Bowl win tops Weis' Christmas wish list


POSTED: Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Charlie Weis only has one Christmas wish.

“;When I'm sitting here on Christmas Eve after the game with my wife and kid and waiting for Santa and the sleigh to pull up, I want to have a smile on my face,”; the Notre Dame coach said.

The Fighting Irish (6-6) can make their coach happy, and stop the longest bowl-game losing streak in NCAA history, with a win over the Warriors (7-6) in tomorrow's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl at 3 p.m. on ESPN.

The Irish coach spoke to the media yesterday for the first time since his team arrived in Honolulu last Saturday.

Weis, 28-21 in his four years as Notre Dame coach, didn't shy away from expressing the importance of coming out of Hawaii with a victory. Not only would it stop a streak of nine consecutive loses in bowls dating to 1994, but it would send out his seniors the right way and put the wheels in motion to try to continue the Irish's turnaround from last year's disastrous 3-9 season.

“;There's two things you're trying to do here,”; Weis said. “;For the (Maurice) Crums and those guys walking out the door…they'd be proud to walk out the door saying 'hey, that's the last time we got to play football for Notre Dame, we didn't have to worry about the 900 teams that won a bowl game since Notre Dame last won a bowl game.'

“;For everyone else who aspires for greater things down the road, they can't look at this as the last game of the past year, they have to look at it as the first game of next year.”;

Crum, who will tie a school record with his 48th career start against, has seen the best of both worlds in his career.

He was part of the two teams that went to the Fiesta and Sugar bowls in consecutive years before spending the last holiday season watching all the postseason games from home.

Looking to end his career with a win, Crum, who Weis calls the heart of the team, is the ninth player in school history to finish with more than 300 tackles.

“;This is my last opportunity to be a Notre Dame football player,”; Crum said. “;This is my last time coming out with my guys. You always want to go out with that blaze of glory.”;

Crum will have his hands full with a Hawaii offense that is much more balanced than in recent years.

Instead of focusing solely on the passing game, the Irish have to respect Hawaii's running attack, which will keep them from raring back and getting after the quarterback on every play.

“;So much of there offense was just dependent on Colt (Brennan) in the past,”; Weis said. “;What they have been able to do with their offense now is when you take the superstar quarterback out of the mix, I think that everyone on their offense has kind of picked up their slack.”;

Notre Dame will also have to figure out how to get a win in what expects to be a crazed atmosphere. Close to 42,000 tickets have been sold for the game at Aloha Stadium, which has been a house of horrors recently for visiting teams.

Hawaii is 21-3 in its last 24 games at home, a stat that doesn't surprise Weis at all.

“;I can see why Hawaii during the regular season hardly ever loses a game here,”; Weis said. “;You fly up to this venue in a short time frame, there are a lot of distractions here. I'm glad we don't do this on a regular basis.”;

Player updates

Backup cornerback Gary Gray was left home for what Weis called “;personal reasons.”; Other than that, the Irish are relatively healthy as starting cornerback Terrail Lambert is fully recovered from a sprained ankle that forced him to miss the final three games of the season. Running back Armando Allen is good to go after injuring his right foot against Southern California and receiver Michael Floyd has recovered from a leg injury that forced him out of the last two regular-season games.

“;Thankfully they're all back,”; Weis said.