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After two week of playing conservatively, Weis ready to open up playbook

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

By TOM COYNE

AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- After two weeks of playing ultra-conservatively with two different starting quarterbacks, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is ready to open his playbook more to try to get the Fighting Irish offense going.

"I would rather not open it up, but you have to open it up to give you an opportunity to score points," he said Tuesday.

Notre Dame has yet to score a touchdown in its two losses. The last time Notre Dame went two games without an offensive touchdown was in 2002. But that Irish squad won both those games on the strength of six field goals, two special teams touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns. The Irish can't depend on that this season, though.

As a play-caller, Weis has never gone two straight games without a touchdown, which is why he's ready to use more plays against Michigan. But Weis said he is in a Catch-22: if he does open up the offense, it could put more pressure on freshman Jimmy Clausen, making just his second start at quarterback; if he doesn't open up the offense, he may not be giving his team much of a chance to score.

He'd rather err on the side of being aggressive.

"You can't just sit there and take baby steps," Weis said. "You have to make some significant strides to try to get some production on offense."

Weis knows the Irish need to pass more downfield. Through two games, the Irish have completed just two passes of 20 yards or more. Last season the Irish averaged nearly 3.5 completions of 20 or more yards a game. They also averaged 4.3 rushes of 10 yards or more yards a game last season. So far this season they have three.

So why not open up the playbook?

Weis was asked whether in expanding the offense he might go so far as to use a spread offense, since that's what both Appalachian State and Oregon used in outscoring the Wolverines (0-2) 73-39 in their first two games.

Clausen doesn't run well enough to run the spread offense, but Weis didn't rule out the possibility that Demetrius Jones, who started at quarterback in the loss against Georgia Tech, could get in the game. It isn't likely, though, that the Irish will depend heavily on a spread offense because it looked totally ineffective in the opener against Georgia Tech.

Clausen wasn't a lot more effective last week against Penn State, but the Irish offense at least looked as if it had a better chance of moving the ball using the traditional Weis offense.

The Irish could be helped this week by the fact that after two weeks of facing teams ranked among the nation's top 10 in defense, they will face a Wolverine defense that is ranked 108th. But that's still better than Notre Dame's worst-in-the-nation offense.

While the Irish offense has gone three-and-out on 15 of its 26 possessions this season, the Wolverines have held opponents to just eight three-and-outs on 30 possessions.

Weis said the key Saturday is to try to gain the momentum early.

"That would definitely help, especially with a couple of touchdowns early," he said.

Heck, at this point the Irish will take a couple of touchdowns any time they can get them. But Weis would just as soon settle for a single field goal, so long as the Irish win 3-0.

"Just give me a win," he said.



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