"Not Our First Rodeo"

Irish head coach Charlie Weis met with the local media tonight to (eventually) discuss Saturday's pivotal matchup in Pittsburgh.

Something Tells Me Next Wednesday Won't Be as Eventful….

Coach Weis was, of course, immediately asked about Co-Defensive Coordinator Corwin Brown's unsolicited preamble regarding the following post-game comments by Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo:

"I think the one thing that helped us, and I really hope this doesn't come across wrong, but I think the thing that helped us this year was last year because we knew that they'd line up the same way."

Weis, predictably, kept his reaction and subsequent conversation with Brown in-house.

"As you know I've been on a media ban for the last week or so, but I was told about it last night," Weis offered. "I had a chat with (Corwin) this morning and we moved onto Pittsburgh."

When asked two follow-up questions, Weis simply responded "I had a reaction and we talked about it this morning," before finally shutting down the line of questioning and stating that he'd only talk about Pittsburgh.

(For video on coach Brown's comments yesterday, click here. I'll have my view on the situation included as part of Friday's game prediction column).

On a related note, one of Weis' post-game themes in the wake of the Saturday's loss was accountability. From himself, his staff, and his players.

According to the Irish leader, that emphasis appeared to take hold this week.

"I think our players and coaches have done a good job of accepting accountability this week and it came back to our (original) conversation on Sunday," Weis stated. "I think you've found players and now coaches that are expressing responsibility for their actions.

"I think that you're on the right track if everyone is accepting their share of the responsibility."

Between the Lines

Facing a Fearsome Foursome: Lost in the uproar over Saturday's loss; the theme of self-reflection, and Wednesday's surreal scene at the defensive coaches' press conference has been the necessary focus on what will determine Saturday's outcome: blocking and tackling and players making plays.

The Panthers boast the nation's best pass rush (38 sacks) and the bulk of the pressure and havoc created by the team's front seven comes courtesy of their four-man line (five player rotation) up front.

How has this band of largely under-recruited players become such a dominant unit?

"I think the one thing is the composition of four good players all playing together," Weis observed. "All four of these guys (post) tackles-for-loss, sacks…you can't just block one or two of them, you have to pay a lot of attention and block all four of them."

The Irish Running Game: Notre Dame's backfield and overall attack up front should received a boost Saturday night with the expected return of junior half back Armando Allen and sophomore right guard Trevor Robinson from ankle injuries.

"They both looked very good," Weis answered. "They'll both start and they couldn't have come back at a better time. We need them."

Also in the fold is emerging freshman Theo Riddick, who Weis acknowledged would be part of the game plan in Heinz Field.

"I think that Theo and Robert (Hughes) will both be involved in the mix. Tony (Alford) and I went over this and Armando will start off and we'll go from there," Weis continued.

"And as the game goes on I think we'll go with the hot hand as things get going."

Dead Zone Adjustments: After an 0-4 effort by the Irish offense last week inside the Navy 20-yard line, Weis bristled at a question Tuesday regarding his team's execution or lack thereof.

Approximately 54 hours has, later, the sarcasm remained.

"We'll try not to turn the ball over twice inside the five like I said the other day and we're going to try not to fumble on the one (yardline)," Weis reiterated before continuing down the familiar path.

"If I get it 4th and 3 in this game maybe I'll kick the field goal instead of going for it. And then we'll try not to miss (that again). If we do that there will probably be about 17 more points for the good guys, but that's not the way (it transpired last week)."

Weis did answer (with relevance) the follow-up, intended question regarding the possibility of increased practice time dedicated to red zone offense.

"We practice red zone at least Wednesday and Thursday of every week. We spend a lot of time on red zone.

"I along with (the media) identified that as a problem area, but I think you have to identify what the problems were. Once you've identified that you can go through the problem-solving phase."

Yeah, but We're Still Talkin' ‘bout Practice

The first step to bouncing back isn't when a team takes the field the following Saturday, but rather with the initial hit, rep, and singular focus on the game week's practice.

Weis believes tonight's final preparation session bodes well for Saturday.

"I was uplifted, not just Tuesday and Wednesday but very particularly today," Weis offered. "Thursday in college football is supposed to be a mental day (not a physical practice).

"So when you go through a practice on Thursday and you're really not clean in everything you're doing, as a coach, you start to have some concerns. And I've had that a few times this year where I've had some concerns coming off the field on Thursday, where mentally we weren't in the game.

"But (today) was as good a Thursday as we've had in quite some time."

Weis acknowledged that only Saturday's performance is relevant.

"Let's see if Thursday pays off on Saturday. I know I feel a lot more comfortable tomorrow knowing what I saw in practice today."

Speaking of Saturday...

Bright Lights, Big City

There is nothing positive about Notre Dame serving in a spoiler role Saturday night, but Weis believes the Irish can take advantage of their sudden situation.

"I think the team will be loose," Weis said of his Irish. " They have more reasons to be loose than the other team does: (Pittsburgh's) a BCS contender, playing at top of their game…sold out stadium, raucous crowd, night game, National TV.

"We've been on National TV plenty of times before. This isn't our first rodeo."

Weis' Irish are 8-5 in regular season games under the lights including 2-0 this season with a 2-4 mark vs. ranked teams since the beginning of 2005.

After an 0-5 start under head coach Dave Wannstedt (who, like Weis, coached his first collegiate game in the 2005 season-opener between the teams), the Panthers have reached 7 wins vs. 12 losses in their night matchups.

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