Paul Ladewski: It's not that Notre Dame has lost, it's the way they lost

Paul Ladewski

Holy Heisman! Goodness George Gipp! Heaven to Four Horsemen!

What in the name of Knute Rockne is going on with Notre Dame this football season?

It's not that head coach Charlie Weis and his team have lost their first three games that strains the brain. It’s the way they have pulled it off.

In 12 quarters, the Irish have been outscored by a 102-13 margin.

They rank last in total offense in the country.

Their offense has accounted for zero (0) touchdowns.

Their quarterbacks have been sacked 23 times.

Subtract the sack yards from the rush yards, which the NCAA does for statistical purposes, and they average -4.7 yards on the ground per game.

C’mon, Jerome Bettis used to leave the dorm cafeteria with 50 yards back in the day.

“We’re starting training camp,” Weis said after a practice earlier this week, so frustrated that he re-installed the entire system and put every position up for grabs. “This team is headed in the wrong direction, and when your team is heading in the wrong direction, there is only one way I know how to fix it, and that is coming out swinging.”

Remember the guarantee that Michigan made before its 38-zip rout of Notre Shame last weekend? I say it’s time for one of the Weis Guys to make a bold statement of his own before Michigan State comes to South Bend this weekend.

I guarantee Notre Dame will show up on time!

Otherwise, if I’m Weis, a Bill Belichick disciple, I send Charlie Jr. to the other sideline. With a camera, of course.

While Notre Dame-haters believe they have died and gone to football heaven, disgusted Notre Dame-lovers don’t know what to do with themselves.

Take my father-in-law, for instance.

Now he looks forward to Cleveland Browns games and only then because former Irish quarterback Brady Quinn is with the team. And the rookie has yet to take a snap in the regular season.

Even Touchdown Jesus is a tad upset about the sudden turn of events. It used to be that The Big Scorer in the Sky would raise His arms to signal Notre Dame touchdowns at home games. Now he throws His arms up in disgust instead.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when the Notre Dame quarterback was the most glamorous, most sought-after position in all of college sports. Every BMOC in America would do almost anything to follow in the footsteps of Johnny Lujack, Paul Hornung, Terry Hanratty, Joe Theismann, Joe Montana and Tony Rice to name a few.

Now? Notre Dame quarterbacks transfer to Northern Illinois for heaven sakes.

“My plan is to practice with them this year and be eligible to play next fall,” said future Huskies signal-caller Demetrius Jones, none too thrilled that Weis benched him after the season opener. “I’d then have three years of eligibility. That’s how I hope it works out.”

I mean, when I attended Northern years ago, Notre Dame quarterbacks thought it was a bathroom tissue.

Then again, while the demise of the Irish rates as the surprise of the early season, it’s not a total shocker really.

While Weis makes for a wide target these days, the fact is Notre Dame hasn’t been Notre Dame for years. Since 1994, the Irish haven’t won more than 10 games or finished higher than ninth in the polls in any season.

That was four head coaches ago.

In that span, they lost nine consecutive bowl games by an average score of 35-17 against the likes of Colorado, North Carolina State and Oregon State.

So as much as Weis deserves some of the blame for the south bend in South Bend, I’m not ready to write him off as Jerry Faust on steroids yet.

When Weis left the NFL in 2005, he didn’t have the benefit of a full season to recruit. According to Scouts.com, the Irish had no better than the 27th best recruiting class in the country that year. Only one of their prospects ranked among the top 100 in the nation and none was five-star material. The Class of ‘05 are juniors or redshirt sophomores now.

As a result, Notre Dame has its youngest team in recent memory. Too young. In the season opener, the Irish played 31 underclassman, a school record. In Jimmy Clausen, who turns 20 on Friday, they have a true freshman quarterback. Weis has proven that he can develop star quality at the position, but not even Quinn or Tom Brady was built in a day.

Check back at the end of next season. At that point, we’ll know a heckuva lot more about Weis the teacher, the strategist, the leader and the recruiter. And whether the higher-ups made the right decision to give him a 10-year contract extension only seven games into his first season.

In the meantime, the meat-grinder schedule won’t do the Irish any favors in the weeks ahead. After Michigan State, the opponents are Purdue, UCLA, Boston College, Southern California and Navy. Yep, the same Navy that Notre Dame has chewed up and spit out 43 consecutive times.

Think Roger Staubach has that game circled on his schedule?

Paul Ladewski can be reached at pladd@aol.com

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