SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Winless Notre Dame is getting physical to try to solve its problems with an inept offense and a defense that missed too many tackles in an embarrassing 38-0 loss to Michigan.
The Fighting Irish (0-3) went into training camp mode to try to get going in the right direction. They went through a rare full practice on Sunday, instead of watching film and running. Both Sunday and Tuesday coach Charlie Weis had the first-team offense go against the first-team defense and had every play continue until the ball carrier was tackled -- an unusual practice even for training camp.
"It obviously brings a whole different tempo to practice," he said.
The Irish are looking to improve the tempo because they are last in the nation in rushing offense (-4.67 yards per game), last in total offense (115 ypg), worst in sacks allowed (23), and ninth worst in rushing defense (285 ypg). Getting more physical is the only way to solve the team's problems, Weis said.
"When you lose 38-0, there are plenty of problems out there," he said.
Sam Young, who switched from right tackle to left tackle last week, said he likes the more physical practices.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "You're knocking heads with the first team. You'll get some bumps and bruises from it, but it's a heck of a lot of fun."
Weis said the full-out practices also give coaches a better idea of which players are working.
"It forces you to finish plays," he said. "If nothing else, this week is about finishing plays. That's one area we probably haven't done the best job on both sides of the ball."
Weis prides himself in being a game-planning coach -- being able to find a scheme that will allow his team to exploit an opponent's weakness. He's done with that for now. Right now he's focusing on finding something he knows the Irish can do so they can develop an offensive identity.
He's focusing on running multiple formations and multiple personnel groups to run the same plays.
"That's what we haven't gotten to. We're trying to get back to the basics, back to the core because you can always grow from the core," he said. "Right now I don't think we have a very solid established core. That's what this week is about."
Part of that, Weis said, is to stop waiting to see what kind of offense the Irish are going to be and instead establish what kind of offense they will be.
"You have to say we're going to do this. This is one thing we're going to do, and we're going to do it and do it and do it and do it until we get it right," he said.
Center John Sullivan said Weis' plan allows the Irish to focus on themselves and what they need to do to get better.
"There's no excuses for what's gone on so far. We don't have to focus on what went wrong the first three games; we have to focus on what we can do right Game 4," he said.
Weis said he will decide after the Michigan State game how much longer he will continue the training camp mode.
"If this pays huge dividends, which I'm counting on, you have to keep some element on this in your planning so that you don't have a setback," Weis said. "Let's say you go and win this week. It's not all of a sudden everything is OK. You still got the crap kicked out of you for three games and you're 1-3." Notes:
Weis said right guard Dan Wenger is "iffy for a while" because of an undisclosed injury. Defensive lineman Derrell Hand, arrested in July on a misdemeanor charge of propositioning a prostitute, will play Saturday after serving a three-game suspension, Weis said.