News and Notes

NEW ORLEANS- Notre Dame's 41-14 blowout loss to LSU in the Sugar Bowl did nothing to quiet the critics who thought the Irish shouldn't have been there in the first place. In the Irish's three biggest games this year, they were outscored 132-59. The banner that hung in the weight room read, "9-3 Not Good Enough." A 10-3 year apparently won't satisfy head coach Charlie Weis.

"10-3 is just the fact that you played one more game," Weis said. "I'm very disappointed on how this played out at the end. We lost to USC on the road and the bowl game. We got handled pretty good in both those games. I got to do a better job."

Granted, the Irish lost to three teams that all will be ranked in top-10. Michigan, USC and LSU all are talented football teams. But three losses, all by 20 points or more, leaves more questions than answers. It proves the point that Notre Dame still is not one of the elite teams in college football. Weis would soon like to reach that level.

"Everyone has to think the way I'm thinking," Weis said. "They can't be content with going to a bowl game and being 10-3 and going to the bowl game and getting their clocks cleaned. It's easy for me to blame the players. But I would be at fault there. What I need to do is to figure out a way to get these guys to turn corner. Right now, we're a nice team. A nice, solid team. But you want to be an upper echelon team, not a nice, solid team. You want to be a team competing for a national championship."

His players are ready to embrace the mindset.

"Being complacent should be unacceptable around here," running back Darius Walker said. "Last year, we went 9-3 and felt that wasn't good enough. 10-3 definitely isn't good enough. We got to get better and do some soul searching."

*Soul searching might be a good place to start for the Notre Dame defense. Once again, the unit came up woefully short in a big-time contest. LSU totaled 577 yards of total offense with over 330 coming in the second half.

Through the air, JaMarcus Russell torched the Irish secondary for 332 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, especially in the fourth quarter, the Tigers racked up 245 more yards. Time after time, when LSU needed a big play, they're wishes were met. The Tigers had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher (Keiland Williams's 107 yard performance with 94 coming in the second half) and a 100-yard receiver (Early Doucet's eight receptions for 115 yards).

"Those are big plays you can't give up," safety Tom Zbikowski said. "That's why they put so many points up on the board. Anytime you have two minutes, you have to hold them and not let wide receivers runs down the middle of the field open. As a defensive back, we got to make plays. We didn't."

Early on, LSU seemed unsure on how to best attack the Notre Dame defense. But the touchdown drive right before halftime opened their eyes. Russell led the Tigers on a five-play, 82 yard scoring march to put them up 21-14 at intermission. After halftime, LSU used the same formula that teams use to beat the Irish: expose a vulnerable secondary early and often. After tossing it 15 times in the first half, Russell threw the ball 14 times in the third quarter, including a 58-yard touchdown to Brandon LaFell to make it 34-14 Tigers. The aggressiveness paid off.

"It wasn't like we weren't ready for their three or four wide," Weis said. "But they did run a lot of empty tonight. In their four wide package, JaMarcus pulled it down and ran it a few times. They did a nice job of spreading it out with three wides and four wides. They called a nice game and put a lot of pressure on our defense."

*Even the most ardent Irish fan couldn't say one play could have switched the fortunes of the contest. But if there was one, it occurred early in the third quarter. LSU received the second half kickoff and faced a 1st-and-10 at their own 30-yard line. Russell hit Doucet on a quick hitter. The junior wideout ran into Notre Dame's Ambrose Wooden, who not only stripped the ball but appeared to recover it as well before going out of bounds. The Irish, down 21-14 at the time, had their break.

Instant replay would say otherwise. After checking with the upstairs booth, officials ruled Wooden did not have possession of the ball before going out of bounds. If the play did stand, Notre Dame would have had the ball in excellent field position to tie the game. Instead, LSU got the ball and eventually kicked a 25-yard field goal later in the drive to make it 24-14.

"I thought it was significant," Weis said. "Of course, I was the naked eye. They said it was a fumble and our guy didn't have possession when going out of bounds. With that being said, I told them upstairs they could come to that judgment. They said, ‘Yes.' Who am I to second guess when they have 50 replays up there."

*Wednesday night's game was the last for quarterback Brady Quinn in a Notre Dame uniform. The senior has been a mainstay the past four seasons with the Irish, displaying toughness and steadiness en route to 36 school records. But his last showing against a tough, athletic LSU defense will not be a memorable one.

"I think we practiced a lot of three step drops we threw in the game," Weis said. "We ended not up not having the run and catch. One gets dropped. Another gets tipped. On one, an arm gets pulled down. One bounced. It was a combination of all those things. We were looking to hold the ball for a lot of this game and that didn't happen."

Quinn completed just 15-of-35 passes for a season-low 148 yards passing. He did toss two first half touchdowns but also threw two interceptions. In the second half alone, Quinn was 4-of-10 for 24 yards and a pickoff. He leaves Notre Dame with a 0-3 record in bowl games.

"Notre Dame has been a great place for me," an emotional Quinn said after the Sugar Bowl defeat. "It's something I've grown to love. The best part about it was the people. Coach Weis and his staff did nothing but push us and push us past our limits. I can't forget these guys, Zibby and the fifth year guys I came in with. We've been through so much. It's a testament to the type of people they are. We've made some relationships and bonds that'll never be broken."

"Brady is one of those special players," Walker said. "The numbers he's put up at Notre Dame speak for themselves. Year to year, he seems to get better and put up huge numbers. He's just one of those standup players."

*Derek Landri sustained a knee injury sometime during the second quarter and did not return to the game. He was credited with no tackles. Top Stories