Irish could be on brink of big season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 14, 2005

When we write the story of Charlie Weis’ undefeated national championship rookie season at Notre Dame, it could sound Biblical.

In the beginning was the Big House, and it was silent.

It might turn melodramatic. Outlined against a blinding, sunny September sky, the four Weis men rode again. Or maybe a limerick would work.

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There once was a back named Darius

Whose coach was Weis and gregarious

Walker set up a score

Followed by more and more

And the alums’ thrills were vicarious

Who knows what tone the Irish tome will take if Notre Dame’s first two games foreshadow an historical season? But if things continue the way they’ve started, words will flow from coast to coast.

Notre Dame’s 17-10 win over Michigan at Michigan Stadium already has made a nation of believers. Proof is in the polls. Media and coaches agree, the Irish are No. 10.

&uot;There were a lot of question marks coming into this season though everyone’s eyes, even the players,&uot; Notre Dame tight end Anthony Fasano said.

No quizzical expressions were found Saturday, unless you count Michigan fans reacting to coach Lloyd Carr’s play-calling.

The Fighting Irish found a new weapon in their dynamic, no-huddle opening scoring drive. They wove a nice blend of passing (Brady Quinn finished with 140 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions) and running (Darius Walker, 104 yards).

Their nastiness emerged in the way the defense discombobulated Wolverines quarterback Chad Henne. Let’s face it, they rediscovered that elusive luck of the Irish when receiver Jeff Samardzija caught a tipped pass for a touchdown. Every replay, instant or otherwise, went the Irish’s way.

Weis was asked Sunday whether Notre Dame is a Top 10 team.

&uot;Too many times rankings are based on reputations, not really by what happens,&uot; Weis said. &uot;Maybe if you go by what you see, maybe the answer is yes.&uot;

In this case, maybe means yes. Besides raising rankings and confidence, Notre Dame’s 2-0 start puts it in position to survive a brutal early schedule. The Irish play Michigan State at home on Saturday, and then travel to Washington to face Tyrone Willingham on Sept. 24.

Weis’ gaze stops at Michigan State, but his vision doesn’t.

The offense, defense and special teams have all played well at times in the first two games, Weis said. Since he’s not often effusive in praise, read plenty of confidence into that statement.

&uot;The important thing is to get all three in sync, playing well at the same time,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s easier said than done, but because there’s evidence it can be done, now my expectations go up.&uot;

Weis and the rest of the country seem to be on the same wavelength.

If Notre Dame continues to improve, this season could be worthy of all styles of prose. Anybody know what rhymes with Samardzija?

Reggie Hayes is a sports columnist for

The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Ind.