BY SHANNON O’KEEFE
NOTRE DAME INSIDER
Following an embarrassing, debilitating loss to Michigan in the Big House last week, Charlie Weis and his team turned back to training camp. Swiping the slate clean seems like a good idea for a team who, in its three showings after their first stab at training camp, is last in the nation in rushing offense and – wait for it – total offense. The Irish go into this week’s game against the Spartans as 12 1/2 point underdogs at home, and everyone in the nation – from the casual fan to Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and his team, know how to beat the Irish. Seemingly flick a finger at the offensive line and they’ll gladly move aside, letting you trounce their quarterback again and again and again. Jump a hair higher than the vertically challenged Irish receivers and run the ball back for points.
The Irish should go back to training camp. If this is really supposed to be the rebuilding year that it has so obviously turned out to be, then figure out who the best players are and let them play. Tell John Sullivan, who is usually so solid at center, to look where Jimmy Clausen is standing prior to snapping the ball over his head. Tell Travis Thomas to stop amassing penalties and start acting like a captain. Please, please tell that offensive line that they’re supposed to do more than fall over.
This week, as the Irish prepare for the Spartans of Michigan State, their only recourse is to turn back the hands of time. To figure out how to play the game of football, and how to win at said game – at each position, on every play. To remember the glory that is Notre Dame football and how to get back there. To remember the adversity of years past. To leave the locker room with the words of Knute Rockne echoing in their ears as they tap the “PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY” sign and prepare to play like champions, instead of underdogs. From a newsreel in the late 1920’s, Rockne’s pep talk – as relevant today as ever:
And the same backfield, Jimmy, you and Collins, Chevigny, and Niemiec. Now- the success of any team men is based on team-play -- the same as you've shown all year -- Sacrifice; unselfish sacrifice! These are the fellows they say are pretty good; but I think we're better! And I think if we get ourselves keyed up to a point, and when we're confident of that ... why-y-y the results will take care of themselves.
All right, now. On the kickoff -- if we receive, the zone men will drop back to the receiver and block long -- that old Notre Dame style. If we kickoff -- which the rest of the teams want -- let's run down fast -- just as fast as you can run. And then we go on defense. And on defense -- I want the center in and out of that line -- according to the situation. Use your old head! And I want you guards charging through as far as you can go -- on every play. Expect the play right over you every time --.
And the tackles -- I want you to go in a yard and a half -- and then check yourselves. Spread your feet -- squat down low -- and be ready with your hands and elbows, so you won't be sideswiped. But I want the ends in there fast every play. Every play, but under control. And you men in the backfield there, I want you to analyze it before you move. If they throw a forward pass, a zone pass, wait ‘til you see the ball in the air -- and then go and get it! And when we get it, boys, that's when we go on offense. And that's when we go to ‘em -- and, don't forget, we're gonna pick on one last one tackle that is weak.
We're going inside of ‘em, we're going outside of ‘em -- inside of ‘em! outside of ‘em! -- and when we get them on the run once, we're going to keep ‘em on the run. And we're not going to pass unless their secondary comes up too close. But don't forget, men -- we're gonna get ‘em on the run, we're gonna go, go, go, go! -- and we aren't going to stop until we go over that goal line! And don't forget, men -- today is the day we're gonna win. They can't lick us -- and that's how it goes... The first platoon men -- go in there and fight, fight, fight, fight, fight! What do you say, men!