It Wasn’t ‘Just Another Game’ for Michigan

( – All week long Charlie Weis preached that this weekend’s bout with Michigan was just another game for the Irish. Just one of twelve regular season games in a long season. Unfortunately, no one told Michigan it was just another game. The Wolverines came out with a chip on the shoulder and played with more emotion in their 47-21 stomping of Notre Dame.

Throughout training camp, Michigan stressed the Notre Dame and Ohio State games. The Irish and Buckeyes had both beat Michigan in each of the last two years and if they were going to win any two games this year, they wanted them to be September 16 in South Bend and November 18 in Columbus.

Saturday they stormed into South Bend and came out with a fire and intensity that was lacking from the home team’s sideline. The Irish came out and played like it was, well, just another game.

A Notre Dame-Michigan game is not just another game, its bigger than that.

I understand what Weis was trying to accomplish by playing the “just another game” card, but when you openly state it’s just another game, it gives your opponent a little extra motivation. And, as if Michigan needed any more motivation other than their two game losing streak to the Irish, it only added to the intensity they brought to the field Saturday.

There haven’t been too many tactical errors by Charlie Weis in his brief head coaching career, but I think this is clearly one of them and it could have something to do with his NFL background.

In the NFL, the business like approach is much more effective beings as the players are older and more mature. In college your are dealing with 18-22 year olds who may or may not respond to the business like approach of the NFL at this point in their careers. The result looks a lot like what we Saturday – a flat, stiff team that makes mental errors by trying too hard.

It surprises me a little bit that Weis went this way after taking the blame for the team being flat last year in the home opener against Michigan State. Weis preached about the distractions of playing a home game and stated afterwards it was a tactical error on his part because the team was flat from the get go.

Unfortunately for the Irish, they weren’t playing Michigan State’s defense Saturday, and as a result the offense couldn’t get it going in the second half as they did a year again against the Spartans.

I don’t think that this was a case of Weis not having his team prepared. Rather, Michigan came in foaming at the mouth and treated this game as the make or break point of their season. They were waiting for this one all summer and with their first two games little more than tune-ups against Central Michigan and Vanderbilt, they were focused on the Irish the entire off-season on the heels of their disappointing 7-5 record a season ago.

Weis will learn from this loss, probably more so than players. We tend to forget that Weis is still a second year head coach because of the immense faith we Notre Dame fans have placed in him. While In New England, Weis wasn’t the guy who had to get the entire team ready week in and week out so there is still a bit of learning on the job going on here.

On Saturday, one team played as though this was their only game of the season while the other played like it was just another game and the difference was obvious.

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