SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -There was some disbelief in the press box before the USC-Notre Dame kickoff when officials signaled the Irish had won the toss and deferred until the second half.
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis had said, repeatedly, he would never consider going on defense first if he won the toss. Never.
The change in heart by the offensive-minded coach might not seem like a big deal, but it shows how this trying 1-7 season has forced Weis to change some things.
``I've probably adapted more this year than I have in my whole coaching career,'' he said. ``Every week I've tried to do something different.''
The best example might be his stance about playing for the future.
In August, when asked whether this season would be a rebuilding year, Weis said: ``May God strike me dead if I use that word.''
Well, he's still breathing, and he still hasn't used the word, but Weis is going into a rebuilding mode during this bye week.
The team will practice through Wednesday before heading home for a few days during Notre Dame's weeklong fall break, during which coaches will fly across the country on recruiting trips.
Half of each practice will be spent preparing for the next opponent, Navy (4-3). Then, players who won't be back next season will depart, and practice will resume with the younger players.
``We're going to make sure we utilize this week to get going on Navy, but I think it's just as important to start developing the team as if those guys are gone,'' Weis said.
That doesn't mean Weis won't use fifth-year seniors such as tight end John Carlson, center John Sullivan and safety Tom Zbikowski in the last four games.
What it means is the players behind them, as well as other second-stringers, will get some chances to play.
Another example of the change in Weis is how he has modified his practices.
They have become increasingly more physical, including tackling to the ground in many practices. Now Weis is considering allowing quarterbacks to be tackled during spring practices to get them used to the speed and physical nature at this level.
The coach knows it could be dangerous with only two quarterbacks on the roster, but he's willing to at least consider taking the risk because of the possible reward.
All the changes show Weis is willing to go against what he learned in the NFL under Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. If he wasn't willing to change, Weis said, he would have risked losing his players.
``I think I had to make sure that I wasn't closed-minded about my approach to football,'' he said. ``Because if I think I would, and not be willing to make changes, I think that would set us further, and further, and further behind. That's why you keep on tweaking it ,to go try to find the right formula.''
After the lopsided loss to USC, players still seemed to be focused on getting better.
``I'm playing for a lot of things. I'm playing for the fact that I still love all my teammates,'' said Sullivan. ``We're not done.''

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