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Weis: Second game vs. Willingham not as big

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Last time Notre Dame played Washington, Irish coach Charlie Weis dubbed the matchup the "Ty Bowl" -- Ty as in Tyrone Willingham, the man ND dumped after three seasons but who quickly found another job with the Huskies.

This time it's a game without a nickname and much less tension as Notre Dame's coach and his predecessor face each other Saturday.

"In 2005, it was definitely there," Weis said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "I think that was probably the one hurdle we had to get through just to get through it."

When the teams met in 2005, some were still questioning whether Notre Dame did the right thing in firing Willingham after three seasons with a 21-15 record. The Irish were loaded with players who had been recruited or coached by Willingham.

The game itself was an anticlimax as Brady Quinn led Notre Dame to a 36-17 win.

Now only three players are left on the Irish roster who played under Willingham, and Weis -- whose record at the end of three seasons was only one win better than Willingham at 22-15 -- said he doesn't feel there's any added significance to this game.

"I've gone my way and he's gone his way. Our programs have as well," he said.

The difference between Weis' first three seasons and Willingham's is that Weis had two good years, bringing the Irish to two BCS bowls, and one dismal year, when the Irish went 3-9 last season, while Willingham had one good year and two bad seasons and never made it to the BCS.

Willingham hasn't had a good year since his first at Notre Dame, and at 0-6 is in danger of losing his job again.

Adding another twist, Bob Davie, Willingham's predecessor (unless you count the week George O'Leary was coach), will be the ESPN analyst for the game.

Weis was asked if he has any shared bond with Willingham or Davie since they are part of a group who understands what it's like to coach at Notre Dame. Weis said he only reaches out to former Irish coaches who left Notre Dame with a "good taste in their mouth."

"When guys leave here before they're ready to leave, they're not the best people for me to talk to," Weis said. "It's not that we're not cordial. It's just not the best situation."

Weis said if he wants advice on coaching at Notre Dame he either calls Ara Parseghian or Lou Holtz.

"Because they were here for over a decade and those are the guys that guide me the best," he said. "I feel bad for other people, but the bottom line is when people leave before they want to leave, it's never a good conversation."

Weis wants the Irish (4-2) focusing Saturday on getting off to a strong start to the second half of the season and getting the team's first road victory, not who the opposing coach is.

"The first thing you're going to have to do is go away from: 'Can you win on the road?' and start making the statement that you can," Weis said. "I want to eliminate the question mark."

If the Irish continue to improve as they have so far this season, especially the younger players, they can go from being a decent team to being a good team, Weis said.

"I'm counting on it happening," he said. "I'm counting on us going from decent to good."

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