News and Notes: 9-20-2005

*Many disappointments came from last Saturday's home loss to Michigan State. One of the bright spots was the play of the wide receivers. Maurice Stovall and Jeff Samardzija had career days. Matt Shelton had his first productive game of the season with six catches for 87 yards.

This was critical for the Notre Dame offense because of whom they were without. Rhema McKnight missed the Michigan State game because of a knee injury. Head coach Charlie Weis said at his press conference on Tuesday that the senior wide receiver has gone from "not playing to day to day." Because of NCAA rules in place, colleges do not have to disclose the full extent of injuries. So it is anyone's guess when McKnight will be back.

This is not to say he hasn't been contributing his input. McKnight was seen on the sidelines cheering on the team and talking to various players as they came off the field. Stovall said McKnight still has been watching film with his position players and is like another coach.

"He's watching the defense," Stovall said of McKnight during the Spartan game. "He's got on the phone a couple of times. He's very helpful."

*There were plenty of mistakes to go around in last weekend's loss. A glaring stat was the 12 penalties for 92 yards Notre Dame committed during the game. Most of these came when Michigan State was building their three-touchdown lead. Offensive line coach John Latina said the team would be working on cutting out the unnecessary fouls.

"The penalties last game was a problem for sure," Latina said. "We're working on that. We're doing some things to try to eliminate those. It's hard to be penalty free but you sure strive for it. That really hurt us in the last game. That's going to be an emphasis. It was today and it will be tomorrow."

Because of all these penalties and mistakes, Weis has made it a point that teaching fundamentals would be present this week at practice. In regards to the offensive line going back to the basics, Latina said everything the group does, either in practice or a game, starts with fundamentals.

"Offensive line is a fundamental work in progress," Latina said. "We're going to take as much fundamental time as we can get and use them for pure fundamentals. As a receiver, you use fundamentals to learn routes and how to learn a route. But as an offensive lineman, you have to do all things you have to do. You have to do run blocking, different variations of run blocking, pass protections. There is so much time you need for fundamentals and it's an ongoing process. As long as we have fundamental time, we're not going to use it for schemes but for fundamentals."

*Weis made it known the very first day to the media that he would be calling the plays. This has been golden so far as the offense has exploded for high yardage and points totals in two of three games (Pittsburgh and Michigan State). Offensive coordinator Michael Haywood is attentively learning the Weis system. He appears to be signaling in the plays during the games and has likened himself to a sponge soaking up whatever knowledge comes his way.

"Every week is a different week," Haywood said. "There are different obstacles in what you have to overcome during the week. It's a learning experience in how to handle each and every situation from sitting in a different chair from an assistant coach as an offensive coordinator.

"There's a general in the organization. I'm the captain in this organization. I salute and march up to the hill to whatever is being told."

*In three games, the Irish have scored 100 points. This is the best point total through three games since 1992 when the Lou Holtz-coached team put 111 against Northwestern (41), Michigan (17) and Michigan State (52).

Notre Dame also has gained over 500 yards in two of three contests. They totaled 502 vs. Pittsburgh and 594 against Michigan State.

*Irish fans can rest easy. With the trip out to the West Coast, there was a possibility that Keith Jackson could be up in the announcer's booth. He has drawn the scorn of Notre Dame fans over the years for his perceived bias against the Irish.

To the delight of many, ABC has Brad Nessler doing the play-by-play with Bob Griese as the analyst. Lynn Swann will handle the on-the-field reporting duties. This crew is sure to stay away from "Whoa Nellie."

*Washington is one of eight opponents in Division One that Notre Dame has never lost to (minimum four games in series). The others are California (4-0), Illinois (11-0), Minnesota (4-0-1), Rice (4-0), Rutgers (4-0), Tulane (8-0) and West Virginia (4-0).


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