SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Notre Dame has set a lot of "worst'' marks this season.
Worst start. Worst home losing streak. Two of the 10 worst losses ever. With three games left, worst season in school history is a real possibility.
The Fighting Irish (1-8) already have tied the school record for most losses in a season, matching the 1956 and 1960 squads that both went 2-8. Unless the Irish win their last three games, an argument could be made that this year's team is worse than either of those two teams.
Notre Dame is on pace to give up the most points in school history and to have one of its worst scoring averages. The offense is averaging a record-low 208 yards a game and 56 yards a game rushing.
The only reason Notre Dame isn't 0-9 is because the Irish knocked UCLA quarterback Ben Olson out with a knee injury late in the first quarter. Walk-on freshman redshirt McLeod Bethel-Thompson then threw four interceptions and had a fumble the Irish turned into a touchdown and a 20-6 victory.
Coach Charlie Weis said Sunday he isn't worried about history.
"I don't think that history really plays into anything you do as a coach,'' he said.
For fans, though, it is important. Patience is wearing thin. Fans knew the Irish would struggle this year after losing Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Darius Walker and others from last year's 10-3 squad. But nobody expected it to be this bad.
There also was always the solace that the Irish should win their last four games against Navy, Air Force, Duke and Stanford. Losing 46-44 to Navy on Saturday for the first time in 44 years sent many Irish fans into a panic. They were especially alarmed because Notre Dame had two weeks to prepare for Navy and still couldn't win.
Weis was asked what he has to say to those fans. He pointed to some positives that came out of the game against Navy (5-4). The struggling kick return team played better, Tom Zbikowski had a key 32-yard punt return and the Irish offense, which had rushed for 273 yards all season, ran for 235 yards against the Midshipmen.
Still, though, the Irish lost to a mediocre Navy team.
In the fourth quarter, on fourth-and-8 from the Navy 24, the Irish attempted a pass instead of a field goal. Weis said kicking into the wind, the Irish needed to get to the 20 to attempt a field goal. Instead, Sharpley was sacked for a 7-yard loss.
Weis was asked Sunday if he wished he had tried for the field goal.
"Why, to miss the field goal?'' he said. "I thought we had a good play for the first down.''
It's how things have gone for Weis this season. The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator who seemed to punch many of the right buttons the past two seasons, can't seem to find the right ones this season.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Weis, whose contract runs through 2015, said Sunday he's not worried.
"I'm going to be here for a long time,'' he said. "I'm going to be judged by what happens when I leave, so let's see where I am when I walk out the door.''
Weis said instead of worrying about how this year's team will be judged, he's focused on finding a way to beat Air Force (7-3).
The biggest challenge facing the Irish against Air Force or anyone else is simply learning how to win, Weis said.
"That's easier said than done. How do you teach them how to win? Really what you need to do is have a game like yesterday go your way,'' he said. "It doesn't have to be a one-point win. It might be a seven-point win, it might be a 10-point win. But you need something good to happen because every football player, regardless of what level they're on, their psyche and their emotion gains momentum when good things happen. So right now, what this team really needs is something good to happen.''
Junior QB Everett Golson didn't put up any staggering numbers in Notre Dame's 84th annual Blue-Gold game, but Keith Arnold writes in the spring edition of Five Things that numbers can't show how much he's improved in the offseason as a leader.
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