"As soon as we win one, you can bet that the next week will be the same exact schedule," Weis said with a laugh after practice on Thursday. "If we beat UCLA, you can book what the schedule will be because it'll be identical."
The numbers speak to Weis' concern. Notre Dame has been outscored 101-21 in the first half through five games. The Irish might have caught a break this weekend. UCLA is outscoring its opponents by just eight total points despite holding a 4-1 record. The Bruins strongest part of the game is the fourth quarter, where UCLA has a 27-point advantage.
To counter the woes experienced in the first half this year, Weis made his team go through an extremely physical practice on Tuesday. The Notre Dame head coach called it the most physical session since he arrived in South Bend. On Wednesday, usually the team is in full pads. But Weis had his team in shoulder pads and shorts. It's all part of finding a way to spark this team early in contests.
"I don't want to see us playing powder puff football," Weis said. "I want to see us playing at a very high tempo because if not, you're counterproductive and you don't get things done. I wanted to make sure going into this game knowing what to day, fresh in doing those things so that we can get off to a better start this week."
The Irish head coach has faith the approach will work, at least in the effort department.
"I'm going to be very disappointed if they don't come out ready to go," Weis said. "I don't think like I'm expecting it to happen. I'm expecting them to come out well. I'm expecting them to come out of the gate with a fast start. That's what I'm expecting."
***At Wednesday's press conference, defensive coordinator Corwin Brown asked what his group could do better. His answer was simple: tackle better. The defense got a lot of time to practice this on Tuesday when two-thirds of practice was full contact and taking the players down to the ground. Usually, the Irish don't take players to the ground. That's why Weis feels Tuesday was so important, especially for the defense.
"Tackling is something that you can do in form," Weis said. "But what if a guy breaks the form tackle? You don't know because you don't take them to the ground. That was the whole point of Tuesday. You can't complain about tackling and not do anything about it. I know how to fix it, besides stressing technique and fundamentals, is to actually go out there and do it."
***On the injury front, Weis said defensive end Justin Brown is a go for Saturday night in Pasadena. The senior missed the last two games with an ankle injury, sustained in the week of practice before the Michigan State contest. The other two injury concerns are with offensive lineman Dan Wenger and wide receiver David Grimes. Wenger missed the Michigan State and Purdue games while Grimes was injured in the Boilermakers contest. Both had ankle injuries.
"Wenger looks like he could play more reps than Grimes," Weis said. "I'm not sure whether Grimes will go. But it'll go right to Saturday. He's looked better every day but he hasn't gotten meaningful reps at practice all week long. He's come out late everyday because he's getting treatment."
***After besting Nate Whitaker early in Tuedsay's practice in a competition, it appears as if freshman Brandon Walker has kept the lead in the kicking department. Weis said he remembered Walker, after going 3-for-4 on Tuesday, only missing one more kick the rest of the week. In the loss to Purdue, the freshman missed an extra point and a 35-yard field goal. Whitaker was 1-for-2 on PAT's.
***Weis on what he wants his players to do on the long flight to California on Friday: "Sleep. You really can't appreciate their schedule in a week. Most of these guys go, before any additional studies, from six in the morning to eleven at night every day. Think about that. They get going at six in the morning, finish football at seven, take a shower, go to the dining hall and study hall from 8:30-10:30. Then you go back to your dorm and do additional studying. I would like them to get some rest. They can worry about the game when we get there."