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Football: Weis will look to seniors to spark Irish for Connecticut

Matt Gamber | Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Notre Dame’s 27-22 loss at Pittsburgh Saturday represented the second straight game, and fourth overall this season, in which a furious fourth-quarter Irish rally fell short. And while Irish coach Charlie Weis said at his Tuesday press conference he continues to be proud of the fight his team has displayed throughout a tumultuous 6-4 season, he acknowledged the crippling effects of too many slow starts this season.

“We’ve just put ourselves in that position too many times this year, where it’s coming down to that last drive one way or another,” Weis said, noting that the Irish are 4-4 in those close, coin-flip type games. “And the odds would tell you [that’s how] it would end up playing out if that’s where you are in each game.”

Asked what the reason behind his team’s consistently sluggish starts, Weis said it was a fair question — but one he couldn’t answer.

“If I had that answer, we would have answered it a long time ago,” Weis said. “But I can tell you that the same question you are posing to me was the same question I posed to them in the locker room after the game. And we’ve tried about every mode. We’ve tried no huddle. We’ve tried blitzing on every down. We’ve tried not blitzing. We tried change of personnel. I mean, you keep on fighting to try to find the answer, and we’ll try to do that again this week.”

Weis said his strategy for getting the team back on track for Saturday’s Senior Day game against Connecticut would be to let his veteran players do most of the talking during and after practice this week.

After what Weis called a “very quiet” plane ride home from Pittsburgh Saturday night, he said he talked to the entire team and then his 33 fourth- and fifth-year players on Sunday before game planning into the night with his coaching staff.

Weis said he met with the captains — fifth-year senior safety Kyle McCarthy, senior center Eric Olsen, senior linebacker Scott Smith and junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen — and then his leadership committee Monday.

“I said, ‘Fellas, this is going to be your week, it’s not going to be my week,'” Weis said. “I said, ‘I’ll coach football.’ I said, ‘When it comes to talking to the team I want the leaders of the team, the senior leaders of the team to be the ones that are expressing their voices this week.'”

Weis did express his voice on another subject, however. As he does — and most head coaches do, for that matter — every week, Weis sent in several questionably called plays to the Big East for review. Atop the list this week was Notre Dame’s final offensive play, when an apparent Clausen incompletion was overturned by the replay official and ruled a fumble, securing the victory for Pittsburgh.

“I watched it a whole bunch of times and I really think that if they would have called the play a fumble on the field, I could see them not having enough information to overrule it,” Weis said. “But the fact that they called the play an incomplete pass on the field, I believe the same thing. I believe that there was no evidence to change the call that’s on the field.

“They should have called an incomplete pass.”