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Football Commentary: Where do we go from here?

Chris Khorey | Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Saturday was a disaster.

Saturday was the worst loss since Ty Willingham’s inept 2003 squad.

Saturday was the worst home opener ever.

And Saturday is over.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis felt like he had to come up with a surprise new offense to beat Georgia Tech. He knew he had an inexperienced team – and in order to achieve his goal of winning every game, he thought he needed to break out some new wrinkles to give the Irish a chance.

In retrospect, that was a mistake. But it can still be corrected.

No, Weis can’t travel back in time and re-gameplan for the Yellow Jackets. But he can make up for lost time.

This is a very young team. They weren’t going to undefeated this season – and they almost certainly aren’t going to win out and go 12-1. They need to learn and grow and the only way to do that is to have a consistent game plan every week.

Doing that may require patience. There may be ugly losses, but at least the team knows what it’s going to do each week and can concentrate on improving that.

If the Irish are confident in their game plan, they will execute better, which will lead to confidence in their abilities, which will lead to better results.

It may take a while, but the steady improvement will be obvious, and it might even start against Penn State on Saturday.

A few years back, when the Chicago Bulls were trying to replace Michael Jordan with a host of young players, sportswriters dubbed them the “Baby Bulls.”

Well, these are the Baby Irish. They are trying to replace a legend of their own, and they are extremely young.

Notre Dame’s leading rusher on Saturday was a sophomore quarterback, Demetrius Jones. Its most effective tailback was a true freshman, Armando Allen. Its leading receiver was a sophomore, Robby Parris. Three of its offensive linemen were making their first start – and one of the other two was a sophomore.

These youngsters will be here for the long haul, but what Saturday showed is that they have a lot to learn.

And Weis can teach it to them. He just needs to concentrate on teaching and not outrageous game plans that waste valuable learning time.

The offensive line needs to be taught to make pre-snap reads, so they aren’t flat-footed and getting pushed around when the ball is snapped – and also so defenders aren’t running past them unmolested every play.

They are behind in that task because they spent time on the spread option before Georgia Tech, but that should and will end now. And they will get better.

What will also end now is the quarterback carousel. Weis is announcing or has already announced the starting quarterback for Penn State today. That quarterback will be “the” guy and the coach can do what he does best – teach him the position.

Of course, while all this learning is taking place, the team will still have to play games. While they may not win all of them, they won’t look as bad as they did last Saturday.

As the season rolls on, the team will get better and more confident. They will execute, and they will win.

And come next year and the year after, when the nucleus of this team returns, they will win even more.

And then, if he deems it necessary, Weis can have fun crafting some off-the-wall game plans to beat teams the Irish don’t match up well with.

But for now, consistency is the watch word. Install the basic offense and teach the team to run it well.

Because while they’re young, they’re also talented – and they can do big things in their time at Notre Dame.

So long as Weis and the fans have a little patience.

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

Contact Chris Khorey at ckhorey@nd.edu