Weis, Irish Waiting

Fresh off the recruiting trail, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis was back in South Bend meeting with the media on Friday afternoon. He got great news earlier in the day when running back Armando Allen verbally committed to the Irish football program. After losing 44-24 to talent-laden USC last Saturday night in Los Angeles, Weis's pitch to recruits has been an easy one.

"I said, ‘Well, that's why we need you,'" Weis said about questions recruits have about the Trojans game. "That's an easy one. That's why we need you. And they respond to that very favorably. They understand what you're saying. You're saying, ‘You want to come on board, let's go. This way, it won't be 44-24.' We need players like you."

The recruits making their final decision will have another opportunity to see the Irish in a high-profile contest. Despite losing to the USC, Notre Dame appears headed back to a BCS bowl. The current odds-on favorite is the Sugar Bowl to play the winner of the SEC Championship contest between Florida-Arkansas. The other scenario has the Irish rematching with Michigan in the Rose Bowl or the Trojans if they lose this weekend to UCLA. The BCS Selection Show airs Sunday on ABC. Weis and the players already have the wheels in motion for a trip to either New Orleans or Pasadena.

"We'll wait until Sunday until the games are picked and we're going to be happy," Weis said. "Whoever picks us, we're going to be happy. We're going to be happy to go. Usually you'd be like jockeying for position saying, ‘I hope we go here or I hope we go there.' I have plans made. I have schedules made based off of the different games of the different games.

"So, just whichever one it ends up being, then we'll just go to that schedule. The schedule is already set as far as what we're doing. It's just based on the date and the opponent."

Irish fans better be prepared for the statistic that surely will be brought up a million times between now and game time. Notre Dame has not won a bowl game since the 1994 Cotton Bowl when they defeated Texas A&M 24-21. Over the past 13 seasons, the Irish have lost eight straight bowl contests. What makes it worse is that six of the games have been decided by 14 points or more. Last season, Notre Dame was unable to get off the snide by losing to Ohio State 34-20 in the Fiesta Bowl. Last year, Weis constantly made reference to the streak. This year, the approach will be different.

"It won't be taboo, but I probably won't make it like the end of the world type of mentality," Weis said of the bowl losing skid. "The one good thing is that it is the last game. So there's nothing to save after that. It's just like the USC game but you have over a month to play so there's nothing to say then.

"This is the final game. There's no more games after that. So I think that you still have to magnify the importance of the game. But what you don't want to do is have the team walk away feeling too high or too low just based off of one game. But I think it would be a great thing for us, for our team. I think it would be very important for us and our program to walk away with a win."

The team practiced on Thursday and will do the same on Saturday. Equal reps were given to each of the first three units. Weis, always searching for the right approach, called a few of his "resources" last year to get a feel for how they prepared for a bowl game. After the Fiesta Bowl loss, the Irish head coach said changes to the schedule would be made. Weis thought his team was flat against Ohio State and weren't their usual energetic selves. He doesn't want the same thing happening for this game.

"I think that you'll still get the same information," Weis said about bowl preparations for the players. "It's just how they are going to get it. I'm trying to get shorter, brisker practices and I think that when you have shorter brisker practices I think that people fly around a lot more. That's what I want to be doing at the start of the game. I want to be flying around at the start of the game and I think the only way you do that is by practicing to fly around and the only way you can fly around is if you're not going for a long period of time."

*Tonight the team will hold its annual banquet. Awards will be presented to various players. Last year, Weis brought back former Irish head coach Lou Holtz to South Bend to be the feature speaker. This time in the second go-around, it'll be Gerry Faust. He coached Notre Dame to a 30-26-1 mark in five seasons before resigning at the end of 1985. Weis talked about the selection of Faust as the guest speaker.

"I think no one is more passionate about Notre Dame than Coach Faust," Weis said. "I think sometimes everyone is judged just by wins and losses, not by their passion for Notre Dame. And anyone who has ever been around Coach Faust knows that there's no one any more passionate or loves Notre Dame any more than Coach Faust."

*A few personnel notes: Weis said tight end John Carlson is on pace to play in the bowl game. The senior injured his knee in the Air Force contest and missed the final two games of the season. Carlson has caught 46 balls for 621 yards and four touchdowns in 2006. Also, safety Chinedum Ndukwe injured his knee in the Trojan contest but the damage was less than previously thought. He did have his knee scoped but according to Weis, Ndukwe will be ready for the BCS bowl.

*Weis on the opportunity to rematch with Michigan in the Rose Bowl: "Oh, sure, I'm sure they are really happy with me for us losing to USC right now. I'm sure I'm really No. 1 on their Christmas card list. But I would like to play Michigan. I'll play Michigan or anybody else they dial us up against. I think that would be a nice thing to have a chance to do. But I'm not politicking for Michigan or anyone else. Just wherever they put us, we're going to be happy to go and that's where I stand on that."


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