Weis, Irish get their best crack at USC

October 14, 2009

Late on a Saturday night at the end of November, Joe Montana stood at the end of the tunnel at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, waiting outside the Notre Dame locker room.

The Fighting Irish had been eviscerated (again) by USC, but when a reporter approached, wanting to ask Montana what he thought of his old college roommate, Charlie Weis, the old quarterback read it like Lawrence Taylor coming off the edge. "Sorry," he said.

There was no winning for Montana. What was he supposed to do, give an honest assessment? Perhaps there wasn't enough time — deadlines, you know. Was he supposed to throw his unconditional support behind Weis? Try doing that with a straight face.

Notre Dame would go on to beat Hawaii in the Aloha Bowl, preventing back-to-back losing seasons for the Irish and saving Weis' job — for the time being.

Now, with Saturday's arrival of USC, it is not so much an opportunity for Weis as it is a referendum.

The Fighting Irish are 4-1, and have crept into the No. 25 spot in the Associated Press poll, but their record is no different than it was last year after five games. And it has been built on the back of last-minute, come-from-behind wins over middling Michigan State, Washington and Purdue.

In his four-plus seasons at Notre Dame, Weis is still looking for a signature victory. The Trojans, ranked No. 6, may be the only ranked team Notre Dame plays this season.

"Winning this week would do wonders for my spirits,'' Weis acknowledged Tuesday. ``But it would not just be my spirits. It would be everyone affiliated with Notre Dame.''