High Character

Of all of the many things that Coach Weis has said since returning to Notre Dame as the head football coach, one has stuck with me in particular. Asked in the Spring of 2005 to assess his team (which had yet to play a game under his leadership) he responded approximately: "We have a lot of high character guys on this team. And with high character guys you always have a chance."

I never doubted that Notre Dame's football team had a lot of high character guys. Just listening to a few interviews of them should be enough to convince you of that. And it's not that Notre Dame has a monopoly on character guys (though I think they are much better represented at ND than almost any program, though the service academies certainly are stocked with them).

It's just that I never correlated it to winning. But when I watched the Irish play last year something occurred to me: Finally ND had a coach who put the intelligence and the character of the players to good use.

The previous two coaching regimes could win games only if the Irish owned a significant athletic advantage at most of the key positions. If the athletic match-up was close or favored the other team, it took a major coaching blunder by the other staff for ND to win. To be sure this happened occasionally, but more often the shoe was on the other foot as with the Boston College games from 2001 through 2004, the BYU and Pitt games in 2004, and several other examples that most devoted ND fans can recall.

But for the first time since Lou Holtz restlessly patrolled the Irish sidelines, it appeared to me that we had a decided coaching advantage and that the ND team's character, fight and heart were being put to good use.

No better example of that could have been drawn up than the Irish giving up a quick TD to favored Pittsburgh in the opener but then racing back to take a 42-13 lead before Weis called off the dogs in the fourth quarter. Down to Michigan State by 21, they roared back to force overtime. Backs against the wall against USC, they drove the length of the field in a half dozen or so plays to take the lead. Tied up by Tennessee, a clutch connection on a crossing route set up a 20-point run to put the game away. A BCS bowl on the line against Stanford…..another critical touchdown drive. Outmanned by OSU……a fourth-down conversion sets up a TD to bring the game within reach at 27-20.

I don't know that this team won't lose this season, but I do know this: It won't go down easily because high character guys always give you a chance.

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