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Pass-Fail Course

Charlie Weis might have been undone by his own play call

If not for the play Charlie Weis called a few minutes later, the Statue of Liberty for a two-point conversion and a three-point lead might have gone down as the signature play in the signature win that the Notre Dame coach continues to look for. But it won't be quarterback Jimmy Clausen's sly handoff to Armando Allen that anyone remembers. It will be an incomplete pass.

As Michigan celebrated a 38--34 victory, Weis (above) tried to explain why, with 2:29 left and the ball on his 29-yard line, he called for a second-down pass instead of a run that would have forced the Wolverines to call timeout or allow 40 seconds to drain off the clock. After it stuffed Robert Hughes for no gain on first down, Michigan burned the first of its three timeouts. Then Weis defied conventional football wisdom. Clausen fired deep down the left side, looking for wideout Golden Tate, but Michigan cornerback Donovan Warren had tight coverage and broke up the pass. The clock stopped. On third down Clausen threw a perfect ball to freshman Shaquelle Evans, but Evans wasn't expecting the pass. It too fell incomplete.

The Irish punted (only 29 yards), and the Wolverines took over on their 42 with 2:13 left. Michigan would take its second timeout after a sack, then use the final timeout, the one it saved when Notre Dame threw on second down, with 30 seconds remaining and the ball on the Irish 23. Without that timeout, the Wolverines might have had to try a field goal to force overtime. Still, Weis refused to second-guess himself. "You have two choices," he said. "Do you run the ball just to make them use their timeouts? Or do you try to win the game?"

Still awaiting that marquee win, Notre Dame fans probably wish he had done the former.


Photograph by AL TIELEMANS