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Football: Bye’s timing appropriate

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, October 4, 2005

With five games under their belt, the Irish get a quick and timely breather before taking on No. 1 Southern California on Oct. 15 at Notre Dame Stadium.

No. 12 Notre Dame has this week off after a five-game stretch that consisted of four road games and four games against ranked opponents. After finishing that stretch with a 4-1 record, including Saturday’s 49-28 drubbing of Purdue, first-year Irish coach Charlie Weis likes what he sees.

“My whole party line walking in the door was a mentality that I wanted the team to take, and I’d say more than anything else the team has taken that mentality,” Weis said on Monday, one day after he usually holds his press conference. “That pleases me as much as wins and losses; that your team is going out there, playing hard, expecting to win every time you go on the field.”

Weis said this week will be devoted to three things: getting the starters rest, getting the second team some playing time and both scouting USC and recruiting high school players.

“For the guys who play most of the snaps, I want this to be more of a week to heal their bumps and bruises,” Weis said. “That means that you put pressure on them mentally but you don’t put any pressure on them physically. You put as little physical pressure on them as you can.”

Players that have been hurt include two starters – offensive lineman Bob Morton and wide receiver Rhema McKnight, who both did not play Saturday. Morton dressed for the game but did not play, and McKnight has not seen time since injuring himself against Michigan on Sept. 10. In addition, no players are available to the media this week, just Weis and assistant coaches.

Weis said he and his staff not only have more time to prepare for USC, but he also has time to send coaches on the road to recruit.

“Wednesday night, seven of [the assistant coaches] are hopping on a plane and flying out there because two of the six days we are using for recruiting are going to be Thursday and Friday of this week,” Weis said of his staff, which numbers nine assistant coaches in total. “So seven of our staff members will be on the road recruiting on Thursday and Friday. We’ll have a skeleton screw in here for Thursday’s practice.”

Meanwhile, while Notre Dame is off, the defending national champions, who have won 26 games in a row, will face Arizona (1-2) at home on Saturday. The Trojans, led by last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush, have scored 63, 70, 45 and 38 points, respectively, in their first four games.

USC has had the best of this rivalry in the past three years, winning last season at the Coliseum 41-10, the year before at Notre Dame Stadium, 45-14, and in 2002, 44-13.

This year’s USC team is not much different from the teams that have beaten the Irish for three straight seasons.

“As long as the system is the same, you definitely watch all of last year’s games,” Weis said. “So even though their offensive coordinator [Norm Chow, who now coaches for the Tennessee Titans] left, the system is still the same. And Pete [Carroll] is the defense coordinator, so that didn’t change. So when you are watching both sides of the ball, as long as the system stay the same there’s a lot of value in watching the previous year and then you always watch your own team play against them for personnel matchups to see how those went based on who was there … But there’s definitely in this case both offensively and defensively, a lot of carryover from the previous year.”

Weis said he will need all the time he can to not only prepare for the Trojans, but to determine how the Irish are going to attack them.

“As far as game planning, I like it, because by this time I have already watched a bunch of Southern Cal tape and this is two weeks before we play them,” Weis said. “I am going to have to watch a whole bunch of more, but the good thing is before we get through the middle of this week I will have watched everything I have needed to watch.

“Now the question [of] whether or not you can come up with enough good stuff to find what they do isn’t as big a problem as finding what you are going to do against them. That’s the bigger problem.”

Notes:

u Weis said Monday that defensive lineman Trevor Laws will be the special teams captain for the game against USC after blocking a field goal at Purdue on Saturday.

u After Brady Quinn’s career day on Saturday (440 yards, three touchdowns, one interception), Weis was quick to praise his quarterback.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the performance of the quarterback because he was outstanding,” Weis said Monday. “And I don’t say that very often. I don’t use that word very often. I hope I am using it more often, but I thought he was just exceptional, the way he managed the game and I thought he played very well.”