(UHND.com) – A funny thing happened in South Bend today… the sun came up, the players returned to the practice field, and Charlie Weis was talking to the media at his normal Tuesday press conference. Apparently Saturday’s loss to Michigan wasn’t the end of the world for the Notre Dame football team in 2006, who knew?
The way most Notre Dame fan reacted to Saturday’s loss at the hands of Michigan, you would have thought the season was over and there was nothing left to play for. There was the team on Tuesday though, practicing and getting ready for Michigan State, ready to put the Michigan game far behind them.
“I think we have to put the flag incident and Michigan behind us because if we sit there, and when you use something like the flag incident, try to use that as your motivation for the game, that lasts for about five minutes once the game starts. Once you start hitting each other in the mouth a few times in the game, that stuff is over with,” was about as much as Weis had to say about Michigan Tuesday.
The flag incident he was referring to as everyone remembers came last year when a few Michigan State players ran to midfield and planted their flag into the Notre Dame Stadium turf.
Weis didn’t want to hear much about the incident though and instead said the team would be focusing on fundamentals and eliminating the mistakes that cost them dearly against the Wolverines.
“The thing we need to talk about is how can we correct what happened last week and apply them to a team like Michigan State who is pretty darn good. That’s really the bottom line. I hate to be so simplistic, but that’s really where we are.”
Weis and his players face a critical week of practice heading into a game that cannot be taken lightly, even if the Spartans remain unranked despite winning their first three games this season. The Spartans have dominated this series recently albeit if most of their recent dominance came against Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie coached teasms.
“They’ve gotten the best of us for quite some time now. They’ve won seven out of the last nine games,” cautioned Weis in his opening remarks. Of those seven wins for the Spartans, five came under Davie, who never beat the Spartans, two under Willingham, and the seventh came last year in an overtime thriller during Weis’s first year.
One of the areas the Irish will be focusing on this week will be along an offensive line that has not played to its potential thus far this year. “We need to collectively try to make some improvements, and it’s improvements in every aspect. We want to block the run better. We want to protect the quarterback better,” said Weis of his offensive line.
The Irish ground game a week ago netted just four (4) yards on 17 attempts. Part of the problems came from Michigan’s defensive line getting the best of the Irish blockers, part from some misread holes from running back Darius Walker, and part came from the Irish being forced to pass once they got down.
Just how the Irish respond to a loss by such a wide margin will be interesting to watch considering the high expectations the coaches and player’s had for this season. “think they know we expect to be better than that. I think everyone knows that. They know it. I know it. You know it. Our expectations are much higher than that. I’m expecting us to rise up this week.”
Weis said he drew upon his NFL experience in how he dealt with the players after such a disappointing loss. He referenced a 2004 game in which the Pittsburgh Steelers jumped all over the Patriots who were riding a 21 game win streak to the tune of a 21-3 hafltime lead. “I think when we got back there, the one thing we did do before anything else, the first thing we did was address the team. Say, Look, fellas, this is not a funeral we’re going to, okay, this is a football game we just lost. We have another opportunity to go out and play,” said Weis of how the Patriots staff handled its players after the loss. He would add that, “I think I tried to address the team very similar to how Bill handled it at that time.”
What was the result of the Patriots following game? They beat the St. Louis Rams 40-22. “The next week I remember we went into St. Louis, who was supposed to be pretty good, we stomped them,” recalled Weis.
The Irish head coach was, however, quick to state he wasn’t suggesting the result would be exactly the same this week. “I’m not saying anything like that is going to happen at Michigan State, but that’s what the follow-up of that game was.”
The bottom line is Weis, his staff, and the players are still very much focused on winning all of their remaining games despite not controlling their own destiny now that they have a “1” in the “L” column.