FOOTBALL: Weis not overlooking ‘Cuse
Matt Puglisi | Monday, November 14, 2005
Expect more of the same from Irish coach Charlie Weis this week.
After exhibiting an ornery mood all last week in an effort to keep his players grounded against 24-point underdog Navy – a team the Irish have now beaten 42 consecutive times – Weis doesn’t anticipate his demeanor changing much as Notre Dame prepares to host 1-8 Syracuse Saturday.
“Probably worse,” Weis said during Sunday’s press conference.
Coming into the pre-Thanksgiving matchup with Notre Dame, Syracuse has little to be thankful for.
After knocking off Buffalo Sept. 10 to even their record at 1-1, the Orange have lost seven consecutive games, including an ugly 27-0 shutout against South Florida last week.
Notre Dame’s role as heavy favorite against the floundering Orange isn’t the only factor contributing to Weis’ discontent – a number of negatives from a 42-21 shellacking of the Midshipmen taint an otherwise convincing victory, he said.
Weis was particularly upset with the special teams play Saturday.
“This was one of the worst performances we had by our special teams all year long,” Weis said. “With the exception of the kicking of D.J. [Fitzpatrick] and the coverage of David Bruton, I wasn’t very pleased with just about anything we did.”
From kickoffs to punting, the unit consistently failed to play its best football.
“Our kickoff average was poor, our kickoff return was poor. We almost had a punt blocked, we didn’t snap very well,” Weis said. “We missed some opportunities in the punt return game. Twice we had a chance of taking it to the house, and we were one man away from that being the case. We’re obviously going to have to play a lot better against Syracuse.”
In addition to special teams, Weis identified both mediocre tackling and pass coverage on defense as areas of concern.
“Although I thought we tackled okay, I thought they were soft at times, and we were definitely too soft with the quarterback,” Weis said. “We were fortunate, we didn’t get much of a ball disruption on the passing game. We were just fortunate they didn’t hit on some of these play action passes because we all saw there were some guys wide open, they just didn’t connect, so they turned out to be long foul balls.”
Rounding out Weis’ critique was disappointment surrounding Notre Dame’s inability to stop the Navy offense on drives to not only start the game, but also to open the second half. The Midshipmen drove 69 yards on 16 plays on their first possession of the contest, culminating in an 8-yard touchdown run by Adam Ballard. Navy opened the second half with an 80-yard, 12-play drive that ended with a one-yard Lamar Owens touchdown run.
“They had a touchdown on the first drive the first half, which I can attribute to the speed of the game, which is not a good thing,” Weis said. “But what I didn’t like was we also gave up a touchdown the start of the second half, and we’ll be working on the starts of the games again this week, even though we had emphasized that as a point for this week.”
u The Irish had a couple of new faces quarterbacking the scout team last week. In preparation for Navy’s unique option-style offense, Weis had Darrin Bragg and Kyle McCarthy -who had experience as an option quarterback in high school – both take snaps and mimic the Midshipman attack.
“Both Darrin and Kyle were picked as our offensive scout team players of the week for their simulating the offense,” Weis said. “I think they both helped us.”
u Regardless of all the responsibilities that accompany his position as Notre Dame football head coach, Weis said he isn’t worried about getting overwhelmed by the job.
“I don’t get burned out,” Weis said. “This has been easier for me. Don’t take it wrong because I’m not being sarcastic, but that’s almost comical. I’ve had more time this year than I’ve had in my entire life.
“My son said to me, ‘I’ve seen you more this year, Daddy, than I’ve seen you in my entire life,’ and he’s 12. I have more energy this time of year. I’m usually at the halfway mark [of the NFL season].”