Sept. 10, 2005
And even though he isn't interested in any comparisons to the famed Fighting Irish coach, if Weis keeps winning games like he did Saturday at No. 3 Michigan he might not have a choice.
Brady Quinn threw two touchdown passes in the first half and the 20th-ranked Fighting Irish held on to beat the Wolverines 17-10, making Weis the first Notre Dame coach to win his first two games on the road since Rockne in 1918.
"If I answered by dignifying that, (Bill) Parcells and (Bill) Belichick would humiliate me," Weis said about his coaching mentors when asked about his connection to Rockne. "I've just coached two games and they've played two games. Let's come back and revisit that in about 10 years."
Notre Dame (2-0), which won at then-No. 23 Pittsburgh last week, snapped the Wolverines' 16-game winning streak at Michigan Stadium and handed them their first loss against a nonconference team at home since 1998. The Irish - two years removed from losing 38-0 in Ann Arbor - also won at Michigan for the first time since 1993.
"I'm happy for the team, but I worry about their heads," Weis said. "I told them to enjoy this tonight, but not too much. You don't want to have a big win like this, then lay an egg at home the next week."
Notre Dame hosts Michigan State next Saturday.
Weis helped New England win three Super Bowls as Belichick's offensive coordinator, and earned his first championship ring with the New York Giants as one of Parcells' assistants.
Against Michigan, the offensive guru began with a shotgun formation and an empty backfield. The Irish didn't use a huddle at times during the opening 12-play drive and didn't have a third down.
"I think that sent a message to start the game like that," said Quinn, who ended the impressive possession with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Rhema McKnight.
The Wolverines (1-1) slowed down Notre Dame's offense, but they squandered several chances in the fourth quarter to pull within a TD before finally capitalizing on their third opportunity.
"We just made too many mistakes in the red zone," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "You can't get the football down there and give it away like we did and expect to win a game like this."
On a fourth-and-3, Chad Henne lofted a 25-yard pass to Mario Manningham with 3:47 left to make it 17-10.
The Wolverines then forced Notre Dame to punt, but four incomplete passes later, the Irish were celebrating on the sideline. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, players ran into the end zone to celebrate with their fans.
"Coming into the Big House and getting a win can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Victor Abiamiri said. "You want to do everything you can to let it sink in."
Notre Dame didn't need much help to beat the Wolverines for the third time in four years, but instant replay overturned two calls in its favor in the fourth quarter.
On a sneak from inside Notre Dame's 1, Henne was ruled down, but a review showed that he fumbled and that the Irish's Chinedum Ndukwe recovered the ball in the end zone. On the ensuing possession, officials ruled that Quinn fumbled, but a review showed that his knee was down, allowing the Irish to keep the ball deep in their territory.
Each time, Michigan's student section responded by throwing water bottles and other debris on the field.
"I'm confident and hopeful those calls were properly made because if they weren't, that would obviously be an issue," Carr said.
Quinn was 19-for-30 for 140 yards and Darius Walker ran for 104 yards for the Irish.
D.J. Fitzpatrick's 43-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter gave Notre Dame a 17-3 lead.
On its next possession, Walker fumbled, giving Michigan some hope.
The Wolverines drove to Notre Dame's 5, but were turned away after being stuffed on two runs and two passes that fell incomplete. They got inside Notre Dame's 1 on their next possession, before Henne's fumble.
Henne was 19-of-44 for 223 yards with a TD. He was intercepted at Notre Dame's 1 in third quarter and had the key fumble in the fourth. Kevin Grady, replacing the injured Mike Hart, ran for 79 yards. Jason Avant caught five passes for 90 yards.
The game was a defensive struggle as the Wolverines were held to their lowest point total since Iowa beat them 34-9 in 2002. That game started a home-winning streak that Notre Dame snapped in front of 111,386 fans.
Both teams lost a key player in the first half. Michigan running back Michael Hart left after being hit hard by linebacker Corey Mays in the first quarter. Notre Dame's McKnight twisted his right knee after being tackled by Brandent Englemon on an incomplete pass in the second quarter.
Steve Breatson's 30-yard reverse on the last play of the first quarter gave Michigan the ball in Irish territory for the first time. Garrett Rivas' 38-yard field goal made it 7-3.
Notre Dame responded with its second 12-play drive for a TD, capped by Quinn's 5-yard pass to Jeff Samardzija for a 14-3 lead with 4:24 left in the second quarter.
After the Irish's strong start offensively, Michigan's much-maligned defense held them in check for the most part, limiting them to 244 yards.
"We lost a football game, but I think we found a defense," Carr said.