Last year, near the end of the Notre Dame-Boston College game at BC, the Eagles' student body chanted at the ND players, "Where is the heart." The meaning that ND played with little passion or "heart".
That could sum up last Saturday's embarassing performance that ruined any chance of an Irish place in a BCS bowl picture. After losing his second game to Navy head coach Charlie Weis is only the second coach in ND history to lose to Navy twice in a coaching career at ND. Joe Kuharich (1960-61) is the other one.
Playing in South Bend, moving to 19th in the national polls, talking BCS bowl bid as they entered a four game stretch that could mean a major bowl placment with three or four wins, all that is gone with a lackluster performance. How can you lose to a Navy team in South Bend with some much on the line. Take nothing away from Navy. The Middies deserved to win. Why? Because they wanted it more, plain and simple.
The Weis era at Notre Dame could (should) end with the Stanford game and any "minor" bowl bid the Irish might get. Weis has had his chance and has failed.
No doubt about it Weis has a brillant offensive mind and can develop great quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen but he can't motivate. He's better off back in the NFL as an offensive coordinator.
Tonight the Irish take on eighth ranked Pitt at Heinz Field. If the ND team has "heart" and wants to redeem itself, then tonight is the time for the Irish to show it.
Last week I wrote that November was the time for ND to step up. The Irish stepped back and now face the real possibility of losing at least two of the next three (three out of three is not out the question). ND has fallen to 6-3. They could end up 6-6. In the preseason, many felt ND had a real chance of picking up nine or 10 wins and Weis keeping his job. Now the Irish are looking at the real possibility of being 6-6 or 7-5. Sorry Charlie, you blew it and its time to move on.
Today the Irish face a Pitt team on the rise. The Panthers are ranked eighth nationally, their highest ranking in the last 27 years. With a 8-1 record Pitt could land in a BCS bowl if it runs the rest of its schedule. Pitt was Weis' first game as head coach five years ago and beat the Panthers, 42-21, and their new head coach, Dave Wannstedt, who also came from the pro ranks. Wannstedt had some growing pain seasons like Weis. He is 33-24 while Weis is 35-24.
The Panthers have wins over Youngstown State (38-3), Buffalo (54-27), Navy (27-14), Louisville (35-10), Connecticut (24-21), Rutgers (24-17), USF (41-14), and Syracuse (37-10). The lone loss was to North Carolina State (38-31).
Pitt is led by QB Bill Stull who is 148 of 219 and 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season. The top receiver is tight end Dorin Dickerson 39-450 and 10 scores.
Another key for Pitt is the rushing game led by Dion Lewis who has 1,139 yards on 203 carries and 12 TDs. Also, Ray Graham has 279 on 52 and three scores. There are a few local players of note for Pitt. Northern lehigh grad Tyler Tkach is a defensive lineman who has played in two games; Henry Hynoski of Southern Columbia is the Panthers' starting fullback and has rushed for 97 yards this year; and Easton grad Jarred Holly has started the last two games at safety.
ND leads the series 44-19-1. The game will be televised by ABC-TV on a regional basis with start time set for 8 p.m. Pitt plays all homes games at Heinz Field, home of the Steelers.
IRISH NOTES ... ND Nation, a website devoted to Notre Dame sports, came up with the "Weis fact sheet." Here is a few worthy mentions from that fact sheet. Weis is under .500 the last three season; against teams with winning records he is 8-19 while Gerry Faust was 12-23, Tyrone Willingham 12-14 and Bob David 18-22; he has zero wins against teams finishing in the top 10 of any major poll and zero over a team with less than four losses; he is 1-13 against teams finishing in the top 25 and has the worst two-year stretch in ND history at 10-15. Last week was the first time in 73 years of polling that a unranked Navy team defeated a ranked ND team. He has the worst loss to a service academy in 44 years, a blowout to Air Force. Is 0-5 against USC, he is the first to lose to an eight loss team (Syracuse 2008), losing records to BC, Michigan and Michigan State. First nine loss season in school history. Has lost to more teams that finished outside the top 50 than Willingham, Faust and Davie combined. And the list goes on and on and on. Charlie, please say goodbye .... Overshadowed by the loss to Navy was the passing performance of Jimmy Clausen. In the second half he had 340 yards passing. He finished the half with 24 completions on 34 attempts, two touchdowns, one interception and 19 first downs. He threw for 225 yards in the fourth period alone on 13 of 21. If Weis goes, Clausen will probably enter the NFL draft .... Other game stats include: Theo Riddick with 35 yards on five carries and Robert Hughes 20 on seven. Weis pretty well abandoned the run game early. Receiving had Michael Floyd back with 10 catches and 141 yards and a score; Golden Tate nine for 132 and a score; Hughes six for 59; and Robby Parris five for 28. Defensively Brian Smith had 10 tackles and Sergio Brown and Kyle McCarthy nine each .... Give Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo credit for the Navy success running the ball. Last year ND held the Middies to 178 rushing yards. Weis and defensive head Jon Tenuta decided to use the same scheme again, but Niumatalolo said his coaches expected it and made adjustments. Apparently Tenuta didn't pick up on the changes because the Irish made no adjustments and Navy racked up well over 300 yards rushing and a 14-0 early lead .... Navy, it was noted, lost to Temple the week before at home. But I must add, Navy played the game without starting QB Dobbs, and that did make a big difference .... The ND offense had two costly fumbles, a pass bounce off a receiver going in for a score into the hands of a defender, two missed "chipshot" type field goals and a decided lack of energy and determination all in the "red zone.." In fact, ND ran 22 plays inside Navy's 20 yardline last week and scored only twice ... The South Bend Tribune described the Navy performance by the Irish as "uninspsired, listless, disinterested, lethargic." They all fit .... Weis is talking spoiler role this week. How sad, he should be talking a match up of two top 25 teams .... Despite not punting in the game, overwhelming offensive figures from your QB, the Irish still lose the game - on a safety? .... Weis reported that x-rays on Kyle Rudolph's left shoulder were negative but the sophomore will miss tonight's game .... Armando Allen, however, will play tonight after missing the last two....There was some controversy when ABC picked an 8 p.m. start for today's game. The Steelers are home at 1 p.m. Sunday giving little time to get the stadium and natural grass field ready for another game .... Early rumor-mill has Cincinnati third-year coach Brian Kelly as a possible replacement for Weis. His Bearcats are nearing a second BCS appearance and a third straight season of double-digit wins .... With a loss like last week to Navy, the Irish's season could go completely down the tubes with a loss tonight and in the final two. ND players like Clausen, Tate, Brian Smith and McCarthy talk of the drive to win. Now with nothing really to play for, except a second tier bowl bid, we'll see tonight what this team is made of. Pitt has a lot more going to it tonight than ND. A win keeps their BCS hopes alive and a ninth win moves the Panthers up to one of their best teams in 27 years. Everything points to a Panther win. Weis is talking spoiler, but what he should be talking is pride in his program. My preseason pick was at first Pitt, then I switched at the last moment to ND. Sorry, I have little or no confidence in Weis and his staff despite a wealth of talent. Pitt the winner tonight. Goodbye Charlie.