Notre Dame, Ind (UHND.com) — The date was circled on college football writers and analyst’s calendars last December. September 24th. Notre Dame at Washington. Tyrone Willingham versus the team that had just let him go after three disappointing seasons coaching under the Golden Dome. Willingham vs. Weis, Willingham vs. Notre Dame, The Ty Bowl, and oh yeah the Washington Huskies vs. the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Whether or not you agree with the way the Willingham dismissal was handled, it is irrelevant now. It’s in the past. Water under the bridge. Ancient history. The entire ordeal has been discussed ad nausea in the media for almost 10 months and its time to forget about it and move on as Weis and the Irish football team have.
Did Willingham deserve to be fired? Did Notre Dame do the right thing? Did Willingham do a lousy job as head coach at Notre Dame? My simple answer to all these questions — who cares, its over and its time to move on.
Considering no Notre Dame team has ever played against a former coach, especially a year after the coach became a former coach, the issue is avoidable, but for Notre Dame to be 3-1 on Saturday evening they can’t dwell on it and the guy who is roaming the sidelines in South Bend these days knows it.
“I think if our players watched the tape of the game against Michigan State, we have enough problems to worry about on our own, and that’s what we’re worrying about.” Weis told the media Tuesday. Even when further pressed on the issue of motivation for playing against Willingham Weis responded with, ‘If you were in that meeting, you’d be worrying about fixing those problems.”
Weis isn’t dwelling on the fact that Willingham was his predecessor. He isn’t getting involved in the hoopla. Rather Weis is focusing on his team, his players, and fixing the problems we all saw in the overtime loss to Michigan State this past weekend.
Some people will still troll the Washington message boards and press conference transcripts for further proof that Willingham isn’t a good coach, but that is Washington’s concern — not Notre Dame’s.
I’ve stated my stance on the issue in the past and rather tend to focus on how Notre Dame will improve the play of a secondary that allowed over 20 yards a completion and three touchdowns through the air and a total of 44 points.
Fundamentals were a theme in Weis’ Tuesday press conference. Tackling was an issue against Michigan State with numerous missed tackles and sloppy technique. “One of the things we’ll spend a good portion of time on today is tackling. Tackling won’t necessarily be knocking people down, it will be form tackling because that’s the thing you have to guard against,” said Weis.
Weis’ message to his team that they have plenty of problems of their own to worry about is one Notre Dame fans should take to heart as well. Notre Dame committed 12 penalties last week which is an alarming number – what will they do to correct this?
Keeping his players from getting caught up in the hoopla will be just as important as his offensive game plan for the Huskies and Weis is confident he and his staff will be able to keep his team focused. “I think we’ll do a great job of that this week.”
The rest of this week the media will have a field day with all of the sub plots leading up to Saturday’s game, but in the end the outcome of the game will prove little about what transpired last December. A Notre Dame win does not prove they were right just as a Washington win doesn’t prove Notre Dame was wrong.
What is really important for Notre Dame this week is how the offense continues to improve and how the defense gets back to the way it played against Michigan.