SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis makes no secret about who he'll be rooting for in Saturday's Blue-Gold spring football game.
``When I'm head coach, I cheer for everybody. Not when I'm calling plays,'' he said, explaining that he'll pull for the offense to beat the defense Saturday. ``I'm a sore loser. You guys don't see that very often, but I am, I'm a sore loser.''
After giving up play-calling duties for most of last year, Weis is calling the shots again as offensive coordinator as the Irish seek to return to prominence after going 3-9 and 7-6 the past two seasons.
The game pits the offense vs. the defense with an improvised scoring system - with a first down worth 1 point, a sack worth 2 points, a three-and-out 3 points and a touchdown worth 6. The game will have two 30-minute halves with a running clock except in the last two minutes of each half.
The winners eat steak, while the losers get hot dogs.
aid although the game is nothing more than another practice, it takes on added significance because it lets him see how players respond when there's a little more at stake.
``It's a practice but it's not a practice because now there's 20,000 people out there, it's a beautiful day, and you're in the stadium and media's around and your family has all come into town. So therefore it no longer feels like a practice any more, so the level rises,'' he said. ``Any time there's more people around and there's more obvious competition around, everything rises up a little bit.''
One of the areas that hardcore fans will be watching will be along the offensive line, an area where the Irish have struggled the past few seasons. The Irish rushed for 109.7 yards a game last year, the second-worst season in school history. The worst was the season before, when they averaged 75 yards a game.
The Irish have a new offensive line coach in Frank Verducci, a former Cleveland Browns assistant, and Weis said the line is ``light years'' ahead of a year ago despite several players missing time with injuries and illness.
``We've made some significant progress. The jury's still out, but we've made some significant progress,'' Weis said.
He said the team went starters vs. starters for much of the spring, which raised the level of competition.
``The offense has had to deal with a fast defense that's bringing heat all the time and the defense has had to deal with a much more aggressive physical mentality inside,'' Weis said.
The game also will give Irish fans their first chance to see quarterback Dayne Crist in action. Crist didn't play as a freshman last season.
On defense, one of the players to emerge this spring was linebacker Toryan Smith, a reserve last season who had 18 tackles in 10 games. Weis said if the season started next week, Smith would be the starting middle linebacker in the base defense.
Weis doesn't want to see Smith have too good a game on Saturday, though.
``I don't want to eat hot dogs,'' he said.

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