SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Notre Dame cornerback Robert Blanton intercepted a pass at practice on Monday, ran it back about 10 yards to where the offensive players were, dove as if he were an NFL player scoring a touchdown, then stood and spiked the ball.
His teammates on offense weren't happy. Coach Charlie Weis loved it.
``I thought was hilarious,'' Weis said, laughing as he told the story.
That's because Blanton was doing what Weis has been urging the Fighting Irish (3-1) to do since practice began in August: playing with emotion.
From telling players to cheer for one another during practices, to blaring music during practices once a week, to giving a fiery speech before the game against Michigan, Weis has worked hard this season to let the Irish know he wants to see passion and excitement.
It's the result of Weis taking a hard look at his coaching style after the Irish went 3-9 last year and realizing something was missing.
He said he never actively tried to squelch players' personalities. But he believes some players saw his businesslike approach and thought he wanted them to emulate it.
So early during training camp, when the first-string offense and the first-string defense were going against each other during a goal-line situation, Weis stopped practice when he saw that those not on the field were watching listlessly.
``Are you that selfish that it's not important to you, or do you just not care?'' Weis shouted.
The Irish cheered on the ensuing plays. There were other times Weis had to implore the team to be more enthusiastic, but eventually the players got the message. Then they took it a step further. They adopted a motto of ``Crank me up'' from a hip-hop song.
Asked what it means, safety Sergio Brown said: ``Get crunked. Get energetic. Just step up your game play. It was a time in camp where everybody was down, getting tired. We'd just yell 'Crank me up.' Or if we were making plays we'd yell, 'Crank me up.' It's just something we thrive off of.''
At the pep rally before the first game, Brown taught the chant to students. Fans have used the cheer at every home game, much to the delight of the players.
sic loud all during practices on Thursdays.
Before the Michigan game, he played a portion of ``Crank Me Up'' between songs by the Jersey musicians. He saw how much the players enjoyed it. Weis told the players he would continue playing the hip-hop music between songs until the Irish lost. But last Thursday, after the Michigan State loss, instead of pulling the music, Weis added even more hip-hop music to his play list, saying he didn't want to turn something positive into a negative.
``I think that surprised them a little bit,'' Weis said.
Weis believes the emotion is causing a change.
``They're starting to finally have some fun out there for a change,'' Weis said. ``It's been a while since we've had some fun around here.''

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