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Football: Brown feels part of ‘something special’

Ken Fowler | Friday, November 9, 2007

Corwin Brown doesn’t appear to be the kind of man who likes to hide things, not even his feelings.

A week ago, Notre Dame’s first-year defensive coordinator began to cry during his speech at the Joyce Center pep rally. He was saying how an acquaintance wanted to get on his case about Notre Dame’s troubles this season. As the Irish were dealing with the apparent murder of Earl “Tony” Hughes, the brother of freshman tailback Robert Hughes, Brown said he realized that “everyone wants to be part of something special.”

“Being part of something special” – a team whose players rallied around one of their own – got Brown choked up.

Days after Notre Dame’s first loss to Navy in 44 years, Brown once again played it straight.

A reporter asked Brown how he would judge his “learning curve.” Brown, who switched Notre Dame’s defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 personnel package, offered a blunt response.

“It’s like this: We’re 1-8 right now, and we’ve given up far too many points,” Brown said Wednesday after practice. “That’s how I look at it.”

Notre Dame surrendered at least 30 points in its first five games this season and again in its last two. A large part of that, however, can be attributed to the ineffective Irish offense. Notre Dame is last in the nation, averaging 208.4 yards per game. The Irish, who dominated time of possession in Charlie Weis’ first two years as head coach, have had the ball for five minutes less per game than their opponents; only seven teams have been worse.

That, combined with previous lackluster recruiting classes and what many expected to be a bumpy transition from one scheme to another, could offer a strong explanation for the Irish defensive woes.

Not for Brown.

“I love our players,” he said. “I’ll take my players any day. And what I have to do, I have to coach better. That’s probably the biggest thing. … So whoever we have, that’s the right personnel.”

And then there was Brown’s analysis of last Saturday’s game against Navy. The Midshipmen entered with a top-20 scoring offense but managed only three offensive touchdowns in regulation against Notre Dame.

But there were also the long drives, the third-down conversions and the missed tackles. Most important to Brown was the final score.

“We didn’t keep them from scoring enough, even with the three touchdowns,” Brown said. “Because the only thing that matters is, at the end of regulation, that we have more points than they do.”

But isn’t it good that a team averaging 36.9 points per game scored only 22 on offense in four quarters?

“No silver lining,” Brown said. “Because if they had scored five touchdowns and we would have won, I would have felt good about winning.”