News and Notes 8-30-2005

*Head coach Charlie Weis said Monday's workout would be an intense one and that it was time to turn it up a few notches. The practice was the first of the week after the coaches gave the players off on Sunday. With time dwindling down towards the opening kickoff, it was all business yesterday in preparing for Pittsburgh.

"It was easily, by far, the most upbeat practice we've had, including training camp," Weis said. "They all understood on both sides of the ball and on special teams what the tempo was supposed to be. There's a fine line between getting them ready to go and making sure you don't wear them down, too. We had a plan for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which grades down physically each day, and grades up mentally each day. I think that we got what we were looking for yesterday in our intro to Pittsburgh, and now it's move on to phase two."

"Guys stepped in and focused," offensive coordinator Michael Haywood said about this week's preparations for Pitt. "We realize that it's game week. When you start preparing for game week, you have to come with a different psychological disposition. You have to approach the game in a very competitive situation and you have to play to win. Whatever is takes to win, you have to play to win."

*Alot of the talk this off-season has been about Weis rebuilding the program, raising expectations and getting the players to buy into the new system. Irish fans are in love with their new head coach because of his blunt speaking style and the rejuvenation of the program. But Weis, who has not won or lost a game yet here at Notre Dame, knows this love fest can turn in a hurry.

"We'll see how popular I am Sunday," Weis said. "You know how that goes. I think that I've done a lot of things, a lot of things to bring a positive vibe to the program, but it still really comes down to how you play. I mean, when you talk it's easy to get up here and sit there and say, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that. But really, it then comes down to whether or not the same thing follows it to the field. I'm anxious more than anything else to finally get that going."

*Weis has seemed upbeat the last week during practice and interview sessions. He has a good reason to be. At practice Tuesday, there was only one player in a green jersey and not suited up in pads. That was wide receiver Michael O'Hara. The Irish are as healthy as can be heading into a tough match-up under the lights at Pittsburgh.

The Panthers, though, do have a few injury concerns early in the week. Linebacker Clint Session and defensive lineman Charles Smith are both nursing knee injuries but Wannstedt said there is a chance they could play this weekend. Smith, a 6-4 300-pound senior, was moved inside to the tackle spot after registering 4.5 TFL's and three sacks at defensive end in 2004. Session was the team's second leading tackler last year and also switched positions this off-season from middle linebacker to the strong side backer. Greg Lee, Pitt's all everything wide receiver, hurt his shoulder early in fall camp but is back practicing with the team and Wannstedt expects his star player to be fully ready for Notre Dame.

*Stat of the day: Many have made the case that Darius Walker having a big year at halfback will translate into a big year for the Irish. In regards to the Pitt game, since 1990, Notre Dame is 8-0 versus the Panthers when at least one Notre Dame runner goes over 100 rushing yards.

To do that, the offensive line will have to open up some holes for Walker and the other backs. Many hold the belief that the game is won or lost by the play of the lines. Offensive line coach John Latina has seen some improvement each day from his veteran group who look to improve on the 127 rushing yards a game the team averaged in 2004.

"We got a good group of kids," Latina said. "They're smart kids and they're continuously getting better. The biggest thing for me is that I think we're better today than we were two days ago or three days ago. That's what we really look forward to each and every day."

*The Pittsburgh game was one of the several close games the Irish were involved in last season. Notre Dame was 4-3 in games decided by eight points of less. Unfortunately, the Panthers were one of the three losses. A last-minute drive by Tyler Palko set up the game-winning field with a second left on the clock to seal the Irish's fate.

"It was definitely a tough game last year, one that for a lot of us was hard on," offensive lineman Dan Stevenson said. "We went out real excited and tried to win but the breaks didn't go our way. Anytime you have a loss like that, you always have it in the back of your mind.

"There were a lot of close games last year. The talent we have coming back and the talent we have on this team, we are all very excited about the opportunities here." Top Stories