Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 18 of 55 OCT. 23, 2017 19 Mustipher, a senior computer sci- ence major, and Wimbush, a junior accountancy major, have embarked on a common off-field mission as well. Mustipher and Wimbush are on a team working alongside venture capitalists deciding where to invest money from Notre Dame's endow- ment fund. "We have two other team members we'll work alongside and possibly in- vest Notre Dame endowment dollars. Down the road, hopefully we grow it a little more and are able to invest higher check sizes," Mustipher said. "It actually started this fall. Brandon said, 'Would you be interested in do- ing this?' I said, 'Absolutely.' "We get to develop a relationship with early-stage startups in Silicon Valley." For now, Mustipher and Wim- bush also are "cashing in" with Notre Dame's rushing attack, which ranked No. 3 in the country at the end of Sep- tember with an average of 7.14 yards per rush — an improvement of nearly three yards from the 2016 clip for the 62nd-ranked Irish running game. "I feel like we're getting better each and every game," Mustipher said. "It's not just from a standpoint of blocking and knowing what to do. It's more so communication. When you can see through one set of eyes as an offensive line with five or six different guys, it just helps so much more. We're trying to work to get our communication perfect each and every snap." Now in his second season as a full-time starter, Mustipher credits a number of factors for his on-field improvement. "I think I'm better at seeing de- fenses in pre-snap and getting my- self situated, being able to see the defense versus being like, 'Breathe. Calm down,'" he said. "Now I just settle into my position. I have my routine, and I think that's what I got the best at." The prolific Irish rushing attack has also benefited from the new strength and conditioning program in 2017. Those dividends have paid off on a near weekly basis this fall. "It's incredible," Mustipher said. "Our training and conditioning staff is bar none one of the best I've ever had in my life, and I had a really good high school strength staff. It's awesome. We're in great shape. "As the game progresses, we just get stronger and faster, and I think it's a testament to the work we did in the offseason with this staff and a lot of what they've brought to the table." Mustipher endured a 4-8 cam- paign during his first experience as a starter, and he considers the low point of 2016 to have come in a 10-3 loss at North Carolina State. After a couple of poor snaps in hurricane conditions, Irish head coach Brian Kelly called Mustipher 's perfor- mance "atrocious." One year later, the Olney, Md., na- tive shrugs off the comment. "I didn't really react to it nega- tively at all," he said. "It was more so that college football, football in gen- eral, sports in general, life in general, it's a production game. If you don't produce, you're going to be held re- sponsible for that. "I can't get mad at a guy that's coaching me to be the best player I can be. I didn't do my job, and it's the same for [other professions]. If you don't do your job, something's going to come down on you. I wasn't mad at all." After Notre Dame's 38-18 win at Michigan State on a hot and humid evening in September, Kelly singled out Mustipher again — in a different way. "We do a highlight video of our offensive linemen, and he was not in the clips last week — not that he didn't play great, because he played pretty good," Kelly said. "But there were some hellacious hits from some other players, and he took that personal. "He is all over the [Michigan State] highlight clips, and that's the kind of pride he has in his perfor- mance. … It was late in the game, and he was all over the place. … He's made great strides in that area. He takes great pride in it. He was really impressive." Fifth-year senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey has also seen the im- provements from Mustipher and noted his pre-snap development. "Sam does a great job for us up front, not only just executing and blocking, but he controls what we do up front," the captain said. "Every call that we have goes through Sam. He identifies the fronts, and he makes sure we're all on the same page. "He's taking that role with a great responsibility, and he has done an awesome job and is going to keep growing." Whether it's erasing the taste from a 4-8 season a year ago or figuring out where to invest money with ven- ture capitalists, Mustipher is commit- ted to excellence. It's reaping divi- dends in 2017. ✦ INSIDE FORCE Senior center Sam Mustipher is a major piece of a dominant Irish rushing attack "I feel like we're getting better each and every game." MUSTIPHER ON NOTRE DAME'S OFFENSIVE LINE Mustipher and his fellow linemen cleared the way for Irish ball carriers to rank third in the nation with 7.14 yards per rush heading into October. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA BY ANDREW OWENS C onsidering the long hours a quarterback and center spend together during a college foot- ball season, few would blame them for not being close off the field as well. But that's not the approach Irish center Sam Mustipher and signal-caller Brandon Wimbush have taken.

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