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FOOTBALL: Irish poised for Panthers

Mike Gilloon | Tuesday, August 30, 2005

He’s moved into his house. He’s spoken to students and alumni. He’s recruited players.

Irish coach Charlie Weis has done everything he’s been expected to do in his first eight months on the job except one thing – coach a football game.

“I’m just looking forward to getting into the season and giving these players the opportunity to go out there and have some fun,” Weis said. “Because the last I checked, they didn’t have a whole [heck] of a lot of fun the last time [Pittsburgh and Notre Dame] played.”

The Panthers defeated the Irish 41-38 on Nov. 13, 2004.

Weis and his squad will finally get their opportunity Saturday when Notre Dame takes on Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. He intends to focus his attention this week on what plays and packages first-year Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt and his Panthers will run against the Irish.

“One [of the things you have to do when you get to a game week] is you have to get ready to play your opponent in the schemes they use,” Weis said. “The only problem with doing just that in practice is that you can’t simulate the speed of the game. Because when you put show teams out there, it’s always at a much slower pace then when you’re going first [team] against first [team].”

To combat this problem, Weis scheduled time for the first-team offense to run against the first-team defense. He also has had each first-team unit run against reserves – resulting in practices that address both the speed of the game and the schemes Pittsburgh will run.

“I think you’ve got to have enough ammunition on offense and defense to do a lot of different things,” Weis said. “Because what I don’t want to do is go into a game with a game plan and then all of a sudden be pigeonholed because they’re doing something different than I expected and not having somewhere to turn – that’s when you get stomped on.”

Though Weis’ former team, the New England Patriots, faced Wannstedt’s Miami Dolphins twice a year while both were coaching in the AFC East, he is still unsure about what to expect from the Panther defense.

“There’s some uncertainties going in, but I think it’s really important in your own practice to cover both the schemes you’re going against on offense and defense while not forgetting about the speed of the game,” Weis said.

Weis focused much of last Friday’s practice on pre-game routines and also how to handle end-of-game and special teams situations.

“Some of it was pretty, some of it wasn’t pretty, but it was a very good learning experience,” Weis said. “Although you can’t practice every unforeseen thing that happens in a game, I feel this team has shown the ability to adapt mentally and be ready to go. I went through 35 substitutions on consecutive plays on different special teams, and there was not one substitution error.”

Weis will not work the team physically hard this Friday, as he hopes to keep them fresh for Saturday night’s game.

“Friday has to be mental, not physical,” Weis said. “Friday is a day you’re saving [the player’s] legs and hydrating them and getting them ready to go so there are no excuses on Saturday.”


u Weis dined separately in the past two weeks with former Notre Dame coaches Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz, who both captured at least one national title during their time in South Bend.

“These are people that understand Notre Dame as much if not more than I do, and I’m trying to use them as resources to help guide me in the right direction,” Weis said. “Just hearing Ara’s approach from the first year he got here to the last year he left was a very educational experience.”