At best, the Irish have spun their wheels this season. In three games, they’ve allowed 102 points and scored 13. The defense, which never pressured Michigan freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett, surrendered three touchdown passes, plus two rushing touchdowns among the 187 yards earned by tailback Mike Hart.

Forget for a moment Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis’ talk of looking at his players and coaches during the final minutes of Saturday’s game, and his search for people with their heads up and their eyes bright.

There was little of that after the game among the seven players allowed by Weis and Notre Dame’s public relations people to speak with reporters. Even senior safety Tom Zbikowski, who, as a part-time pro boxer should be used to taking a punch, looked glassy-eyed.

“We’ve got to get better,” Zbikowski said after the 38-0 loss to Michigan, which dropped the Fighting Irish to 0-3 this season and extended their losing streak to five games over two seasons. “We can’t let this happen. We have to progress, to keep getting better as a team.”

At best, the Irish have spun their wheels this season. In three games, they’ve allowed 102 points and scored 13. The defense, which never pressured Michigan freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett, surrendered three touchdown passes, plus two rushing touchdowns among the 187 yards earned by tailback Mike Hart.

On the other side of the ball, the shutout was the first against the Irish in the Weis era. The running game, an Irish staple for a century, is nonexistent, losing 14 yards in three games, thanks in part to 31 sacks allowed in those games, and ranked last among the 119 teams in major college football.

The third straight substandard performance prompted Weis to start a second training camp Sunday, which may or may not help by the time Michigan State visits Notre Dame on Saturday. Weis questioned every aspect of the team’s preparedness, including his own.

“I think we’re excited to play,” Zbikowski said, hardly sounding convincing.
“We’re hyped up,” nose tackle Patrick Kuntz said of pregame preparation. “We’re ready to go.”

It hasn’t showed. And Weis, by sticking to a bizarre collection of offensive plays early in the game, may have contributed to Saturday’s outcome, in which the Wolverines led 10-0 after a quarter and 31-0 at the half.

Notre Dame’s first play from scrimmage had tailback Armando Allen lined up in the shotgun, with quarterback Jimmy Clausen as a flanker in the left slot. The snap by John Sullivan sailed over the 5-foot-10 Allen’s head. He smothered the ball inches from the Irish goal line.

On second-and-17, Weis called an end around. Golden Tate was lucky to get to the Irish 5.

On third-and-13, Clausen threw a low pass over the middle. Michigan’s Shawn Crable nearly intercepted it. On fourth down, Geoff Price had to punt from his end zone.

“I’m almost nuts to call (the end around) inside the 5, but at that point, it’s ‘What the hell,’ ” Weis said.

At that point, more than 59 minutes remained in the game.

Meanwhile, Demetrius Jones has turned up in the Northern Illinois University student e-mail directory, with information that matches his personal profile. The South Bend Tribune reported Jones, a sophomore who started at quarterback for Notre Dame in the opener, had enrolled at Northern Illinois on Wednesday, the last day to do so while being eligible for the majority of the 2008 season.

Curiously, Jones still practiced with the Fighting Irish on Wednesday and Thursday. Weis was unaware that Jones was even contemplating leaving Notre Dame until Jones missed the team bus to Michigan on Friday afternoon. If Notre Dame does not release him from his National Letter of Intent, Jones will have to pay for his tuition.