished teams of the last quarter-century. They won ten or more games in 14 consecutive seasons from 1987-2000, and this season marks their 30th straight year playing in a postseason bowl.

    Florida State and Notre Dame have played six times, with the Seminoles holding a 4-2 advantage. The teams met most recently in 2003 (a 37-0 FSU victory), and most notably, a decade earlier, in 1993.

    ESPN's College GameDay took its show on the road for the first time, visiting South Bend for the "Game of the Century" between the top-ranked Seminoles and No. 2 Fighting Irish. NBC began the broadcast with nearly a three-minute segment narrated by Bob Costas, considered by many one of the greatest pregame introductions ever. (Speaking of which, I would love for NBC to bring back this music from that game for its current Notre Dame broadcasts. So 90's.)

    And somehow, with all the hype, the game itself did not disappoint. The Irish jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead and led by two scores late in the fourth quarter. However, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward would not back down. The Florida State quarterback hit Kez McCorvey for a touchdown to make it 31-24 and the Seminole defense forced a three-and-out on Notre Dame's next possession.

    Ward drove the Seminoles deep into Irish territory, but on the game's final play, Notre Dame defensive back Shawn Wooden batted down his pass near the end zone to preserve the victory.

    Notre Dame seemed to be in the driver's seat for the national championship, but the Irish lost to Boston College the following week, and it was Florida State who had the last laugh, going on to defeat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and claim its first title.

    In the 1996 Orange Bowl, Bobby Bowden and Lou Holtz's squads met again. Notre Dame built a 26-14 lead, but Florida State scored the game's final 17 points to win 31-26. It was the Seminoles tenth-straight bowl victory and the second of nine consecutive bowl losses for the Irish.

    In 2002, No. 6 Notre Dame visited Tallahassee, Fla. as a double-digit underdog. On the first Irish play from scrimmage, Carlyle Holiday hit Arnaz Battle for a 65-yard touchdown pass. In the third quarter, Notre Dame forced three turnovers over a four-minute span and opened up a 27-10 lead and went on to defeat the No. 11 Seminoles, 34-24.

    In recent years, neither team has achieved the level of success it aspires to reach, but Thursday marks the beginning of a new chapter in this young series. Both Florida State and Notre Dame are on the rise, so do not be surprised if we see the Seminoles and Fighting Irish battling for postseason supremacy again sometime in the near future. The winner of the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando moves one step closer to being back among college football's elite.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

    Following Flynt - Day Four in OrlaNDo

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    Today in OrlaNDo was a busy day for the Irish, as they held their second-to-last practice before this week's Champs Sports Bowl matchup against Florida State. After a couple of days inside the Citrus Bowl Stadium, this afternoon's practice moved to nearby McCracken Field.

    Afterwards, the team enjoyed lunch from a local barbecue restaurant, before many of the players headed to Universal Studios. The big hit of the day was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, a steel roller coaster and one of the park's main attractions. The Revenge of the Mummy ride was also a team favorite, and though most who made the trip spent the evening at Universal Studios, some checked out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter over at Universal's Islands of Adventure.

    On Christmas night, many of the players visited Disney World, and as you might see from the "Our Team, Our Story" video above, the Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster can even frighten 20-year-old college football players.

    The week is going by quickly and the bowl game is soon approaching. Tomorrow, the Irish will visit the Give Kids The World Village for an event with the Florida State team and they will have their final practice of the week before a walkthrough on Wednesday.

    With the second university charter plane arriving today and fans continuing to invade OrlaNDo, central Florida is beginning to look more and more like Irish territory as Coach Kelly and his team prepare to take on the Florida State Seminoles.

    We'll be back tomorrow with updates on Irish UNDerground and our football Facebook page.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

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