A 38-0 loss to USC dropped Notre Dame to 1-7 on the season. The Irish's lone win of the year was to UCLA 20-6 and that was mainly because the Bruins quarterback, Ben Olsen, was knocked out of the game with an injury and a walk-on had to come on in relief. The dire preseason predictions were not something that Weis believed could happen back in August during training camp.
"I would have not figured that to be the case," Weis said. "And I can go through a litany of excuses, but I'd rather pass on that and just say no."
The litany of problems for Notre Dame are many with almost all of them starting on the offensive side of the ball. The Irish rank dead last in several offensive categories. Notre Dame's season-high in points was the 20 scored in the victory over UCLA and one of those scores was a defensive touchdown by Maurice Crum. Special teams has also had its problems while the defense, despite showing signs of improvement, continues to struggle stopping the opponents ground game.
A lot of these problems can be traced back to the youth and inexperience of the team. In the loss to USC, the leading rusher (Armando Allen) and the leading pass receiver (Duval Kamara) were both freshmen. Even Trojans head coach Pete Carroll said after the contest that he could see this type of season for Notre Dame coming three years ago because of recruiting woes. Weis pointed out how many young players got into the game last Saturday afternoon.
"I think in this (USC) game the other day, I think we played 51 players, and I think 25 were freshmen or sophomores," Weis said. "So to me, if you're getting that many people indoctrinated into your program where they're actually playing meaningful playing time, I think you're setting yourself up for some bright things to happen."
The Irish will practice on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before getting a little time off. Notre Dame is on fall break and Weis will let his players get some rest before returning to campus next weekend in preparation for Navy on November 3rd. Weis has broken down the schedule into two parts.
One section will be devoted towards the Midshipmen, specifically the option attack they employ on offense. The other part will be set aside for those players who'll have eligibility left for 2008. The team members who are set to graduate will be sent in while those with time still left at Notre Dame will go through drills and reps in order to get ready for the future.
"We're going to make sure that we utilize this week to get going on Navy," Weis said. "But I think it's just as important to start developing the team as if those guys were gone, too."
The move to get more young players involved in the mix is possible after the USC loss. The defeat gave Notre Dame seven on the year. The Irish can finish no better than 5-7, which puts them on the outside looking in at a bowl berth. The bowl losing streak, dating back to the 1994 Cotton Bowl, will last at least one more season.
Weis said on Monday that the finality of not being able to play an extra contest finally puts them in a position to look towards the future and develop players for next season. The Notre Dame head coach made it clear that fifth-year senior studs John Carlson, Trevor Laws and John Sullivan wouldn't be watching the contest from the sidelines and still be on the field. But the other youngsters who the coaching staff believes will contribute in 2008 need to get a little taste of the experience on game day.
"You better start worrying about developing your team," Weis said. "Because as everyone knows, we're 1-7, we're not playing very well. So we need to see evidence. I need to see evidence, just the way you want to see evidence that things are going to be headed in the right direction. And that's what these next five weeks -- I'm looking at it as five weeks, I'm not looking at it as one. I'm looking at it as this is the first of the five weeks that kind of set the table."
Weis hopes that with getting more team members into the mix and the players playing now improving their game, there will be something to look forward to come 2008.
"To be honest with you, if those things don't progress, why on what basis would you go into the spring thinking that everything's going to be okay?" Weis asked. "I know it sounds rhetorical. But I'm no different than the rest of you guys. I have to see evidence that we're making progress."And it isn't just the freshmen. It's the freshmen those guys will be sophomores. We're playing a bunch of sophomores. Sometimes you take a guy like Robby Parris and forget he's only been playing really for a year. And there are a lot of guys that fit into that group. I think it's very, very critical further to make progress over the next five weeks to set, for those guys to set the tone for an off-season where, you're moving in the right direction. Because if you continue the way you are right now, you're not moving in the right direction."