"Yesterday was probably as disappointed as I've seen our team when I went back in the locker room," Weis said on Sunday. "After I was done with media, there were a lot of guys that still hadn't gotten out of their uniforms that were still sitting there. You could see how much it meant to them. That's a positive, not a negative."
The Irish, who generally have been upbeat this season despite the 1-8 year, must rebound in a short period of time from a frustrating loss and prepare for Air Force (7-3) next weekend. Kickoff for that contest in South Bend is at 2:43 PM and NBC will have the national television broadcast. As more bad history continues to mount for this team, here's another infamous note to avoid: Notre Dame hasn't lost to two service academies in the same season since 1944.
The Irish have to get ready for another option attack. The Falcons are fourth in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 272 yards per game on the ground. It'll be more assignment football for the Notre Dame defense, who actually held Navy 85 yards underneath their rushing average. The Irish will be looking for their first home victory of the season and to create any type of momentum. For Weis, his biggest task will be to rid his players' systems of the crushing Navy defeat and have them focus on the next contest.
"I think the most important thing for me to be worried about is trying to get the team ready to beat Air Force," Weis said. "I think that's how I have to look at it. I know you guys have to look at stats and I think that's part of what you do. I think what I have to do in my job is try to put the team in position to beat Air Force. That's what my job is. And that's what I'm going to do."
That process begins at 2 PM on Sunday, when the players will meet with Weis and the coaching staff.
"I'm not going to talk too long today," Weis said. "This is not a day to hammer them down. I think it's important for them to understand that no win is never okay. But I'm going to talk to them about I appreciate it hurting so bad because when it didn't, that's when we know we have a problem."
The hurt is deep because of the opportunities Notre Dame had against Navy to win the contest. The Irish, tied 28-28, had a chance late in regulation after Tom Zbikowski returned a punt 32 yards down to the Midshipmen 38-yard line. A first down and five plays later, Weis decided to pass on a potential 41-yard field goal from freshman Brandon Walker. The Irish head coach explained that in pre-game warm-ups, the maximum distance going in the direction against the wind was 37 yards, a difference of four yards. Quarterback Evan Sharpley was sacked on 4th down and the game went into overtime.
In the extra session, Notre Dame matched Navy's first touchdown with a score of their own, a Sharpley-to-Duval Kamara connection to make it 35-35. In the second overtime period, both teams traded field goals to set up the decisive third session. Navy scored on its first play when Reggie Campbell hauled in a 25-yard reception for a touchdown and also caught the two-point conversion to make it 46-38. After the Irish's Travis Thomas scored from five yards out on 4th down to cut the deficit to 46-44, the fifth-year senior running back was stuffed on the two-point try when the Midshipmen sold out on the run.
The opportunities were there in regulation and overtime for Notre Dame to win their second contest of the season and build momentum into the final three games of the year. A failed first quarter fake field goal attempt that was well short of the first down and Sharpley's fumble in the fourth quarter that Navy scooped up and took for a touchdown to make it 28-21 Midshipmen were other negative plays that stood out. With loss after loss building up for the Irish, Weis thinks the team needs to figure out how to obtain victory, especially in close contests.
"The first thing you need to learn how to win," Weis said. "That is the first thing that has to happen. That's easier said than done. Someone asked how do you teach them how to win? Well, really, you need a game like yesterday go your way. It doesn't have to be a one-point win, it might be a seven-point win or it might be a 10-point win. But you need something good to happen. Because every football player, regardless of what level they're on their psyche and emotion gains momentum when good things happen.
"Right now what this team needs is something good to happen. And yesterday, there are good things that happened in the game, but obviously, not enough good things for us to win it."
Notre Dame will try to find that winning feeling this week against Air Force. For Weis, it was critical for him to see the depressed mood in the locker room after the Navy defeat on Saturday. The Irish head coach thinks it's a sign that this team still cares and hasn't thrown in the towel on the 2007 season.
"I don't think their confidence is shaken," Weis said. "I think they were pretty depressed and they should have been. But my question is would you rather they weren't depressed after a loss like that? You would hope that they felt bad. You would hope that it was that important that they felt bad.
"Because when you've lost the team is when they don't feel bad. That is when you've lost the team is when they don't care. It's never okay to lose. But the key sign isn't when they feel bad. The key sign is when they don't feel bad."