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New pope, new coach, new era

Acker, Molly | Friday, September 16, 2005

There is a buzz around campus. No, I’m not talking about this week’s re-opening of our fallen favorite, CJ’s. The excitement around here is for Charlie Weis and his 2-0 Fighting Irish, who will be welcomed into Notre Dame Stadium tomorrow for the first time this season. As those of you who don’t live under a rock already know, the Irish have climbed into the Top 10 after impressive wins at both Pittsburgh and Michigan.

There are currently shirts being worn around campus that read, “New Pope, New Coach, New Era.” I find this shirt fitting, because things just seem much different with Weis at the helm: our offense looks crisp; our defense can force a punt; and we can count on having the right number of players in the huddle. Best of all, on Saturday nights our opponents are now the ones questioning whether or not they need to fire their coach. The Weis Era has certainly started off with a bang, and most of us feel that this season could mark the beginning of “Return to Glory: For Real This Time.”

However, there are some among us who are not yet convinced. They cite ESPN’s talking heads who constantly remind us that the last guy here won his first eight games. (Ty Willingham’s first team didn’t score an offensive touchdown until its third game; Charlie Weis’ team scored six touchdowns in its first seven possessions.) They say that it has only been two games. (These two games came on the road against the No. 23 and No. 3 teams in the country.) They tell us not to get ahead of ourselves and to keep our expectations in check.

We could listen to these naysayers, or we could remember what Coach Weis said after dismantling Pitt, “By halftime, our players were starting to realize they were better than they thought they were. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell them all along, a lot of this game is confidence.”

So why don’t we put a little confidence into our team as well? The statistics have already shown the Irish to be better than anyone thought they were. In the first half of the Pitt game, Brady Quinn threw for more yards than he did in five entire games last year. Weis’ first game on the Notre Dame sideline yielded 42 points, a total that surpassed the output in 35 of Willingham’s 37 games as coach. The team’s win in Ann Arbor was our first road victory over a top five team since Lou Holtz paced the same visitors’ sideline in the Big House back in 1993.

In fact, Weis’ two road victories have earned him comparisons to a guy by the name of Knute Rockne, who is the only other coach to open his tenure with two victories on enemy turf. While it might be a bit premature to sculpt a statue of Coach Weis to share the bench with Moose Krause outside the JACC, there is enough evidence to put our faith in “Charlie and the Football Factory” and enjoy the ride.

We can do our part to help ensure a great homecoming for our conquering heroes by supporting the team with reckless abandon this weekend.

This evening, go to the pep rally and cheer until you lose your voice. At midnight go to the steps of the Dome to see the drum circle. Tomorrow, put on The Shirt (even if it does look like one huge mustard stain) and rally around the team as it walks from the Basilica to the Stadium. Raise a toast to the Fighting Irish at your tailgate, and go see the band at Bond Hall. Get into the stadium a little earlier, yell a little louder, and let Michigan State know that they will be spending the afternoon in a very hostile environment.

Finally, trust that Coach Weis will is familiar with the words of Knute Rockne, who said, “We use the same boys and the same plays on the road as we do at home. Our execution is expected to be the same. At home we’re the hosts, and I never liked the idea of being embarrassed in front of our friends.”

Go Irish!

Molly Acker is a senior at Saint Mary’s. She is a double major in communication studies and humanistic studies. She can be reached at acke6758@saintmarys.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.