Pete DiPrimio, sports columnist and college beat writer for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., takes his best shots on the world of Notre Dame football.

Tuesday, October 31

Weis, Quinn And Being Appropriate

Okay, a couple of things as we consider Charlie Weis, the 60 Minutes profile and being nice.

First, I had to remove a previous post because of an inappropriate comment. Please, we can disagree, but be respectful. This is a family newspaper, even if this is an on-line forum, so use language that a child could handle.

Enough of the lecture. The Weis profile showed the coach in all his colorful splendor, which included bleeped out language and a touch of his confidence -- some might say arrogance. Weis was asked about his thoughts on the show during today's press conference.

Overall, he seemed to give it a thumb's up.

"I think that with every person there is good and bad," he said. "I'm far from perfect, as we all know, but I think that ?? I thought it was fairly realistic. Do I have some detriments or some flaws? Absolutely. But I think realistically it's tough to be in the coaching profession and simultaneously be a loving husband and father and be the molder of young men, where at the same time your job is to win football games. There are a lot of conflicting things going on at the same time, and it's just how each person in that role can establish within their own personality to try to get all those things done at the same time.

"I can tell you this, that some of the things that you might have said or heard, you know, on the football field, are not tolerated in the Weis house by Maura Weis. That's a fair answer."

Also on the 60 Minutes profile, quarterback Brady Quinn laughingly admitted that Weis could sometimes be a jerk.

"He's right," Weis said. "You know what they say about payback? Well, he's already been paid back. He's gotten the worse end of the deal."

And what was the payback?

"Ask him," Weis said. "He has his own press conference."

That happens on Wednesday. And then, perhaps, we'll know what Weis payback really means.

Sunday, October 29

Notre Dame Stuck in Polls

Notre Dame might have played its most complete game of the season while beating Navy on Saturday, but it didn't get any national reward.

The Irish (7-1) remained No. 10 in the coaches' poll and No. 11 in the AP poll. Still, they figure to move into strong BCS consideration in the next three weeks. The reason -- their next three opponents are, and we're trying to be polite here, mediocre.

Notre Dame hosts North Carolina (1-7) on Saturday. It also plays Air Force (3-4) and Army (3-6) before ending the regular season at USC, which is coming off its first loss of the season. The Trojan loss won't help the Irish in their bid to move up the polls.

Still, if Notre Dame wins out, it makes a BCS bowl for the second straight season. It's not a national championship, but there are worse fates to have.

Saturday, October 28

Irish Roll Over Navy

All is right with the football world. Quarterback Brady Quinn was his usual efficient passing self, tailback Darius Walker regained his running mojo and Notre Dame rolled to its 43rd straight victory over Navy.

The fact they did it in convincing fashion –- 38-14 -- was a big boost considering their recent cliffhangers that did not impress the poll voters.

What does this mean in the big picture? First, the Irish (7-1) will likely move back into the top 10. Second, they are still in the BCS hunt. And, third? Well, anytime this group rushes for 185 yards, it’s a very good day. This was a very good day.

Friday, October 27

SI Rates Quinn at No. 3

Just in case you're wondering where Brady Quinn stacks up among NFL Draft hopefuls, has released a list that shows the Notre Dame senior quarterback as the No. 3 prospect.

He trails Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson and Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson.

Not on's midseason list is Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, the Heisman Trophy favorite.

Quinn will get a chance to put up some big numbers Saturday when the Irish (6-1) take on Navy (5-2) in Baltimore. That's the same Navy team that lost 34-0 to Rutgers in its last game and that has lost 42 straight to the Irish.

Feisty Or Not, Irish Need To Win

Sometimes Charlie Weis can get feisty. Hey, it’s the New Jersey upbringing in him. It’s the coaching mentality in him.

So, when he was asked about the lack of pressure Notre Dame put on the UCLA quarterback, things got a little testy.

For instance:

Reporter: “You talked about bringing more pressure and you were unhappy about the fact that sometimes the safeties or whoever didn't get to the quarterback…”

Weis: “I didn't say anything about the safeties.”

Reporter: “You said the blitzers didn't get to the quarterback…”

Weis: “It could be linebackers. You're putting words in my mouth.”

Reporter: “I know it was the safety.”

Weis: “Write your own story then. What are you asking me for?”

Reporter: “Here is the question: Other than that aspect of it, were you happy with the way it worked out?”

Weis: “I think the pressure disrupted their passing game. I think that when you have a relatively inexperienced quarterback, which they have, if you let him just stand there and throw, they're going to be like everyone else and they're going to completing some passes. So even when you're not getting there, it disrupts the timing of the passing game. The whole thing is, we're disrupting them, now let's get there. Let's finish it off and get there.”

Of course, the Irish got their enough for a dramatic 20-17 victory. Now comes Navy on Saturday and don’t expect drama. With Clemson losing, they have a chance to move up in the polls. Of course, they could blow it with a loss or a shaky victory. That won’t happen.

Wednesday, October 25

Weis Mum on Navy Streak

If you think Charlie Weis is going to emphasize Notre Dame's 42-game winning streak against Navy, you must be confused. He says he's not even going to mention it as the Irish prepare to play Navy on Saturday in Baltimore.

He's more interested in getting his team to play to its potential. He wants the offense to dominate, and not just because he's the play caller. The Irish have talent, such as quarterback Brady Quinn (pictured) and have yet to maximize it. That's especially true of the running attack, which has been far too inconsistent for Weis' liking. That will have to change. In fact, it's being changed as we speak.

Beyond that, Weis is concerned that Navy has had two weeks to prepare for the Irish because of a bye week. Of course, the fact Navy lost its starting quarterback negates some of that preparation time. Still, Notre Dame needs a decisive win in the worst way. On Saturday we'll know if it got it.

Monday, October 23

Falling Irish

Okay, Notre Dame has taken a hit in the polls and, as a result, in the BCS rankings. Is that a problem? Not if the Irish win out or, at least, play USC to a thriller loss.

But Saturday’s comeback against UCLA -- can you say thank you Brady Quinn (pictured) and Jeff Samardzija -- didn’t seem to impress the voters. Notre Dame dropped one spot, to No. 11, in the AP poll. It fell two spots in the USA Today coaches’ poll, to No. 10. It dropped to 10th in the BCS standings, troubling considering only the top 8 are guaranteed a BCS berth (the top 12 get consideration).

The bottom line –- the Irish need impressive victories. They need to blow out teams by 20 or more points, and the schedule is soft enough for that to happen. Navy, North Carolina, Air Force and Army is not exactly a brutal stretch. Notre Dame needs to breeze through that and enter the season-ending USC battle with lots of momentum.

It would help if USC was unbeaten for that game, but the Irish can’t control that. They can control their performance and they need to be at their best the rest of the way, something that hasn’t been true so far.

Sunday, October 22

Where's The Pressure

In the aftermath of Notre Dame’s 20-17 victory over UCLA, consider this -- thank goodness the Bruins decided to play coverage instead of go after quarterback Brady Quinn on that last drive.

Quinn had time to hit three straight passes, the last the 45-yard game winner to Jeff Samardzija.

You could almost hear the criticism from UCLA defensive end Justin Hickman, who said, “We didn’t get enough pressure on the quarterback and we were getting pressure on him all day. He had too much time to find his receivers. We had the game won and didn’t finish. They went 80 yards in three plays, there’s nothing else to say.”

So we won’t.

Rare Fumble

Hey, you knew the UCLA game wasn’t going to be easy when Irish tailback Darius Walker, who fumbles as often as Jeff Suppan blows postseason starts, fumbled for the first time in 405 carries.

Did it matter? Not at all, but it was indicative of the Bruins’ stingy run defense. Walker managed just 53 yards rushing on 21 carries. Notre Dame gained just 41 yards total on 35 carries.

Still, that was better than UCLA, which rushed for 26 yards on 28 carries.

So much for the thought Notre Dame is defensively challenged.

Irish Rise To The Challenge

So what does Notre Dame's dramatic come-from-behind victory over UCLA tell you? For one, the Irish (6-1) are experienced and poised and mentally tough when it matters most.

Defensively, they made stops when they had to. Offensively, on their final drive, they were flawless. Of course, it helps to have a quarterback such as Brady Quinn, who gave his Heisman stock a dramatic boost, and a receiver such as Jeff Samardzija (pictured), who has a knack for rising to the occasion.

Still, Notre Dame has to play better. UCLA (4-3) was a good, but not great team, and if the Irish are to remain a BCS factor, they need more offensive production, especially from the line, and can't allow big passing plays.

The schedule is in their favor for the next four weeks, so they should rolll until their trip to USC in late November.

And if you want to criticize the victory, stay far away from Charlie Weis. At least for a day, he's going to savor this.

Saturday, October 21

What's Up With The Irish?

Are you like me? Are you wondering when Notre Dame's offensive excellence is going to emerge against UCLA?

Here we are, early in the fourth quarter and the Bruins' highly touted defensive has stifled the Irish. That's the same defense that was torched by Oregon last week.

Consider this -- Oregon rushed for 256 yards against UCLA. Notre Dame had 40 yards on 31 carries after three quarters.

Instead, Notre Dame struggles and whether it's lost rythym from the bye week or a sound UCLA scheme, it doesn't matter. If the Irish lose, they blow their BCS opportunity. Then, we're talking the Gator or Cotton bowls or, less likely the Sun Bowl.

Notre Dame still has a chance, trailing 14-13, but it's running out of time. There's only so many Michigan State comebacks you can have in a season.

Scheduling for Success

Kevin White has a lot to consider these days, and the football schedule certainly takes top priority. The athletic director is trying to devise future schedules that fit a format of seven home games and one neutral site contest, along with four road games.

The goal is to retain the tradition of a opponent diversity as befits an independent university with a national following, without making it so difficult as to ruin any chance for national success.

That means occasionally getting teams such as San Diego State, which will open the Irish's 2008 schedule. It won't necessarily mean an easier schedule (it's hard to predict how good teams will be years in advance), but it should be one more in tune to what, say, Michigan, faces.

For more on this, check out this South Bend Tribune column. And for more on today's game with UCLA in general, Irish safety Tom Zbikowski in particular, check out my column.

Thursday, October 19 Lists Quinn at No. 2

Sure, Brady Quinn might not be the Heisman Trophy favorite. Not with Ohio State's Troy Smith dominating the college football world. Still, Quinn hasn't fallen into oblivion. He's had a good year, and people have noticed.

For instance, has Quinn listed at No. 2 among the nation's top quarterbacks, behind Smith. The rest of the top 10 is Tennessee's Erik Ainge, Louisville's Brian Brohm, Pittsburgh's Tyler Palko, West Virginia's Pat White, Cal's Nate Longshore, Michigan's Chad Henne, Florida's Chris Leak and BYU's John Beck.

What does this mean in the big picture? Not much. You are, after all, only as good as your last performance. Quinn has six more games to position himself for a Heisman run and, for the Irish, a national championship. Beyond that, there's the NFL. By then, Quinn might be the first quarterback taken in the draft. And that means a lot.

Quinn Is Better Than Ever

Notre Dame is ready to start its second season and look for quarterback Brady Quinn to kick it in gear, not that he's missed too many gears so far.

Yes, he struggled against Michigan, but then, what quarterback hasn't while facing the hard-hitting Wolverines?

Still, his midseason numbers of 63.5 percent completions, 16 touchdowns, four interceptions and 1,634 yards put him within reach of last year's totals (64.9 percent, 32 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 3,919 yards).

He is, coach Charlie Weis says, in so many ways, a much better quarterback now than he's ever been before.

"We've given him a lot more responsbility," Weis said. "He's starting to come into his own as far as doing the little things that get us out of bad situations. There has been a little transition, but it bodes well for the second half of the season."

That second half starts Saturday against UCLA.

Tuesday, October 17

Wondering About ND Juniors? Weis Isn't

Are you like us? Are you still wondering what’s the deal with defensive end Ronald Talley’s departure and why so many of his fellow Notre Dame juniors have left the program?

Okay, maybe you aren’t wondering, but that’s why we get paid the big bucks. Talley is the ninth member of the 17-player 2004 recruiting class to leave since Weis arrived after the 2004 season.

Is that a coincidence? Probably not, but Weis insists it’s no big deal. Considering this group of freshmen ranks with any in the country, considering Weis has more high-profile players set to come next season, he has a point.

“I’m not worrying about it,” Weis said. “There are a lot of guys who are a year younger who have an opportunity to play. That’s what it means.”

As far as Talley, Weis had little to add.

“We talked about three times during the year at different times," Weis said. "We had some private conversations about his future. We had our last one Thursday. We went over multiple options about where we were heading. ... He's not thrown off this team. He just doesn't want to be part of this team anymore."

See what wondering will get you?

Weis Knows Who The Real Boss Is

So you might think that Charlie Weis, being the head football coach at Notre Dame, would be the most powerful person in the Western Hemisphere.

You would, of course, be wrong.

Weis’ power is second to that of his wife, Maura, who dictated how he spent what was supposed to be a rare chance to spend Sunday afternoon watching NFL games because of Notre Dame’s bye week.

Instead, he had chores, most of which centered around the new barn of his new multi-million-dollar home.

“I was doing things I didn’t think I’d ever be doing. Now that I have a barn, this is something new.”

Not so new is his celebrity. Of course, the new house has something to do with it, too.

“The worst part about Sunday is all the people who have decided they can ride up and down my block and take pictures whenever they want,” Weis said. “It’s almost as if we’re going to put up a 20-foot fence.”

In fact, figure about 50 people show up every day, which pleased Weis about as much as the measles.

“Like, leave us alone here, please.”

The bye week, by the way, allowed Weis to give his players and coaches last weekend off. He told the players to go home or, at least, get away from campus. He spent Saturday watching college football games. Yes, that included watching the UCLA-Oregon game. With the Irish set to host the Bruins this Saturday, Weis got in some extra scouting.

That scouting could come in handy as the Irish look to make a run up the BCS standings and maybe -- I'm saying maybe, and for more detail, check out my column -- still make the national title game.

So now you know.

Monday, October 16

Charlie-Ty One More Time

Admit it. You love it when Charlie Weis goes against Tyrone Willingham. All that “Ty Bowl” drama gets your Irish-loving blood boiling.

Well, good news. We’ll get a second does of Charlie vs. Ty in 2008 when Notre Dame is set to play at Washington, where Willingham now coaches.

That’s part of the fun coming now that the Irish have announced their 2008 schedule.

It opens with a first-ever meeting with San Diego State. That game was the result of complex ramifications for the Aztecs moving one of their 2004 games so Notre Dame could move Brigham Young from an Oct. 30 game in 2004 to its Sept. 4 season opener. Irish coaches wanted a game before playing Michigan that season. It worked –- sort of. Notre Dame beat Michigan but lost to Brigham Young.

The home games are San Diego State, Michigan, Purdue, Stanford, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The road games are Michigan State, North Carolina, Washington, Boston College, Navy and USC.

Anyway, 2008 is the last time the Irish will play six road games. After that they’ll have a 7-4-1 arrangement with seven home games, four road games and one at a neutral site.

So now you know.

Irish Still in the Hunt

You might have thought, with some of the upsets this weekend, that Notre Dame would rocket up the polls. It didn't happen. Some A.P. media dudes dared to move Auburn ahead of the Irish just because the Tigers beat previously undefeated Florida. That's the same Auburn that lost to Arkansas a week earlier.

Anyway, that dropped Notre Dame one spot to No. 10 in the A.P. poll. It stayed at No. 8 in the coaches' poll.

More important, however, is the fact the Irish are No. 8 in the first BCS poll. Why is that important? By finishing in the top 8, Notre Dame would earn an automatic BCS bowl berth. It just qualifies if it's in the top 12.

Basically, if the Irish win out, they have no worries. They even might, with a lot of breaks, still qualify for the national championship game. But that would include beating undefeated USC in Los Angeles on Nov. 25. And as the Trojans have showed in recent weeks, they're not invincible. So it could make for a dramatic regular-season ending conclusion.

Thursday, October 12

Talley To Leave Irish

Junior defensive end Ronald Talley has left the Notre Dame football program and if you’re looking for insight from coach Charlie Weis, you’ll have to wait until next week.

He’s unavailable for comment until then.

Talley started four of Notre Dame’s six games while splitting time with senior Chris Frome. He had 11 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Meanwhile, Weis was available earlier in the week to reflect on a variety of topics, including whether he would run up the score to improve Notre Dame’s ranking.

“It’s not only wrong, it’s disrespectful,” he said. “I’m always going to think that way. There are Notre Dame fans we say, ‘I wish he’d score another two touchdowns.’ My wife and son want me to do the same thing.”

The Irish are ranked No. 8 and No. 9 in the polls. They need to get into the top two by the end of the regular season to make the national championship game.

For more on Notre Dame, check out this South Bend Tribune story.

Wednesday, October 11

Weis Looks Beyond Heisman Hype

If you check out the Heisman Trophy favorite lists, Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn is still in the running, although he’s fallen behind guys such as Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith and Northern Illinois running back Garrett Wolfe.

While Quinn’s numbers are similar to last year after six games, the fact the Irish offense is not nearly as productive has hurt him. So did the bad game he had against Michigan.

Do you think this keeps coach Charlie Weis up at night worrying?

Not even close.

“Let’s see where he gets drafted in the NFL Draft,” Weis said. “There have been a lot of Heisman Trophy winners who have been terrible NFL players. Let’s see where he gets drafted. If he gets drafted up there in the top one or two, makes $50 or $60 million, I don’t think I’ll be too upset.”

Quinn won’t have a chance to boost his numbers this week. Notre Dame has a bye and doesn’t play until it hosts UCLA on Oct. 21.

For more on the Irish, check out my column.

Tuesday, October 10

Weis Has "No Excuses"

Charlie Weis once thought he knew all the answers. Imagine that. Now, of course, he knows better, although an image of know-it-all arrogance remains.

Still, it the late 1970s, Weis seemed the embodiment of all that was wrong with youth. His passion was Notre Dame football and as a student he felt it was his duty to inform the knuckleheads in the administration what was wrong with Irish football.

So one Sunday after a Notre Dame loss, Weis called the office of university president Rev. Theodore Hesburgh. The idea was to leave an anonymous message about the football team’s ills. Hesburgh surprised Weis by answering the phone, then inviting him to his office to chat about it.

Weis, not realizing what he was in for, accepted the invitation. Hesburgh set him straight as only a powerful, intimidating man could when matched against what was, in essence, some punk kid.

“I got called out,” Weis said. “It was the most humiliating experience of my life. Father Hesburgh had an aura about him. He could look at you and make you crumble.”

Weis crumbled then, writes about it now in his autobiography, “No Excuses.” A portion of the proceeds will support Hannah and Friends, the Weis family organization which supports children affected by developmental disorders.

Reading it won’t give you all you might want to know about Weis, his life and Notre Dame, but then that was never the point. For more, check out this South Bend Tribune column.

Saturday, October 7

ND Gets The Win

Notre Dame reached its season midpoint one game shy of perfection, six games shy of dominance. Still, the Irish are 5-1 and looking to edge their way back into the top 10 in the aftermath of today’s lopsided victory over winless Stanford.

They rolled despite the absence of senior safety Tom Zbikowski, who didn’t play after suffering a slight injury during last week’s victory over Purdue. He did dress and likely could have played if Notre Dame had needed him.

It didn’t.

Notre Dame couldn’t have scripted its first drive any better, which is good because it did script it, courtesy of coach Charlie Weis. The Irish went 91 yards in 17 plays, using up half the quarter, to take a 7-0 lead.

Life got tougher after that until the final seconds of the first half, when quarterback Brady Quinn hit Rhema McKnight for a 15-yard touchdown pass.

Stanford, meanwhile, dropped a touchdown pass and another key third-down pass. It managed only a first-half field goal and trailed 14-3.

Credit Notre Dame’s defense for some of that. The Cardinal gained 82 yards in its first drive -- minus-two for the rest of the first half.

Then the Irish flexed their second-half muscles, in part because tailback Darius Walker flexed his (doesn’t he always against Stanford). He went over 100 yards for the second straight game -- over 150 yards for the second straight time against the Cardinal -- as Notre Dame powered its way to its third straight victory (we won’t mention the fourth-quarter brain-dead moment that allowed Stanford to score on tailback Anthony Kimble’s 57-yard trick-play touchdown pass).

Recruits Bring Intrigue

OK, so today’s Notre Dame-Stanford game might not have the national appeal of, say, Texas-Oklahoma, but there is still intrigue to be found.

For instance, six top recruits are expected to take their official visits today, and that could impact the Irish for years to come, and with in the national football scene.

OK, it’s a little bit of a reach, but bear with us here. Anyway, one recruit in town is Ben Martin, a 6-5, 265-pound defensive end from Arizona. He is ranked No. 45 nationally by recruiting expert Tom Lemming.

Then there’s cornerback Michael Williams from California, linebacker Chris Donald from Tennessee (No. 28), defensive end Everson Griffen from Arizona (No. 24), safety Harrison Smith from Tennessee (No. 89) and running back Armando Allen (No. 40) from Florida.

For more on this, check out this South Bend Tribune story.

Friday, October 6

Charlie the Motivator

Charlie Weis is breaking out all the motivational ploys he can for Saturday's game against winless Stanford. No, he isn't biting the head off a frog or castrating a bull, as some coaches do, but he is offering just the most subtle of threats.

"The last thing I said to them," Weis said, "was, 'Just food for thought, if you lay an egg on Saturday, just imagine how the bye week's going to be around here.'"

For the record, the Irish have a bye week next week and won't play again until they host UCLA on Oct. 14.

For more insight on Saturday's game, check out my column.

Thursday, October 5

Joyce Center Upgrade Coming

So Notre Dame is finally joining the rest of facility-upgrading-loving America. No, not with football. Those Fighting Irish are blessed with facilities that are the envy of nearly every program in America.

Basketball, however, was another matter. The Joyce Center might have been state of the art when Digger Phelps was young and Three Dog Night was hot, but those days are long gone. A major facelift was in order if the Irish were to compete with the Big East brethren.

And so was born the Purcell Pavilion, a $25 million renovation project that will feature new chair back seating and a new two-story structure at the south end of the arena that will provide a new entrance, club seating and a hospitality area.

The project was underwritten with a $12.5 million leadership gift from Philip J. Purcell III, a Notre Dame alumnus and trustee.

This won't guarantee the Irish a permanent place in future NCAA Tournaments, but it's a heck of a start. For more on this, check out this story on Notre Dame's website.

Schwapp Is Out for Season

The good news is that sophomore Asaph Schwapp will return as the starting fullback for Notre Dame. The bad news is that it won't happen until next year.

Schwapp will have surgery today to repair a knee injury. He had originally hurt it during high school, but aggrevated it during last month's Penn State game.

Charlie Weis had waited to see if the swelling and pain would improve enough for Schwapp to play this season. When it became apparent that it wouldn't, they decided to operate now and give him more time to heal.

Schwapp is expected to apply for a medical redshirt. That would give him three years of eligibility remaining.

For more on this, check out this South Bend Tribune story.

Weis Is Now an Author

Sure, Charlie Weis has only been the Notre Dame head coach for less than two seasons, but that doesn't mean he lacks for things to say. So he says them in his autobiography, "No Excuses," which is set to officially come out next week.

In the book, he reveals a number of anecdotes about his style, his stint in the NFL, bars and last year's team, negative recruiting and even a surprise meeting he had with Notre Dame President Rev. Theodore Hesburgh back in 1975 while Weis was an Irish student.

Oh, one thing. Weis didn't write the book by himself. He had help from veteran author Vic Carucci.

For a more thorough review, check out this South Bend Tribune story.

Wednesday, October 4

Decision Coming on Schwapp

If you’re wondering what’s going on with fullback Asaph Schwapp, be patient. We’re about to find out.

Schwapp has been sidelined since the Penn State game after aggravating a previous knee injury. He’s shown improvement, but not enough to return to the lineup. Coach Charlie Weis said it looks like surgery will be necessary. The big question is whether he can play with the injury the rest of this season and then have surgery, or just have surgery now and take a redshirt.

That will likely be decided this week.

“If I feel he can’t play with it, I’m better off to get it fixed. Then I lose him for the season.”

Fullback, of course, is never going to be the featured back in the Notre Dame attack, but that doesn’t diminish the position’s importance. Somebody has to block for Darius Walker or protect Brady Quinn while occasionally getting to run or catch.

With Schwapp out, seldom-used senior Ashley McConnell has stepped in. His numbers don’t impress –- two carries for 2 yards, one catch for three yards –- but that’s not the point. McConnell is playing ahead of freshman Luke Schmidt because he’s playing better and one of the reasons that he’s playing better is because he lost 15 to 20 pounds, to a listed 239.

“He dropped a bunch of weight on his own (in the offseason),” Weis said. “It wasn't mandated by me. I did tell him he was fat, but that's the pot calling the kettle black. He was 250ish and came back 230ish, and all of a sudden he played himself into the picture.”

When you consider McConnell had played just three total games and nine total minutes in the previous three years, his emergence is surprising.

“(McConnell) wasn't even on the radar," Weis said. “All of a sudden, you're No. 2, and you're in good shape and you have a good attitude. Our philosophy is if somebody gets hurt, you put in the next guy. He's the next guy. He's taken it and run with it."

Monday, October 2

Keep Winning Baby

Notre Dame has won two straight games, just beat a previously undefeated team in Purdue and gained zero spots in the national rankings. It is still No. 12.

What’s the deal?

First off, the teams ahead of it continue to win, so the opportunity to rise hasn’t come. That will change, so if the Irish keep winning, and they have a great chance to do that in the next six games, they’ll move into the top 10.

Second, though, is a defense that continues to impress no one. Notre Dame ranks 88th in points allowed and 92nd in total defense. That’s among 119 Division I-A teams.

Yes, it’s a cliché that defense wins championships. It’s also true. So if the Irish really want to make a jump in the polls, they’ll have to play better defense.

Of course, if they win their final seven regular season games and beat USC 70-68, maybe no one will care.

Winning remains the bottom line.