Forward Thinking

A tone was set early and often at the Notre Dame football press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Head coach Charlie Weis sent a message to his players and the media that they were on the cusp of the "season opener" this Saturday against BYU. The first half of the year, including the crushing 34-31 loss to USC, was over and not be discussed.

"As we begin the second half of our season, we're approaching it that way, the message to the team this week is this is the start and it's the first game of the second half of the season," Weis said. "As you talk to our players and coaches this week, they're only going to be talking about the second half of the season; they're not going to be talking about the first half of the season. So don't bother asking the questions on that because they won't be talking about it."

A few reporters tried to reflect back on the USC game but Weis threw the questions right back at them.

Q: The defensive line last week…

Weis: I'm not talking about last week. I'm not talking BYU.

Q: After seeing him in person, what are your impressions on Matt Leinart?

Weis: I'm sorry to disappoint you but I'm not talking about USC.

This is the message emanating from Weis and the Irish football program as they approach not only BYU but the remaining five games on the schedule. The USC game was an instant classic. There were great individual performances on both sides of the ball. But in the black and white world of wins and losses, Notre Dame did not come up with the victory. Despite the game's greatness, there are no positives in dwelling on a defeat.

"It's a whole different theme," offensive line coach John Latina. "We got to treat this like a new season. It's the second half and it's a whole new season. We want to get the season off on the right foot. We got them at home. We want to hammer that home. We want our kids to buy into that and it's real critical. We look at it that way. It's a new beginning and I hope we can get our kids excited. We have an opportunity to win at home."

Weis said Monday that he not only had to build his players back up but his coaches as well. This is understandable when one thinks what level of preparation and emotion was invested into the Trojan game. The buzz phrase of the week is "emotional hangover" and Weis has his work cut out for him in trying to refocus the team. The Irish players know there is nowhere to look but to this weekend.

"We have to," wide receiver Jeff Samardzija said. "There is no choice unless there is some new nifty machine that can go back and change the past. We have no other choice. This is the start of our new season and game number one on our list."

That is the message that Weis will try to pound into his team. The players are human and thoughts of being oh-so-close last weekend are normal. Even if the team had won, though, what good would it do to dream this week about the upset win? The players know it'll be a challenge but are looking ahead to finishing the season on a high note starting this weekend against BYU.

"It's as tough as someone makes it on you," running back Darius Walker said about forgetting about the USC game. "For me individually, it's best if we just let go of what happened last weekend. It's best that we don't think about that too much and let that go so we can prevail in the second half of the season. We have a lot more games coming up and we have to keep our minds focused. The best thing for us is to let the first half of the season go.

"Everybody saw that as one of the great games. We try to look past that and try to let that go and move on with the second half of the season. The most important game of the weekend is coming up this weekend and try not to focus on the past." Top Stories