News and Notes 9-21-2005

*The Notre Dame football team has a little different travel schedule than the first two road trips. They will leave tomorrow night after practice and arrive in Seattle late Thursday night or early Friday morning. This allows for the players to adjust to the long flight. The first two trips, the team left on Friday because of shorter distances. Weis said he will let his players sleep in a little bit on Friday before heading to Husky Stadium for a walk-through to work up a sweat.

The Irish have been impressive on the road so far this season. Big wins at Pittsburgh and Michigan got the 2005 season off to a roaring start. The loss last weekend to Michigan State gives Notre Dame a chance once again to find that groove away from South Bend. Weis likes the camaraderie he sees from the team while traveling.

"This team has shown a strong bond on the road," Weis said. "It's a good thing. On the road, it's even better for me than in the NFL because in the NFL as soon as you get there, there are limos waiting to take them out to dinner or out to the golf course. Our guys get there, we go to the hotel, we go to meetings and we go to dinner. Really, there are a lot less distractions in college because everyone is just getting ready to play the game. It's really a nice thing."

*The Husky team the Irish face on Saturday has not exactly been explosive on offense. They are averaging 22.7 points per game and 360 yards per contest (129.7 rush, 230.3 pass). The quarterback leading the charge is 6'3" junior Isaiah Stanback. He's athletic and can scramble. Secondary coach Bill Lewis gave the media a thorough scouting report on Stanback and the Huskies personnel.

"You have a football team in Washington that does a lot of similar things that Michigan State did," Lewis said. "They're very athletic at quarterback. The guy can makes plays throwing the ball. He's got a strong arm. The receivers are never going to outrun his ability to throw it down the field. He's very dangerous when he pulls the ball down. He runs extremely well. He has the ability to make people miss. He can outrun people with his speed.

"They've got similar group of people as far as their receivers are concerned. They got two or three tight ends they roll on the field that do things that catch your eye. Much like last week's opponent, they have five or six receivers they roll onto the field. They have not shown five wide receivers yet but they have the ability to do so. They do a lot with three or four wide receivers on the field. They are one of those teams that will spread you out and make you defend the whole field."

*Weis pointed out Wednesday that he was saw improvement from the defense during the Michigan State game. In the first half, the defense gave up 24 points. In the second half and overtime, they surrendered 13 points (seven points came on Brady Quinn's interception return for a touchdown). For the game, Michigan State gained almost 500 yards of total offense.

Weis has been trying to get that consistency point through to his team. Wednesday's practice theme was this very same thing. In regards to the defense, Weis said he didn't see it versus the Spartans.

"The way that they played in the second half was encouraging to tell you the truth," Weis said. "The first half was discouraging. The second half was encouraging. It was kind of a tale of two halves in that game. If they would have played flat the entire game, that would have been more of a concern. I'm more concerned with the consistency of the fact that you can play some periods so well and some periods not so well."

*Irish fans should get to know this name before Saturday's game against Washington: Manase Hopoi. The 290 pound, 6'4" defensive tackle has quite an impressive resume over his four plus years as a Husky. Last season, he led the Pac-10 Conference in tackles for loss with 22 and added nine sacks. The 22 TFL's also were fourth best in the nation. Hopoi's best day last season came vs. the national champions USC Trojans, where he registered six TFL's and three sacks. Hopoi has not slowed down in 2005. Through three games, he has 5 TFL's and four sacks. He will be a challenge for the Notre Dame offensive line, who to this point have allowed six sacks.

*Tyrone Willingham brought to Washington a lot of the assistants he had at Notre Dame. Included in that group is defensive coordinator Kent Baer. He ran the defense in his three years with the Irish. Weis said that's one advantage his team has because when assistants leave, they can take everything but the playbook. Asked a question about whether or not either side has an edge concerning knowing the schemes of the other team, Weis was terse and confident about his players.

"I think we just know our personnel pretty well," Weis said.

A key point, though: None of the current Husky staff have ever worked with any of the current Irish coaches. They might know the players and the schemes of each other but the coaches are not familiar with how the opposing staff operates.

*Last season was a brutal one for Washington. The team suffered through a 1-10 campaign, their first losing season in 27 years. The last time they had a losing year was way back in 1976. To put that in perspective, Notre Dame has six below. 500 years between 1976 and 2004. This was the impetus for the coaching change to Tyrone Willingham. This year, they are 1-2 with losses to Air Force and California and a win over Idaho. Despite the early season struggles, the team has experience. They have eight returning starters on offense and nine on defense. Also, the kicker, Evan Knudson, and punter, Sean Douglas, are back for the special teams.


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