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Football: Penalties still a concern after narrow victory

Matt Gamber | Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The dust has settled after Notre?Dame’s nearly heart-attack-inducing victory over?Michigan?State Saturday, but coach Charlie Weis said Sunday there are still a few things the?Irish need to clean up before?this week’s contest at Purdue.

And it’s not just the defense. Offensive penalties could have killed Notre?Dame Saturday, and the Irish can’t afford to continue to take 10- and 15-yard infractions on such a regular basis,?Weis said.

“[Two holding] penalties didn’t bother me nearly as much as the false start, a line of scrimmage penalty at home, which you should never have, and the late hit at the end of the game,”?Weis said. “They’re the type of things that happen in the game that frustrate you more than something that happens during the game.”

The late hit call on senior right tackle?Sam Young was especially troublesome, as it nearly kept?Notre Dame from advancing the ball as it tried to run out the clock late in the game.

“Fortunately, Golden [Tate] goes and bails us out of that one,”?Weis said of the junior receiver’s reception that went for a crucial first down. “When you’re trying to stress running out the clock at the end of the game, finishing out of the game, you can’t have a penalty like that.”

Though the?Irish did pick up a few big first downs late in the fourth quarter, they still weren’t able to bury the?Spartans and hold the ball until the end of the game.?Instead, it took a late interception by senior safety?Kyle?McCarthy to hold off?a potential game-winning drive for Michigan?State.

“You get the ball with a little less than five minutes, somewhere in that mark right there. The intent is to try to use it all up,”?Weis said. “We put ourselves in the same position that we did the previous week. But the difference between one week and the next week was somebody making a play.”

That play – McCarthy’s third interception in as many games – may have been the biggest for?Notre?Dame in the early portion of this season. In fact, it may have been the difference between a 2-1 record and a 1-2 mark for the?Irish.

“If it weren’t for Kyle McCarthy and sometimes Harrison Smith, as well, they’ve saved us on a number of occasions,”?Weis said. “Obviously, the play at the end of the game, nothing was more critical than that one.”

Still, there exists some concern about the defense’s play against a Michigan State offense that wasn’t supposed to dominate by any means, particularly through the air – yet the?Spartans threw for more than 300 yards.

“I think the first thing we have to do better on defense, to be perfectly honest with you, is be better fundamentally,”?Weis said. “There’s just too many easy yards, too many easy yards that we’re giving up that we have to make those yards tougher.”

How the Irish will do that remains to be seen.

“I’m not saying cut down or simplify, but I think you got to be able to hang your hat on something that’s working on a regular basis,”?Weis said.