Weis Wrap-Up 11/11

The miscues came in bunches in Notre Dame's 41-24 loss to Air Force on Saturday afternoon in South Bend. The 1-9 Irish dropped eight passes, missed several blitz pickups and couldn't stop the Falcons rushing attack. It all added up to two losses to the service academies in the same season for the first time since 1944 and the most losses in a single year in Irish school history.

Head coach Charlie Weis tried to put the miserable season into perspective after the defeat. Weis used a teacher-student analogy, where the right lessons are being taught but when put into practice on game days, they fall way short. The Notre Dame head coach talked about what mentor Bill Parcells taught him early in his coaching days. When Weis would explain to Parcells that he told the players a 1,000 times to do something a certain way and the opposite happened, Parcells would respond the lesson should have been gone over 1,001 times. Differing levels of football IQ on a team makes it imperative for a teacher to make sure all players are on the same page.

"So what (Parcells) always used to teach us is that you had to find whoever the lowest level of football intelligence was in a classroom and try to gear all your teaching to him because if he could get it, then usually everyone else would be able to get it, too," Weis said on Sunday. "So obviously part of the breakdown is the fact that we have to start gearing to make sure that everyone from the bottom up, whoever might end up playing in the game, is getting it, because if they're not, whether it's an experienced player or inexperienced player, then that's just not good enough."

On Saturday, there were mistakes all over the field. On a few sacks sustained in the first half, the running back forget to pick up the weak side blitz. The Falcons recorded six sacks on the day, almost a third of their season total coming into the game. When quarterback Jimmy Clausen did have time to throw the ball, the freshman, despite having his best statistical day, was plagued by drop after drop. The defense did not have an answer for Chad Hall and the Air Force ground game. The Falcons piled up 285 rushing yards, including 142 on 32 carries by Hall. What frustrated Weis more than anything was that it was the veteran players making most of the miscues.

"So it would be one thing if you had that cop-out. ‘Well, it was just a freshman making a mistake,'" Weis said. "But when it's an older kid and making a mistakes or more experienced guy making a mistake, that goes back to the message that I was taught that you've got to find a way to get that done on a week-to-week basis. You've got to find a way to get that done so you're not dealing with the same issue next Sunday when we get together."

In practice, the schemes in the game plan are being executed. It's on Saturdays that they fall apart.

"Usually the execution on the practice field has been at a much higher level than the related games that are to follow," Weis said. "I'd say that's definitely true. And that's one of the confusing things that you have.

"Whereas, we've got it, we put this in, we went and did it and it looks like we've got it, we've got it, and then you come out there -- there were three sacks or turned three guys in the first quarter of the game last week that were very simple schematic things that we practiced multiple times.

"Now, you can say whatever you want. Obviously we didn't practice them enough. But these were things that were fundamental -- here's what they're going to do, fellows, and then they went and did it. It isn't like you just practiced it once. We practiced it 20 times. "We've got it, here they come, oh, we don't have it.‘ That ultimately falls back on me. You feel deficient in that because you see it coming, you say we've got this nailed and we don't have it nailed. That's a bit confusing."

The down year for the Irish sets up the battle of 1-9 teams next weekend in South Bend. 1-9 Duke will try to add more misery to Notre Dame's season. It'll be Senior Day for the Irish players and the last chance to earn a home victory in 2007.

A few games ago, the Notre Dame players and coaches were talking about building momentum in the final four contests heading into the off-season. With the bevy of young players, the hope was for carryover to spring practice and the start of the 2008 season. After back-to-back losses to two service academies, more doubt starts to creep in and the critics and cynics have plenty of ammunition to direct towards the Irish football program. Weis wants to first get the scholarship player level close to the 85 limit and then be judged if he's the right man for the job.

"The most important thing when you come into a program, you have to have a plan in place how you're going to get it from where you think it is to where you want it to go," Weis said. "You have to have a plan in place. And I think that it's important to stick to the plan, to not waver. Even when there's bumps in the road you have to stick to the plan. Once you've had the chance to implement that plan, at that point is when people can determine whether or not you are or you're not. But you have to think that when you get to that point, people will know one way or another."

Weis has some of his focus on what'll happen after the Duke and Stanford games. The workaholic is relishing the chance to get back out and bring in top-flight players to stockpile the future Notre Dame roster.

"I'm looking forward to going on the road recruiting after we play the next two games because the next thing I need to do is get more players in here," Weis said. "So I'm not looking forward to any time off. I'm going to hit the road and I'm going to hit it hard.

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