"For the first time you could feel it on the sideline," Weis said on Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "You could feel the difference on the sideline. Now, that doesn't do you any good if they left it there. They've got to bring it with them here this week and we have a couple of ways we're trying to help manifest that situation."
That question will be answered this weekend in Los Angeles. Notre Dame travels to the west coast to take on 4-1 UCLA, fresh off a 40-14 road victory over Oregon State. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:12 PM and ABC will have the television coverage. A Bruins win would be the first in school history over the Irish. With Notre Dame struggling mightily this season, a UCLA victory would also make it 5-for-5 for teams that lost to the Irish last year and turned the tables in 2007.
Last season, the Bruins were in control of the contest in South Bend. UCLA held a 17-13 lead with 62 seconds remaining and Notre Dame 80 yards away from the winning touchdown. The Irish stunned the Bruins by moving the ball all the way down the field in three plays, capped when Brady Quinn hit Jeff Samardzjia for a 45-yard score to give Notre Dame a stunning 20-17 win.
The quarterback situation is a little different this season. Freshman Jimmy Clausen has started four of the five games in 2007. Last week, Clausen was 18-of-26 for 169 yards with a touchdown and an interception before being replaced by junior Evan Sharpley. The freshman signal caller injured his hip sometime during the contest and Weis made the move to go with a healthy Sharpley for the final 20 minutes of the game.
The junior didn't disappoint. Sharpley threw for 208 yards and connected on touchdown passes to freshmen wide receivers Duval Kamara and Golden Tate to cut the Purdue lead to 26-19. The junior quarterback's one big mistake was an interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter with the Boilermakers holding a 33-19 advantage.
Weis said today that if healthy, Clausen will start on Saturday night at UCLA. The Notre Dame head coach said the freshman is "supposed to be set, ready to go." But this week of practice and how Clausen looks coming off the injury will be the final determination of who gets the first snap under center against the Bruins.
"Regardless of the circumstances, I think both guys are going to get reps," Weis said. "I don't know if it will be equal. First of all I'm not 100% sure what Jimmy is going to look like. He's supposed to be set and ready to go. I have to see that. Some guys are set and ready to go and they don't play for another two weeks. Other guys that are set and ready to go, they're ready to go that day.
"I'm going to have to see visually on the field how it goes right there, because Ron (Powlus) and I met today, and we didn't even script who was in for what plays because we figured we will go by what we see when they're out there."
If Clausen is 100 percent ready to go and starts on Saturday night, Weis has no doubts about Sharpley being ready if called upon.
"Evan is probably one of the most prepared people on the team," Weis said. "So he knows whether or not he starts or not that he's going to be ready as if he is starting. Right now I can't tell you for sure exactly how this is going to go down. I don't know what Jimmy's health is for sure. I don't know how it's going to happen in a game but I do know that Evan will be ready to play when his number is called."
Weis changed the operation a bit last week with the quarterbacks. Through four games, the signal callers had wristbands on that had the all the plays in the game plan. The Notre Dame coaching staff would signal in a number and the quarterback would look at the wristband and read the play off in the huddle. That wasn't the case at Purdue as Weis wanted to put more of the onus on his signal callers in running the offensive operation.
"I put pressure on them for me to take it to them and them to have to go over there and now they didn't have a security blanket where they read No. 3 and they just read it," Weis said. "So they're not calling the play. They're just reading off the play.
"So I don't think that makes you go through mental concentration when you got the play. Now I'm giving it to you. Now I'm thinking about what's going to happen on the play. Whereas, you read it off, and sometimes they would go to the line of scrimmage and they would still be looking at it again to see what's the play again."
The defense the two quarterbacks will be facing is strong against the run and vulnerable to the pass. UCLA is 16th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 88 yards per game on the ground and, and 100th in pass defense, surrendering 272 yards a contest through the air.
Last season, the Bruins harassed the Notre Dame offense all afternoon long, totaling five sacks and nine tackles for loss. Most of the credit can go to defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who turned around UCLA's unit from one of the worst in the country in 2005 to a top-35 group last season.
"When he got there last year the thing he did is he got them to play fast, and they must have had athletes there already, because he didn't all of the sudden in five seconds get those guys to come there, a lot of them had to be there," Weis said of Walker. "The year before I didn't see them play fast. Last year, they did. Not only in our game but in each game, and this year they're playing fast.
"Sometimes you'll give up size at positions for guys that can giddyup and go. That's probably one of the things that's been the toughest thing about their defense is that they play fast."