The theme from Charlie Weis this week has been simple and repetitive.
"Let's pick up from where we left off. Let's pick up from where we left off. Let's pick up from where we left off."
Weis wants his team to build on the fourth quarter of the San Diego State game instead of focusing on the first three lackluster quarters and he offered some insight as to why he is taking that approach.
"Put yourself in my seat now, so you're the head coach now. You just beat San Diego State 21-13, everyone expected the score to be a lot more lopsided than that, but it wasn't. You had an opportunity to lose that game as well, but you come back, you make a big play on defense. You come score the next couple of times and run the clock out, get them off the field and play solid on special teams the whole day," he said. "Now you come in, do you want everyone to be in a bad mood because you won 21-13? Or do you want to be happy because you won 21-13 and saying, ‘Here's how we played the fourth quarter fellas and if you play like you did in the fourth quarter you're gonna have a chance every time you go out there'?"
The Irish definitely played their best football when it mattered most last week and Weis is not so sure that he could use this tactic if it had been any other way.
"Fortunately it was the fourth quarter the one we're talking about," he said. "If it's the second quarter or the third quarter and then you go back to not playing very consistent ball (it wouldn't work as well)."
Weis said after the game that the jury was still out on this football team and agreed with that statement Thursday, but thinks that the Michigan game will provide evidence one way or the other.
"To me, the jury is still out as to which team we are going to be. Are we going to be the team that showed spurts of being good and bad for three quarters or a team that can collectively in all three facets can play a dominating quarter? The opponent is irrelevant when it comes to that, it's what you're going to do," he said. "My whole point of emphasis when I was talking to them all week is which team are we going to be? Are we going to go back to the first quarter again or are we going pick up from the fourth quarter? I think that we'll have more answers, we might not have all of the answers, but we'll have a better idea of the direction after Saturday."
JURY OUT, JUDGE IN: John G. Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court attended Notre Dame's practice on Thursday. The Chief Justice is on campus to meet with students from Notre Dame's Law School on Friday and is expected to attend the game on Saturday. Roberts grew up a Notre Dame fan and took the opportunity to check out the team.
"Diehard Notre Dame fan. That's one of the reasons why we gave him access," Weis laughed. "I had done a little background so I knew…He grew up a Notre Dame fan before he went on to Harvard. I gave the players all of the background and found out that he was a big Domer fan so it was a good experience."
Weis had Roberts address the team before practice.
"I met him here before practice and asked him if he could say a couple of words to the team," Weis said. "That was a good educational experience for the kids. We were talking about 9/11. I first talked to the team about this day, this sadly historic day. He went on to talk about how you have all of those men and women over in Iraq and Afghanistan that are fighting for their freedom. Kids the same age as them or even younger sometimes. I thought it was a very good message."
"About three-quarters through practice (Wednesday, Stewart) got rolled up a little bit. When you're that big and you get rolled up, he was walking around like me this morning so we decided to get him and Grimes in the training room," Weis said. "David wasn't out there either because his back is a little stiff. If he would have been out there today it probably would not have been nearly as good as him being in there getting treatment to get the stiffness out.
"I would list them both as probable. I never say 100%, but I would not put them in the questionable category."
Weis said that defensive back Jashaad Gaines might be needed at home for the semester because of a family health problem.
PLAYERS RECALL 9/11: Of everyone on Notre Dame, the attacks of September 11 probably had the most affect on offensive lineman Eric Olsen whose father Andy was a New York City firefighter who survived, but the rest of the team still remembers.
David Bruton was at the orthodontist on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 and heard what was happening, but when he returned to school his classmates were unaware.
"I heard about it on the way back. Me and my mom were just wondering what was going on, just worried. Then I get back to the high school and nobody knew about it. I ended up telling my class. The TV was on, we were just watching it," he said. "Then we go home after school and there's the sonic boom that flies over Dayton, because I guess planes were leaving Wright-Patt. It was just a big state of shock. My mom kept me and my brother in the house for a couple days, not wanting us to go do anything."
Maurice Crum remembers being in class when he found out.
"I was in my algebra class actually. We got a message over the intercom, put the TV on. I was almost in disbelief that it could just happen, something like that happened on my home turf, just being a witness to it," he said. "Watching it on TV, I couldn't really grasp the fact that something like that could actually happen."
PLAYERS RESPECT '88 CHAMPS: Most of the players on the team were just babies the last time Notre Dame won a National Championship, that is if they were alive at all. But the Irish players do appreciate history and are excited to be around guys with rings.
"Just listening to stories of people who were around and stuff. It's special, you know. When Notre Dame wins a national championship, it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of guys buying in," Crum said. "I think just from that standpoint, we kind of try to take their advice because those guys have been in our shoes before. Just try to learn from them."
Bruton read Lou Holtz's account of the season, The Fighting Spirit.
"I actually read the book. My high school coach had bought me the '88 championship book. I read through the whole thing. I was just in awe about how they went about it, how they faced adversity," he said. "Hearing about the Miami-Notre Dame game, watched highlights of it. I was amazed how well they played, how they did things together as a team."
Crum's father played linebacker on that 1988 Hurricanes team and shared some of those stories with his son.
"We've talked about it a couple times. From those games, he has a lot of respect for Notre Dame, what the whole program was about," Crum said of his dad. "That's kind of when I was getting recruited by Notre Dame, he was very pleased. Just being in those games, you know, brought a lot of respect to him about Notre Dame."
Crum admitted that the respect came a little later.
"Once it's over, you get a chance to step back, you know, once he's finished playing, then he kind of realized what the situation was," he said.
BIG RECRUITING WEEKEND: The Michigan game will be a big recruiting weekend for the Irish with a number of top senior and junior prospects on campus. Seven seniors will be making official visits and while winning the game would definitely help in the effort to land these kids, to Weis recruiting is not all about winning and losing.
"The game is only part of the experience. It's academia, it's meeting with the professors, it's meeting with academic support, it's meeting with our coaches and being able to hang with the players," Weis said. "When it's all said and done, the football element is one element that definitely affects these guys, but it's the whole package that is what we're representing."