SEATTLE - The 33-7 loss to his former team on Saturday night did not seal Tyrone Willingham's fate at Washington…that was done weeks ago.
But the game should bring some finality to the Willingham-Charlie Weis-Notre Dame dynamic.
"We talked before the game," Weis said of Willingham. "I think we both felt that talking back in 2005 we were glad to get it out of the way then as well. I think the media keeps it going more than we do because there was no feeling of that on our team and I don't there was any feeling of it on their team."
The Washington fans were literally shouting for change after the game and they will get it, maybe not as quickly as they would like, but they will get it. Weis and the Irish know what it is like to go through a season like the Washington is experiencing after their own struggles in 2007.
Notre Dame openly talked about starting fast so that Washington would feel out of it and that is exactly what happened. The Irish scored three minutes into the game and the Huskies never had a chance.
Some of Washington's players seemed to be happy just to get a chance to play the Irish.
"It was exciting," wide receiver Charles Hawkins said. "Especially being on national television it gave a lot of people who have never been able to see us play the chance to watch us. We went into the game hoping to get the win and even though we did not accomplish our goal, we tried and it was nice that people were able to see us go after it."
Maurice Crum, Terrail Lambert and Justin Brown sought out their former coach for handshakes and some kind words after the game.
For Notre Dame fans, the convincing win is final vindication that the Irish made the right decision by replacing Willingham with Weis after the 2004 season. It's obvious that both coaches have made impacts on their programs, but only one for the better.
Where Willingham will end up is unknown, but for him, Weis, Notre Dame and Irish fans, hopefully this game will bring an end to this chapter.
ND KEEPS IT BALANCED: It was clear from the start that Notre Dame was not going to put the entire game on the shoulders of Jimmy Clausen. Armando Allen carried the ball on the Irish's first two carries and although Clausen threw a touchdown on his first toss of the game, Allen started the next drive with a pair of rushes.
Clausen did not have his best day, but he didn't need to as Notre Dame finished with 252 yards rushing and 207 yards passing. James Aldridge finished with 84 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
"The line opened up some big holes and I think I was just doing my job," Aldridge said. "Everyone was doing their job today."
Clausen was just nine of 21 for 134 yards and a score in the first half and Weis wanted to make sure that he got his quarterback into a groove before the game got out of hand.
"Jimmy came out hot in the first quarter and then in the second quarter our passing game got a little inconsistent," Weis said. "We came out in the third quarter and had a bunch of quick throws just to get our timing back."
Clausen completed his final five passes of the game for 67 yards before taking a seat in the fourth quarter.
"We like to have a precision passing game and I thought we went away from that in the second quarter," Weis said. "Some of it was from being in long-yardage situations, but we got away from the precision passing and then in the third quarter we got back into synch."
Clausen was not worried about his numbers after the game.
"I think I did all right," he said. "We got a victory and that's all I care about."
FAKE PUNT WORKS AGAIN: For the second time this year, linebacker Harrison Smith had the team's longest rush on a fake punt. Notre Dame faced a 4th-and-13 on their own 37 when Smith, the upback, received the snap and found an opening for a 35-yard gain.
"It's just kind of a look, it's based on what people line up in and we just had it in for this game," Smith said. "When you finally see (the look) you get excited."
Weis said that he almost called it in the second quarter.
"I had it dialed up to call right before halftime, but then when there was only two or three seconds left right before halftime, I figured why call it now?" Weis said. "I said to Corwin, ‘Corwin, you've got to be ready to back me up if this doesn't make it right here.' But we got the look and just the way we practiced it."
Weis said he had no concerns about anyone thinking he was trying to run it up because that was not the case.
"It's the third quarter, it's 27-0. It's not 50-0 now, it's 27-0. I'm not that type of guy as you saw," Weis said. "We yanked everyone early in the fourth quarter. The one touchdown they got was against a bunch of guys who never play, so that's not our deal here."
REALLY GOOD, BUT NOT PERFECT: The blowout win was not a perfect one for Notre Dame, at least not for the offense. While the defense controlled Washington, the offense did put itself in some difficult situations.
After starting with consecutive touchdowns, Notre Dame moved to the Washington 22-yard line on its third possession before a 10-yard loss on a Golden Tate end around moved them back. Clausen's 3rd-and-19 pass was incomplete and he was picked off on fourth down.
The Irish offense had outstanding field position on its next possession after the defense forced a three-and-out, but after one first down, Notre Dame had to settle for a field goal. The Irish moved the ball back down deep into Washington territory on their next drive, but a holding penalty on Chris Stewart backed them up and again they failed to convert a 4th-and-very long.
Notre Dame took over on its own 23 with 2:21 to go in the first half and while Clausen has proven his ability to get yards in chunks, the Irish had to settle for running out the clock. The offense did redeem itself by scoring all three times it had the ball in the third quarter before inserting the subs.
MORE PLAYERS GET INTO ACTION: Notre Dame moved people around in different places against Washington. For the second straight game David Bruton did not appear on special teams and the Irish moved Mike Anello around on kickoff to help make up for Bruton's absence.
Freshmen Darius Fleming and Ethan Johnson started while Maurice Crum's streak of 43 straight starts was snapped when he was not on the field for the first defensive play, although Crum did return for the game's second snap. Robert Blanton and Ray Herring each saw plenty of time in the secondary.
Gray finished with 61 yards on nine carries.
RUFF DEBUT: The cult hero status is going to have to wait.
Sophomore walk-on kicker David Ruffer, who joined the squad last Tuesday and was embraced by the fans because of Brandon Walker's struggles, dinged his first extra point attempt off the right upright.
"I think David showed some first-game jitters," Weis giggled. "That would be an understatement."
Weis had said that he wanted to give Ruffer a chance and that he would if Walker struggled or the game turned it to a runaway. Walker looked solid all night and Ruffer only got a shot because of the score. Walker converted both of his field goal attempts, from 28 and 42 yards, and made all three of his extra points.
Walker said Ruffer's addition had little to do with his performance.
"A lot of people say it would push (me) to be a lot better, but to be honest if I had lost my job or if I do lose my job down the road, it means the better guy won the job," Walker said. "Miss or make I'll be the first one out there to congratulate him or tell him to keep his head up and make the next one."
OTHER TIDBITS: As he has in each game where he has won the coin toss this year, Weis elected to defer to the second half…. Eric Olsen limped off in the first quarter and did not return, although he was walking around and appeared ready to go back in if he was needed. Brian Smith left with a concussion in the second half and was sent into the locker room. Weis said that both guys were fine and that Notre Dame was just being cautious. Washington starting defensive tackle Senio Kelemete went down with a knee injury in warm ups. It was reported to be a left knee sprain and he came back to the field in street clothes… The win was Notre Dame's seventh in seven meetings with the Huskies.