Weis Drawing Big Comparisons After Two Wins
New Notre Dame coach has Irish off to suprising 2-0 start.
Sept. 10, 2005
By Jim Harty
Special to CSTV.com from the Sports Xchange
Ann Arbor, Mich. -- Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis was typically low-key after Saturday's 17-10 victory over third-ranked Michigan until somebody reminded him of a bet he had with former Michigan quarterback and current New England Patriots' star Tom Brady.
Brady will have to wear a Notre Dame baseball cap at his Monday press conference after Weis, his former offensive coordinator, beat Brady's alma mater.
"That hat will be on," Weis joked. "Trust me, I'll have 15 phone calls on the way home (from Patriot players). I'll make sure there are people holding him accountable."
Meanwhile, Irish fans all over the country are taking their hats off to Weis, who is quickly awakening the echoes in South Bend. Notre Dame opened the season with a resounding 42-21 win over Pittsburgh, then validated the commotion over that victory with another at Michigan, leaving the Irish with a 2-0 record. They're wondering how high the team will be rated after entering the Michigan game as No. 20 in the nation.
Weis' reputation was made at New England as an offensive coordinator, and he showed why Saturday by putting Michigan on its heels immediately with a shotgun formation that mounted a 12-play drive with no third downs.
"That sent a message to start the game like that," said Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, who punctuated the impressive drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Rhema McKnight.
But Notre Dame's defense was a major factor in both victories. The Irish put pressure on Michigan sophomore quarterback Chad Henne throughout Saturday's game, harassing him into three critical mistakes and perhaps his worst college game.
Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski intercepted a Henne pass at the goal line, ending what seemed to be a dominating drive to open the third quarter. That maintained Notre Dame's 14-3 lead.
Under pressure, Henne also overthrew Jason Avant in the end zone on fourth down in the fourth quarter, leaving the Wolverines with another pointless drive after recording a fumble on the Irish 18-yard line.
Most notably, Henne fumbled the ball away on first and goal on the Notre Dame 1-yard line when he couldn't get a handle on the snap from center.
TOP PLAYER: Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. The numbers weren't great (19-for-30, 140 yards passing), but he calmly marched the Irish down the field for two early touchdown passes to get all the points Notre Dame needed and was especially effective from the shotgun in that opening drive, setting the tone for the day.
TOP QUOTE: "I've just coached two games and they've played two games. Let's come back and revisit that in about 10 years." -- Weis, when asked to comment on comparisons to legendary Knute Rockne, the last Notre Dame coach to win his first two games on the road. That happened in 1918.
NOTES: The Wolverines' 16-game home winning steak was snapped. It was their first loss against a non-conference team at home since 1998. For the Irish, who lost 38-0 at Ann Arbor only two years ago, it was the first win at Michigan since 1998.
The Wolverines came out of Saturday's game not just beaten but battered. At one point, Michigan played without four potential first-team Big Ten players on offense -- tailback Mike Hart (possible pulled hamstring), right tackle Jake Long (ankle injury), guard Matt Lentz (leg injury) and tight end Tim Massaquoi (arm injury).
The loss of Hart clearly hurt the most. Last season's freshman All-American went out on Michigan's third series of the game with an undisclosed leg injury. That thrust backup Kevin Grady into the workhorse role, and while the true freshman played well at times, he also fumbled twice, once in a critical fourth-quarter situation near the goal line. Grady refused to talk to reporters after the game, and Michigan coach Lloyd Carr declined to discuss Hart's injury or how long he'd be out.
Carr is 1-3 in his last four meetings with both Notre Dame and Ohio State. The Wolverines haven't beaten either since quarterback John Navarre topped Ohio State 35-21 on Nov. 22, 2003. Carr delivered on his promise to shake up the defense after concluding several players didn't show enough effort against Northern Illinois. All-Big Ten tackle Gabe Watson, linebacker Scott McClintock and end Jeremy Van Alstyne were replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt freshman Will Johnson, redshirt junior David Harris and redshirt junior Rondell Biggs.