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Football: Coaches not satisfied with current results

Mike Gilloon | Thursday, November 3, 2005

With its 5-2 start this season, Notre Dame has exceeded many expectations from fans and preseason publications. The two Irish losses have come by a total of only six points, falling 34-31 to No. 1 Southern California on Oct. 15 and 44-41 in overtime to Michigan State on Sept. 17.

But despite this, the Irish aren’t totally satisfied with their play this season.

“Well if you ask me how good are we, I don’t think we’ve played real great this year,” Notre Dame defensive coordinator Rick Minter said at Wednesday’s press conference.

Minter pointed out the way Notre Dame has given up several big drives but has come up with a turnover before the opponent can score.

“We’ve played hard, and we’ve played solid,” he said. “We’ve covered up some of our own mistakes with the takeaway, which is our No. 1 job – to take the ball away. You don’t like to do it always like that, all the way backed up and put the offense in bad field position, but that beats the alternative of lining up for an extra point.”

Irish head coach Charlie Weis also addressed this issue, emphasizing how he used last week’s bye to focus on the details Minter alluded to.

“There’s a lot of things that we need to clean up – like penalties, like ball possession,” Weis said. “Some of the things that were glaring errors in the BYU game. When you have a normal 20-hour work week, it’s tough to spend extra time on a couple of facets, because you have installation to deal with as well.”

Notre Dame was penalized 11 times for 77 yards in its 49-23 win over BYU Oct. 22.

Irish strong safety Tom Zbikowski said cleaning up mistakes has been a focus of practice this week.

“I know for the linemen, if they jump offsides, they got to start running,” Zbikowski said. “The coaches are looking on and making sure they don’t jump offsides. Luckily I don’t have that problem.”

During Zbikowski’s 83-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Cougars, he extended the ball outward on his way to the end zone. But Weis and he both agree that will not happen against Tennessee.

“Yeah I’ve been carrying the ball with two hands this week for [Weis],” Zbikowski said.

Notes:

u The Irish will not be traveling to Tennessee’s 104,759-seat Neyland Stadium, famous for being a loud environment. But Weis is still focused on getting on top early – even without an opposing crowd to quiet.

“Any time you’re playing a tough opponent, the advantages of getting on top early are great,” he said. “It puts pressure on the whole mentality of the whole team. Conversely, if you get behind early, now you’re putting some extra pressure on yourself. I’m always big on trying to get on top early.”

u In the wake of Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry’s comments regarding the lack of African Americans in his program, Weis was asked for his take on the issue of race in college football.

“I learned a long time ago, long before I got into the business world, to be color blind,” Weis said. “I think that anyone who’s a success in life better practice that philosophy.”