News and Notes: 11/10/2006

*Here is the best this past week from Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis:

*On tight end John Carlson: "There's a lot of tight ends that play that don't threaten a third level of a defense. A lot of them are good and short in intermediate range but very few of them really can threaten down the field. I think that's where he's been very dependable is on the short to intermediate, but where he's made the biggest difference is the vertical threat that he has down the field because all those teams that want to play cover two, now you're counting on a linebacker to be able to run with the big boy down the field. Usually that's advantage us."

*On fewer offensive possession by facing a ball control option attack: "We're averaging just over 71 plays a game and they're averaging only giving up 58 plays a game. So just doing the math, that's 13 less plays a game that you end up having. (Bill) Parcells used to call that shortening the game. They play to shorten the game to make it to be more precision and know that every possession becomes more critical because before you know it, it's halftime.

"There it was in the Navy game. We had three possessions. It was less than three minutes to go in the first half and we only had three possessions. I think that it becomes very critical that right from the first possession you make something positive happen."

*On Notre Dame being tied for first in the nation in fewest turnovers lost: "I think first of all, Darius (Walker) is a very dependable ball carrier as the running back. It all starts with the halfback because he's the one who has the ball in his hands the most carrying. Then I think the quarterback doesn't make very many risky throws. When the quarterback does not make that many risky throws, people will complain about taking a sack or throwing the ball out of bounds. Well, that's what good quarterbacks do rather than throwing the ball up for grabs. You could have less sacks, ten less sacks but you might have five more interceptions. That's where the give-and-take is.

"There is such a thing as a good sack. That doesn't sound very practical to a lot of people, but it does exist. I think the quarterback's decision making and the number one guy with the ball in his hands besides the quarterback, meaning Darius, being very good, I think it bodes well for having fewer turnovers, not more."

*On both teams wearing decals honoring secondary coach Bill Lewis's son, Gregg, who was killed in a helicopter crash in 1998 and also an Air Force graduate: "Bill didn't know at first. We didn't let him in on it until after we had the deal worked out, and then his son (Geoff) came up for a game. The way he and I talked about it is I'd rather let him tell. So after one of the games, I forget what it was, he came up for a game, but that Saturday night after the game, he told him what was going on, and I'm sure it was fairly emotional.

"I wanted to make sure everything was set beforehand. Bill and I have talked about this multiple times since then. Think about it, there's nothing worse than losing one of your kids. I know that I haven't lost one of my kids, but I know one of my kids has a whole bunch of problems, and there's nothing worse than that. I think the only thing worse than that is to lose them altogether, and I think any parent in the world would feel that way."

*On the second time around for the Irish defense facing the option: "I'm hoping that this is the second time around for us, which I think is a bigger advantage than when we played Navy, just as the fact that you know what the speed of the game is, which I felt was a big problem in the first half against Navy. Sure, we tweaked a few adjustments at halftime but I thought the speed of the game caught us up. Trying to defend the option without practicing it on a weekly basis I think sometimes puts you in a negative situation. But I'm hoping that that experience will have some carryover this week."

*On Air Force quarterback Shaun Carney: "Well, any time you're put into this position where you get hit a lot, you don't see him taking big hits. Besides running the offense, him understanding how to run it, him showing good leadership; I mean, the guy is a captain of the team so he's one of their co-captains of the team so obviously he's at an Air Force Academy that his peers have chosen him as a co-captain so he obviously has leadership skills. The guy is elusive. He makes their offense go as a runner. He can run the football. He's not a guy who has to get rid of the football because he hurts you himself just carrying the ball. He makes good decisions and he finds a way where he doesn't usually get crushed. A lot of times these guys are taking on big hits. He seems to find a way to not take a whole bunch of big hits."

*On the biggest challenge Weis has faced so far this season: "I think that the one thing going into this season was overcoming the egg we laid against Michigan. I think that was the biggest challenge. When you go early in the year, and as you go into the year you have high expectations, and all of a sudden you turn the ball over five times in the game. I'll take credit for the loss now. It's not like I'm blaming the five turnovers as the only reason we lost the game, but it had a lot to do with it. You heard the numbers for the year versus what we have. Nine turnovers for the year but five of them in that game.

"I think overcoming that, getting the players to fight as hard as they have, a lot of times these kids don't get enough credit. They're still kids. A disheartening loss early in the year can break a team's spirit sometimes and it didn't break their spirit. I think that was the hardest part of the year. But since then I think I've grown to really admire the fight that these guys have."

*On how the emphasis in practice of tackling was going: "It's been two days of practice and two solid days of tackling. There's been an emphasis on that. Tomorrow, I might have to pull off on that one a little. We'll keep the shoulder pads on. The last time I pulled off too much, it didn't work out too well. It's been improved. It's going to need to be improved."

*On Falcons head coach Fisher DeBerry having beat Notre Dame in the past: "I've never gone against Fisher DeBerry. I know he's beaten us three times. He's been there a long time and he's always been a good coach. I have a lot of respect for Fisher DeBerry and his coaching staff but I've never gone against him. To me, there is not much relevance other than the fact that they have confidence that they can beat us. That's the way they should think. I'd hate to think someone coaches a team who thinks they are going to lose. I think they have confidence that they can win."

***Prediction: Notre Dame 34 Air Force 20. The Irish offensive finally appears to be hitting their stride. Back-to-back efficient performances might have the confidence and swagger back in a group that struggled earlier in the season for consistency. Yes, it was against Navy and North Carolina. But Air Force is not a shut down defense. The Falcons rank 55th nationally in total defense. Brady Quinn and the Notre Dame offense will put up the points. Obviously, this game comes to how the Irish defense can handle the option. Will it be like the first half vs. Navy where the Midshipmen rolled up 211 rushing yards or the second half where Notre Dame stifled them to only 60 yards on the ground? The coaches and players constantly pointed out adjusting to the speed of the offense. Will there be that adjustment period on Saturday? I believe Carney will be more effective than the Midshipmen quarterback. But can they keep it up for 60 minutes against a Notre Dame offense that looks to be peaking? I don't think so. Close contest early but Quinn continues his stellar play and the defense makes some stops in the second half.


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