Nothing went right for the Irish. Head coach Charlie Weis must find some quick answers because next weekend, Notre Dame travels to East Lansing to face 3-0 Michigan State. The contest is at night and it won't be a friendly atmosphere to try to get the season back on the right track. Weis and the staff will have their work cut out for themselves this week in trying to get the players over the mental hurdle of the Wolverine whipping.
"You have to tell them that no matter what that one game doesn't make or break a season," Weis said on Sunday. "I think it's been pointed out before, the ramifications of a loss. But I think that if you really stick with my philosophy, which is breaking the season into a bunch of one game entities, once again, because we have a formidable opponent like Michigan State on the horizon on the road, it's going to get their attention in a hurry."
Despite the loss, the ever confident Weis has not lost any of his swagger.
"My confidence is not shaken one bit," Weis said. "You've known me well enough by now that that's not a façade. I'm not a liar. I'm a very truthful person. ‘Not shaken but stirred.' Remember that? I might be stirred, but it's not shaken."
One of Weis's characteristics is never to point the finger. After every one of his four losses, the Notre Dame head coach goes in front of the media and shoulders the blame publicly. He did the same thing after the contest yesterday and wasn't backing down from this position on Sunday.
"When you come out and you have your point of emphasis and none of them come through, obviously who else can you point to?" Weis wondered. "You say you want to take care of the ball. We have five turnovers. You say you want to run the ball. You run the ball for less than a yard average. You say you want to stop the run. For the most part, you stop the run except for five big plays. We always try to stop big plays on defense. Three touchdown passes.
"It's a whole number of things that you put them all together. But probably the biggest telling tale is when your team has 11 penalties in a game, okay? A lot of those penalties come from a lack of discipline. Who else can you fault for the lack of discipline but yourself?"
Weis may take the blame himself but there were a lot to spread around. Quarterback Brady Quinn looked nothing like the Heisman Trophy candidate he's supposed to be. The senior signal caller completed just fifty percent of his passes. Michigan sacked him three times and was consistently getting pressure. The biggest negative: four turnovers from Quinn, three via interceptions and one lost fumble that was returned 54 yards for a touchdown. Weis's biggest fault with him was an interception in the third quarter by Leon Hall that Quinn threw across his body, a no-no for quarterbacks.
Michigan also brought their hard hats to South Bend. The Wolverines controlled the line of scrimmage. On defense, they held the Irish to four total rushing yards and got enough pressure on Quinn to rattle him. On offense, Michigan pounded the ball 41 times on the ground. Mike Hart rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown to lead the ground attack. The players in Maize and Blue appeared to be physically dominant on Saturday afternoon.
"I think the one thing that happens, it depends what side of the ball you're on," Weis said about the hitting level on Saturday. "One thing that happens, when you become one dimensional on offense, which is what the game became, you allow the opponent to just tee off on you. Really, that's never what you want."
The performance on Saturday was frustrating on many levels. The multiple turnovers and penalties usually are usually not associated with a team loaded with experienced veterans. Weis plans on changing the approach just a bit heading into the Spartan contest next weekend.
"What you have to then do, which I just met with the coaching staff, is tell them what we need to do is simplify it then," Weis said. "That's what you need to do. You just do less instead of doing more. You do less better. That's why we'll spend a lot of time in the next 24 to 36 hours as a coaching staff making sure that the plan that we have ready to go for Michigan State is one where there's minimal opportunities for ‘yeah, but's.'"
A few personnel notes: fullback Asaph Schwapp did not play on Saturday. The sophomore fullback was nursing a knee injury this week and Weis did not like what he saw from him in Thursday's practice.
"We thought that we had a chance of playing him Saturday," Weis said. "When he went on Thursday, I told him I had to see something on Thursday. I just didn't see it. Tuesday is two days away yet. We'll wait to see how it goes this week."
Also, Ambrose Wooden didn't have the best of days. First, he got beat deep by Manningham in the first quarter on a 69-yard touchdown. Then, after delivering a big hit later in the game, Wooden was shaken up. He did briefly come back into the contest but Weis wanted to error on the side of caution, especially when a player gets their bell rung.
"I don't know what the end result of that is," Weis said. "I just knew he was groggy on the sideline. He got back in. We pulled him back out and didn't put him back in. I'll wait till I talk to Jim Russ and the doctors, which I do shortly after I'm done with this press conference."