April 22, 2006

Spring game brings back Irish buzz

Charlie Weis just turned the Blue-Gold Game into a misnomer.

Notre Dame's head coach might want to re-label the end of spring affair as a carnival, circus, party or extravaganza with a little football mixed in. Weis' second spring game drew a record crowd of fans and recruits as the nearly two-hour scrimmage provided a back drop for four alumni coaches including Super Bowl winner Jerome Bettis.

If the afternoon didn't scream that Notre Dame was back, it at least signaled that South Bend can turn itself into the place to be on a Saturday in April. The 77th Annual Blue-Gold Game drew 41,279 fans to Notre Dame Stadium, crushing the 1981 record of 35,675 set in Gerry Faust's first spring.

"When I went to school here it was also a festival then. It always felt like today," Weis said. "I think we had to work hard at creating that atmosphere again."

Last fall's 9-3 season that ended in the Fiesta Bowl helped. So too did the sunny, 68-degree weather, a vast improvement over last year's snowstorm. And to top it all off, Weis picked up a verbal commitment from the nation's No. 1 junior, quarterback Jimmy Clausen, that morning.

Not a bad day's work for a coach so revered that he graces this season's "The Shirt" with Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz, a trio that combined for 300 wins and six national titles.

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