Joe Meixell | Wednesday, September 26, 2007
After improving in the running game Saturday against Michigan State, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis has decided to stay with the formula that brought that improvement – up to a certain point.
Last week, the Irish spent three practices just hitting each other, including on Sunday, a day usually reserved for weight lifting and film study. This week, Notre Dame again practiced on Sunday and spent the first hour of Tuesday blocking and tackling.
But, Weis said, that will be the extent of physical practices before the 0-4 Irish take on Purdue Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind.
“We still have elements of last week in there, because I think last week helped us,” Weis said. “I didn’t do full speed, take-them-to-the-ground on Sunday, because I had a bunch of guys beat up. It becomes counter-productive.”
Weis said while the more physical practices are new to both the team and the coaching staff, he wants to keep the team hitting each other at least once a week going forward.
“Last week’s schedule was different than anything we’ve ever done,” Weis said. “And I think that this might be more like the way we’re going to go the rest of the way, where we at least dedicate part of Tuesday’s practice to have ones going against one.”
Players grasping defense
Weis said that, after four games, the defense is starting to feel comfortable in Corwin Brown’s 3-4 personnel scheme.
“Some of these guys are getting better just by pure reps out there playing,” Weis said. “It’s one thing to just practice it, but I think another thing is actually playing in the games.”
The Irish have given up more than 30 points to each of their first four opponents and more than 230 yards per game on the ground – both worse than the 2006 defensive effort that led to the release of former defensive coordinator Rick Minter.
Weis said some of the defensive issues are caused by an offense that holds the ball for six minutes less than the opposition every game.
“I think that last year there were a lot of times you could count on the defense not being on the field nearly as much,” he said.
Notre Dame has improved on pass defense, giving up fewer than 120 yards per game through the air.
Pass catchers not griping
While they haven’t seen many throws due to the offensive’s line struggles and the switch to a power running attack against the Spartans, Notre Dame’s wide receivers aren’t complaining, Weis said.
“The better we run the ball, the better the protection is, the more we’ll throw the ball,” he said.
One player that has been surprisingly absent from the passing game is fifth-year senior tight end John Carlson. Carlson was Notre Dame’s leading returning receiver coming into the year, but has only seven catches for 63 yards so far this season and has often been kept in to block on pass plays.
But, Weis said, Carlson is being patient.
“He knows the year’s not over,” Weis said. “All he wants to do is anything he can to give us the best chance of winning.”
Game time announced
The kickoff time and television coverage for Saturday’s contest with the Boilermakers was announced Monday.
The game will begin at 12:02 p.m. and will be carried live on ESPN.