News and Notes: 12/29/2005

SCOTTSDALE- The Notre Dame football team practiced this afternoon at Scottsdale Community College in shells as they prepared for Monday's Fiesta Bowl contest against the Ohio State Buckeyes. This was the team's second practice out in Scottsdale (Tuesday was a conditioning session) and it appears as if head coach Charlie Weis is right on schedule with preparations.

"Today was 1st and 2nd down review and implementation of 3rd down," Weis said. "1st and 2nd down review went better than the 3rd down because 1st and 2nd down review is a repeat from yesterday whereas 3rd down is a whole new facet we're putting in. Tomorrow, we'll go over the stuff on 3rd down and clean that up and introduce red zone and goal line. You're always cleaning up one area and introducing another area. By the time of the game, there is nothing left to clean up."

Preparations have also been made for the team's New Year's Eve activities. While the team will have a "multi-function" event on Saturday night, the coaches aren't so lucky. Weis and his assistants will attend a black tie affair to ring in the New Year. While the head coach admitted to not being too much of a social butterfly, there is one positive in his mind to attending a dress-up function.

"The best part of it is that John Latina has not been in a tux since he got married," Weis said. "I'm really looking forward to that. Please take a lot of pictures of that."

*It came out in recent days that one of the people Weis leaned on for knowledge of preparing a team for a bowl game was current Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban. As you can remember, Saban won a national championship two years ago at the helm of the LSU Tigers and was part of Bill Belichick's staff in Cleveland before moving into the college game. Weis is also part of the Belichick/Parcells coaching tree.

After the Stanford game, Weis stayed out on the west coast for a recruiting trip in southern California. At the same time, Saban and the Dolphins were in the area preparing for the Oakland Raiders. The two met and talked for a half an hour.

Apparently, there was some productive advice offered by the college title-winning coach.

"He was one of those people who I went to and said, ‘Hey, how'd you do it?'" Weis said. "I have a lot of respect for Coach Saban. He gave me a half hour. It was a great resource for me."

*The Irish players have heard it not only from the media but Weis as well: it's been 11 years since Notre Dame's last bowl win. Not only have they lost seven bowl games in a row, the average margin of defeat has been 16 points. A loss in a bowl game can ruin recruiting momentum and a season's worth of hard work. Weis wants this team to finish on a high note.

"Everyone wants to go back to certain points in the season as turning points," Weis said. "They talk about the USC game. They talk about the Stanford game. Realistically, you remember it by how the season ends. If you go out and win the Fiesta Bowl against an opponent like Ohio State, you end up 10-2. Everyone is going to say what a great year and that you got that monkey off your back.

"If you lose to Ohio State, even by one point, everybody will say you were pretty good but you were 9-3. Pretty good just isn't good enough. Hopefully they're shooting for the same thing I am, which is ending with a flurry."

*Bowl week brings with it a lot of functions to attend either related to the sponsor of the game or the surrounding cities. The Fiesta Bowl is no different. Weis and his staff have to attend gathering after gathering while also getting the Irish players mentally and physically ready for the game. It's a tough task but Weis knows it's part of the job description.

"When you get involved in these bowl games, there are a lot of things you do at night," Weis said. "It's part of the package. I think it puts more strain on the coaches than the players because the players have got most of their mental preparation in whereas coaches have practice tapes to watch at night followed by cards to write. It's a long day but it's not a vacation. It's a work week."


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