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Monday, May 27
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Irish eyes still blurry in South Bend for Weis

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Calls for Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis’ head are done – at least for now.

Prior to the start of the season, expectations for the program were as consistent as Weis’ tenure thus far in South Bend.

A national title, a Bowl Championship Series bid and another seven-win season were all tossed around.

After an expected 35-0 home blowout against Nevada in Week 1, the Irish began to show signs of previous years’ woes against Michigan.  

Fumbles inside their own red zone, dropped passes in the end zone and dead-ball penalties continued to plague Notre Dame.

The inconsistency synonymous with Notre Dame football again showed itself Saturday.

In its 33-30 win, Notre Dame beat Michigan State at home for the first time since 1993.

Unlike some Notre Dame teams during the past decade or so, this group did not quit when the “breaks were beating the boys,” echoing the speech of legendary Notre Dame running back George Gipp.  

At the same time, this season and ending a 15-year bowl drought with a 2008 December game should send the message to irrational Notre Dame fans and boosters around the country.

It should show them that the environment of college football has changed.

No one program can or will monopolize the game like the Irish of the 1940s or Oklahoma of the 1950s.

Weis’ post-game comments said it all.

“It’s really nice to see how genuinely excited they are, and I feel great for them,” he said of his players.

Twenty years ago, Notre Dame winning a shoot-out against a down Michigan State team would have been viewed as a moral loss.

But Weis, a member of the Bill Parcells coaching tree, has been put in an impossible situation in one of the most scrutinized jobs in America.

During the last three years, his staff has never looked for anyone else to blame but themselves.

As if dealing with the pushy trustees, boosters and everything else that comes with being the head football coach at Notre Dame wasn’t enough, Weis has dealt with intense criticism after each of the last two seasons.

That said, Saturday’s contest wasn’t won by Notre Dame – it was lost by Michigan State.

Even though Notre Dame didn’t fold, Michigan State handed the game to “Touchdown Jesus” overlooking Notre Dame Stadium in the distance.

Despite an uncharacteristic fumbled exchange in the second quarter on the Spartan goal line, star wide receiver Golden Tate dropping a would-be touchdown and continuous penalties, Michigan State found ways to lose.

Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins overthrew an absurdly wide open Larry Caper in the end zone with just more than a minute to go.

Spartan cornerback Chris Rucker dropped a ball that was essentially thrown directly to him from Notre Dame junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who has yet to be intercepted in 2009.

So, with games against Washington – who downed USC – and rival Boston College looming, where does the program go from here?

A high-caliber bowl game is not out of the question for Notre Dame, who has never lost less than two games en route to a major bowl in the BCS era.

There is no question the Irish offense has the firepower to put major points on the board from here on out.

Their fate depends upon the Irish defense, who on Saturday looked downright confused with too-many-men-on-the-field penalties and failing to correctly align before the snap.

The all-too-common blitzes from defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta have more often than not been exploited by a successful intermediate passing game.

Should the Irish fall to less than 10 wins for the sixth time in seven years with a struggling defense, the calls for a new coach by the name of Urban Meyer or Jon Gruden will ring again.

And talk of instability will go right along with it.

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