Irish still have plenty to prove

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's football players have heard all the rumors swirling about the future of Charlie Weis as their head coach, but they're trying to ignore them -- for now.

Junior wide receiver Golden Tate said he personally tries to "stay away" from the reports in the media.

Asked whether Weis should return for another season, Tate said, "Absolutely. I think he's a great coach. I'm planning on him being here awhile."

Tate admitted he was "pretty down" on Sunday, a day after Notre Dame lost on the road to Pittsburgh 27-22, but the team's leading receiver seems to have cheered up a bit.

"I'm playing for a better bowl," Tate said. "I'm playing for the seniors."

Notre Dame's contest against Connecticut on Saturday will be the final home game for the team's seniors.

Senior wide receiver Robby Parris acknowledged the turmoil surrounding Weis.

"He's in a tough situation," Parris said.

Parris said he and his teammates expected the scrutiny when they attend Notre Dame. But, he added that one of Weis' constant messages to the team throughout the season has been, "Don't focus on anything outside these walls."

With the Irish still set to play games against Connecticut and Stanford, Parris said, "We're still playing for a lot -- respect. Two more wins would be great."

Junior running back Armando Allen recalled Notre Dame's stunning 24-23 loss to Syracuse on last season's Senior Day. He emphasized that this year's team does not want a repeat performance.

"It kind of put a pep in everyone's step this week," Allen said.

Another senior, offensive tackle Sam Young, has experienced highs (playing in the Sugar Bowl after the 2006 season) and lows (a 3-9 season in 2007) under Weis.

"It's been a wild ride," Young said. "It's been a roller coaster."

As he prepares for his final home game at Notre Dame, Young added that the "goal of the senior class is to put [the program] on the upslope again."