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FOOTBALL: Home stretch ends on Orange

Pat Leonard | Wednesday, November 16, 2005

As the wins piled up and the Charlie Weis bandwagon rolled along into mid-October, the first-year coach had not won a home game.

Notre Dame’s head coach did not earn his first home victory until Oct. 22 against BYU, 49-23, and one week later he had a 10-year contract extension that sent critics into fits. But Weis has remained consistent at Notre Dame Stadium in an unusually long home stretch, not only moving to 3-2 at home with a victory over Navy Saturday but also outscoring his past three opponents there, 132-65.

“It’s important for us to establish the fact that we can win at home,” Weis said in his Tuesday press conference. “By reputation this place has been known as a quiet place to play, and it certainly hasn’t been that way this year.”

Saturday’s upcoming game against Syracuse will be the fifth consecutive Irish home game since winning at Purdue, 49-28, on Oct. 1.

That long stretch has not allowed Notre Dame to get into a completely normal and comfortable rhythm of playing at home, since two bye weeks preceded the stretch and then threatened to stall Irish momentum following the BYU victory.

“The only problem was there were byes intertwined in that,” Weis said. “So we’ve been home forever, but in there we also have had two sets of unorthodox weeks, a no-game week followed by a long week. So there’s the flipside of that in both ways.

“Right now, like I said, our next game is at home and we’re just happy to be playing at home, but we realize that Syracuse isn’t going to just come in here and lay down now.” They’re going to come in here trying to beat us.”

Notre Dame’s first two home games were losses to Michigan State, a 44-41 overtime defeat, and to Southern Cal in a 34-31 last-second heartbreaker. The scores were close and the Irish had chances to win both games, but the team didn’t pull it out at home early on in the season.

Weis blames himself for causing the lone ‘distraction’ of playing home.

“The only distraction that was created was really my fault to be honest with you,” Weis said. “Way back early in the year when we lost to Michigan State, not that we didn’t deserve to lose, but that was the head coach’s fault.”

Whatever distraction remains at Notre Dame Stadium after Saturday will be inconsequential, since the only game remaining on the Irish slate will be a Nov. 26 date with Stanford in California.

Notre Dame may be looking forward to a climate change, anyway. Current weather forecasts call for rain during Saturday’s game and a low of 32 degrees.