Saturday, the Irish go on the road to face Air Force. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 EDT and CSTV will have the television broadcast. The Falcons do run plays similar to the Midshipmen but with one wrinkle: they also employ a tight end in some situations. Junior tight end Travis Dekker isn't a huge part of the package, catching just four balls for 40 yards and a touchdown. But it's a slight variation that Notre Dame will have to prepare for.
"One half of the package has a lot of similarities to what Navy does and they have a whole other package that Navy doesn't have," head coach Charlie Weis said at his Tuesday press conference. "Does it help you carryover with that first half? Absolutely. But you have to get better at that first half of the package and get ready for the second half of the package."
*George West's fumble on a punt return last weekend in the win over North Carolina was the only turnover of the day for the Irish. It was just the ninth lost turnover of the year for Notre Dame. That puts them tied for first in the nation in turnovers lost with Michigan and BYU. There's a simple formula: the players handling the ball the most are not prone to giveaways.
"I think Darius (Walker) is a very dependable runner with the ball," Weis said about his running back, who has lost one fumble this season. "It all starts with the halfback because he's the one who has the ball in his hands the most carrying it. Then I think the quarterback doesn't make a lot of risky throws. When the quarterback doesn't make a lot of risky throws- people will complain about taking a sack or throwing the ball out of bounds- that's what good quarterbacks do. You can have 10 less sacks but five more interceptions. There is such a good thing as a good sack."
*The Jim Thorpe Award has announced 11 semi-finalists. The honor is bestowed to the nation's best defensive back in college football. One of the names on the list is Notre Dame safety Tommy Zbikowski. The senior is second on the team in tackles with 59, despite missing the Stanford contest with a shoulder injury. Zbikowski is now fullly healthy and it showed a few weeks back when he registered a team-high 14 tackles in the victory over Navy.
"I think he's on the rise," Weis said. "He really suffered a setback physically on that punt return. He had a slow recovery. Not slow as in time but slow as in getting back into the action. I'm fairly certain you'll see Zibby on the rise from here on in."
*Anthony Vernaglia is once again a no-go for this weekend's contest. The junior linebacker hurt his knee in the Navy game on a special teams play. His injury wasn't as bad as expected but severe enough to keep him out vs. Air Force.
"I don't think he's ready to go," Weis said. "He's still on crutches. He's not out for the year but he's still supporting himself with the crutches."
*The reference comes up every time a sports team goes to the Rocky Mountain area: altitude. There's no doubt that the air is thinner in Colorado Springs than in South Bend. But how much difference does it have?
Weis said when he was with the New England Patriots, the altitude game got them out of their rhythm. They would travel to Denver two days before a contest to adjust and get blown out. According to Weis, it's a scientific fact that the altitude really takes effect after 48 hours. The Patriots changed their plans, arrived one day early and started to beat the Broncos, although Denver has beaten New England five of the past six times. Weis does not want to hear the "a" word another time this week.
"It's something that will not be discussed by our players this week," Weis said. "So don't ask them about it. It is taboo. It is the first thing I'll talk about today and it won't be mentioned again."
*Everyone is fretting over where to watch Saturday's game. But the announcing lineup has been set by CSTV. The play-by-play man will be Tom Hart while former Nebraska Cornhusker Trev Alberts will provide color commentating. Anne Marie Anderson is scheduled to be the sideline reporter. At Weis's Tuesday press conference, Alberts was spotted in attendance.
*This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Falcons' upset win over Notre Dame. Air Force beat the ninth-ranked Irish 20-17 in overtime in South Bend. That was also the last season head coach Lou Holtz patrolled the sidelines for Notre Dame.
*The Irish lead the all-time series 21-5, including 11-2 at Falcon Stadium. Notre Dame has an edge in the rivalry: they've won 10 of the past 11 contests.
*This is the first true road game for Notre Dame since the Michigan State contest back on September 23rd.