Weis Notebook 9/13

It's been a long two weeks for Notre Dame and head coach Charlie Weis. The Irish got pounded in the opener 33-3 to Georgia Tech and followed it up with a 31-10 defeat at Penn State. Particularly for Weis, who came to South Bend with a high IQ for offense, it must hurt just a bit more because of the struggles Notre Dame has encountered trying to put points up on the scoreboard.

The numbers tell a great deal. The Irish rank at the bottom or near the bottom of several offensive statistical categories. Notre Dame will try to turn their fortunes around when the team travels to Ann Arbor to take on fellow 0-2 Michigan. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:36 PM and ABC will have the television broadcast. Weis will try to work his magic in getting the offense off the snide and into the end zone, an accomplishment the group hasn't achieved in 10 straight quarters of football. The Irish head coach has been keeping the same schedule, although sleep hasn't been easy to come by the past dozen days.

"The weeks are pretty much the same," Weis said on Thursday after practice. "Whether you win or lose, they are pretty much the same as far as what you do. The hours don't change. You don't work anymore. You don't work any less. It's one thing about being consistent. I pull into office the same time and leave pretty much the same time everyday. I've been doing it for the past 30 years."

Weis has felt this terrible in the past. In 1996, the New England Patriots made it to the Super Bowl but lost to the Green Bay Packers 34-21. Weis was the wide receivers coach on that team. Now, as the head coach at Notre Dame, the burden has increased.

"I've felt more miserable the past two weeks," Weis said. "I feel the ultimate responsibility falls on my shoulders. So does the accountability. Therefore, our performance the past two weeks has not led me to feel very good."

***Jimmy Clausen will be making his second start of his career on Saturday afternoon against the Wolverines. The freshman quarterback completed 17-of-32 passed for 144 yards with an interception in the 31-10 loss to Penn State. Clausen took several big hits and was the victim of six sacks by the Nittany Lions defense. The physical beating was the first issue Weis looked at this week in practice to see if Clausen had recovered.

"A lot of times in high school, he barely got touched," Weis said. "He would play a whole game and no matter how many times he threw it, he hardly got touched. Well, he got touched a few times last week. The first thing was how was he going to handle it mentally and then how would he handle it physically. I've been very encouraged on both parts, almost pleasantly surprised on both accounts."

***By now, everyone had heard of Mike Hart's guarantee that Michigan will beat Notre Dame. The senior running back stated the comment after the Wolverines were thrashed by Oregon 39-7 last weekend. Hart expects to see a lot of carries on Saturday with freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett making his first career start. The senior captain has rushed for 313 yards through two games and averaged 6.6 yards per carry, a nice option to take the pressure off of Mallett. Weis fully expects to see a healthy dose of Hart on Saturday, coupled with a few deep passes down the field.

"You have to think they're going to try to pound us and give Hart the ball a whole bunch of times," Weis said. "And then you'd have to think with Mallett, especially with the success they've had throwing fade balls on us, to expect them to throw it up on us. I don't think they'll come out throwing it 40 times. That's not Michigan football. Conversely, they've watched the tape the first two games and seen us get roughed up front. I would think that's what they're trying to do."

As for the Notre Dame offensive game plan, Weis said earlier in the week that more of the playbook would be available for Clausen. Michigan's defense has been porous in its two losses. But both teams had athletic quarterbacks who could either hurt the Wolverines with the pass or on the ground. Don't expect Clausen to be imitating Oregon's Dennis Dixon or Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards.

"Appalachian State and Oregon both had those super athletic quarterbacks," Weis said. "They're style of play is somewhat different. You can look at schematic things that they exposed Michigan with. You still are who you are. You don't try to turn Jimmy into a 4.4 quarterback. You always can take elements of what they can do but keep it within reason and the framework of what your system is."

***Weis on using different pass coverage packages: "Because of the group we have now, you're not afraid to call multiple coverages. Sometimes you're protecting your DB's. Sometimes you're counting on your DB's to make plays. This year, we've gotten into a little more of trying to count on them to make plays and other things like stop the run or pressure the quarterback. We've always had everything in play. We've haven't had the opportunity or weren't confident to do it."


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