(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Let's play a game I like to call hypotheticals, just for a second. You've got a three-point lead with 2:29 to play in the fourth quarter. You've got the ball. It's 2nd and 10 on your own 29-yard line. You'd really love to force your opponents to use both of their remaining timeouts, if not move the chains once to essentially end the game.
You've got a running back who has been tearing up the opponent's front seven all day, and a one play-making reciever who suddenly couldn't catch a cold (unless he was really, really open I suppose). With your top wideout forced out of the game with an injury, you call a pass play to that speedy wideout with Clifford Franklin-like hands against a cornerback who has been shutting you down all day long.
The pass falls incomplete, and so does the next one on a pivotal 3rd and 10. You punt the ball away and watch the other team's outstanding true freshman quarterback lead a drive down the field to take the lead with just 11 seconds remaining, leaving you powerless and suddenly sweating profusely on a breezy day in Ann Arbor.
Yep, you guessed it. You're Charlie Weis.
In the midst of the best game on a slate of great finishes across the country Saturday, Weis' shotty play-calling was immediately overlooked by the play of Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier.
Forcier, who nearly cost his team the game himself with an interception in the 4th quarter that ultimately gave the Irish the lead back, exceeded even the highest expectations leading his team back from two fourth-quarter deficits.
In only his second collegiate start, he completed nearly 70% of his passes, throwing for 223 yards and two touchdowns. In addition to his yards through the air, Forcier also ran for 70 yards, including a dramatic 31-yard scamper on 4th & 3 to give the Wolverines an 11-point fourth quarter lead. But even the Michigan freshman was confused by Weis' play selection late in the game.
"I think it was a mistake that they were throwing the ball because they let us save our timeouts," said Forcier. "Those timeouts definitely came in handy."
Weis defended his call to air it out, rather than hand off to Armando Allen Jr., who had accumulated 139 yards on the day already, and who ripped off a 13 yard gain just two plays earlier.
"They loaded up the box and made it clear that they weren't going to let us do that, so we had to throw the ball," said the frustrated Irish coach. "On third down, we could've run and made them use a timeout, but we were trying to win the game."
Now, as if the decision to throw the ball wasn't bad enough, he had quarterback Jimmy Clausen air it out to Golden Tate, who had already dropped two huge passes in the fourth quarter, as he was being covered by All-Big Ten cornerback Donovan Warren. Charlie, if you're going to throw the ball, hit the tight end over the middle for five yards.
You can't blame Clausen, though, even if you wanted to for overthrowing an open target on that pivotal third down play. He carved up the Wolverine defense all day throwing for 336 yards and three touchdowns. No, this time the blame all goes to the head coach.
This was a game Charlie Weis had to win. After a 35-0 drubbing of Nevada last week, the Irish strolled into Ann Arbor with a sense of confidence they hadn't seen since Brady Quinn & co. led the Golden Domers to back-to-back BCS Bowl games in 2005 and 2006. Ironically, it was like the previous two seasons, where Weis compiled a 10-15 record, never happened. In fact, many believed that a victory over Michigan would springboard the Irish into a run that could end with another BCS bowl berth.
But in a matchup of two head coaches that both desperately needed a W, Weis was simply outdone by Michigan's Rich Rodriguez who, two weeks removed from all kinds of controversy and after a historically bad first year, has come up smelling like roses in Ann Arbor.
Now, the Irish are on the outside looking in at the AP Top 25, and without a win against another rival with an impressive true freshman in USC's Matt Barkley in a month's time, we may look back on yesterday's game and call it the beginning of the end for ol' Charlie.