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#24/25 Football Returns Home For Important Matchup With Boston College

Oct. 18, 2004

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The Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 23, 2004 at 1:30 p.m. EST.

The Site: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795/Natural Grass) in Notre Dame, Ind.

The Tickets: They’re all sold — with this being the 178th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium (the first 130 coming at the old 59,075 capacity). The Boston College game marks the 226th home sellout in the last 227 games (dating back to 1964). It also is the 168th sellout in the last 193 Irish games and the 32nd in the last 34 games involving Notre Dame, dating back to the end of the 2001 season (only last year’s game at Stanford and this year’s Navy game were not sellouts).

The TV Plans: NBC national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Pat Haden (analysis), Lewis Johnson (sideline), David Gibson (producer) and John Gonzalez (director).

The Radio Plans: For the 37th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are broadcast on more than 300 stations in all 50 states by Westwood One with Tony Roberts (play-by-play), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis), Larry Michael (pregame/halftime) and Al Smith (producer). A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student station, WVFI, also is available via the Notre Dame athletics web site at All Notre Dame football games may be heard in South Bend on U93-FM (92.9) with pre- and post-game analysis featuring Sean Stires, Shawn Lewallen, Jack Nolan, Mirko Jurkovic, Reggie Brooks and Vince DeDario. All Irish games also are carried live in the Chicago market on ESPN Radio 1000.

Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics, courtesy of College Sports Online’s GameTracker, will be made available for the Boston College game, via the Notre Dame ( and Boston College ( athletics web sites.

Web Sites: Notre Dame (, Boston College (


Hoping to continue building momentum, Notre Dame (5-2) will renew one of the fiercest rivalries on its schedule when it plays host to Boston College Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (EST) at Notre Dame Stadium. The contest will be televised nationally by NBC, marking the 144th consecutive Irish football game to be broadcast across the country by one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN).

A strong running game and a sturdy defense paved the way for Notre Dame’s fifth victory of 2004 in a 27-9 defeat of previously unbeaten Navy last Saturday at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Irish rushed for a season-best 204 yards behind the aggressive running of tailback Ryan Grant (114 yards and two touchdowns) and Marcus Wilson (33-yard touchdown run). Quarterback Brady Quinn passed for 116 of his 130 yards in the first half as the Irish used a balanced attack to build a 17-0 halftime lead before using a ball-control method offensively in the second half.

Discipline was the buzzword of the week defensively and the Irish handled their assignments well. The Irish held Navy to 260 yards of total offense on the day and were credited with five sacks of Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco, matching his five pass attempts, and held the Mids’ leading rusher to 19 net yards. Linebacker Brandon Hoyte led the effort with a career-high 16 tackles, including a sack.

Boston College (4-2) enters this game off a painful loss at Pittsburgh, a 20-17 overtime verdict last Saturday. The Eagles feature a potent offense that averaged 398.7 yards per game, including 236.3 yards passing. Quarterback Paul Peterson ranks 24th nationally in total offense, averaging 250 yards per contest. The Eagles also boast one of the nation’s top defenses, entering this week ranked among the nation’s top 15 in four defensive categories: scoring defense (fourth), total defense (12th), pass efficiency defense (13th) and rushing defense (14th). In addition, BC is 24th in the country in pass defense (176.0 ypg.) and is second in kickoff returns (33.4 ypr.) and return specialist Will Blackmon leads the nation with an average of 35.3 yards per kickoff return.


• Notre Dame and Boston College are meeting for the 16th time on the gridiron, and the 13th consecutive season, with the Irish holding a 9-6 edge in the series. This will be the ninth time the two teams have played in South Bend, with Notre Dame holding a 5-3 edge at Notre Dame Stadium.

• Boston College has won the last three games in the series, its longest winning streak in the rivalry. Notre Dame has twice won four in a row against the Eagles, most recently doing so from 1995-98.

• The series features a matchup of the only two Catholic universities in the country playing Division I-A college football.

• Notre Dame has won five of the last nine series games by an average margin of 16.8 points per game.

• The last six games in the series have been decided by an average of just 5.4 points per game (32 total points), with BC winning four of those matchups — although Notre Dame had a chance to tie or win in the final four minutes each time.

• Only one of Boston College’s six wins in the series has come by double digits (a 30-11 victory in 1994 in Chestnut Hill). The other five BC wins have come by a grand total of 17 points (3.4 points per game), including three two-point victories (most recently a 27-25 win last season).

• Saturday’s game will mark the 13th time in the 16-game series at least one of the two teams has been ranked at kickoff. Notre Dame is 7-3 against Boston College when it is ranked heading into its matchup with the Eagles (the Irish are 24th in the AP poll this week and 25th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll). Conversely, BC is 4-7 when it is unranked entering the Notre Dame game, although three of those wins have come in the last three series games.

• Legendary Notre Dame head coach Frank Leahy spent two seasons at Boston College (1939-40), leading the Eagles to a bowl game both years.

• The winner of Saturday’s game will claim the Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl, given by the Notre Dame Club of Boston, and the Ireland Trophy, presented by the Notre Dame Student Government.


• Notre Dame will break a three-game losing streak against Boston College, defeating the Eagles for the first time since a 28-16 victory in 2000 at Notre Dame Stadium.

• The Irish will regain possession of the Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl and the Ireland Trophy for the first time since 2000. In the process, Notre Dame will improve to 3-1 in “trophy games” this season — the Irish defeated Michigan State (Megaphone Trophy) and Stanford (Legends Trophy), but fell to Purdue (Shillelagh Trophy).

• Notre Dame will snap a two-game losing streak against BIG EAST Conference opponents, beating a team from that league for the first time since last year’s 20-14 win at Pittsburgh.

• Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham will even his career record against Boston College at 2-2 and pick up his first win over the Eagles since coming to Notre Dame (he defeated BC once while he was the head coach at Stanford).

• Notre Dame will pick up its sixth victory of the season, thereby becoming bowl eligible for 2004.


• Boston College will earn its fourth consecutive victory over Notre Dame, matching the longest winning streak by either team in the series.

• The Eagles will record their second win in a row at Notre Dame Stadium, picking up victories on consecutive trips to South Bend for the first time ever.

• BC will retain possession of the Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl and the Ireland Trophy for the fourth consecutive season.


• Notre Dame leads its series with Boston College 9-6, including a 5-3 edge when the scene shifts to Notre Dame Stadium.

• The series has been continuous since 1992 (this will be the 13th consecutive meeting).

• The first game of the series was held in 1975 at Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. (a 17-3 Irish win in Dan Devine’s first game as head coach), while the other neutral-field game in the series was at Memphis, Tenn., in the 1983 Liberty Bowl (a 19-18 win for the Irish over the 13th-ranked Eagles).

• This year’s game will mark the 13th time at least one of the two combatants has been ranked at kickoff.

• BC’s current three-game winning streak is its longest ever against the Irish, while Notre Dame has defeated the Eagles four consecutive times on two occasions.

• The Eagles’ most notable win over the Irish came in 1993, when BC defeated top-ranked and unbeaten Notre Dame, 41-39 on a last-second field goal by David Gordon at Notre Dame Stadium.

• The winner of this game earns the Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl, given by the Notre Dame Club of Boston, and the Ireland Trophy, presented by Notre Dame student government. The Ireland Trophy is intended to inspire a spirit of sportsmanship and friendly competition between the schools.

• Notre Dame and Boston College face one another in virtually every other sport (including men’s and women’s basketball) as members of the BIG EAST Conference. However, that will change next season when BC leaves the BIG EAST to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.


• Notre Dame has won 71 percent of its games (62-25-1) vs. teams that currently make up the BIG EAST Conference, with 61 of those 88 games coming vs. former independent Pittsburgh.

• This is the first of two BIG EAST teams the Irish will face this season — Notre Dame will play host to Pittsburgh on Nov. 13. Last season marks the first time that the Irish played three road games against BIG EAST schools since the formation of the BIG EAST Football Conference in 1991.

• Notre Dame owns a .500 or better record against all five current BIG EAST teams they have faced.

• The Irish are 29-11 (.725) all-time at home against current BIG EAST teams.

• Notre Dame is 22-8 (.733) against BIG EAST teams since 1990, including a run of eight consecutive victories from 1995-98.

• The Irish have won eight of their last 12 games against BIG EAST schools, including a 20-14 victory at No. 15 Pittsburgh last season.

• Notre Dame capped its 1988 national championship season with a 34-21 win in the Fiesta Bowl over third-ranked West Virginia.

• Notre Dame’s most recent game versus Syracuse came in the 2003 season finale, when the Orange defeated the Irish, 38-12 at the Carrier Dome.

• The Irish have never faced Connecticut or Temple on the gridiron.

• The BIG EAST will be reconfigured in 2005, as Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida all join the conference. Of that trio, Notre Dame has only faced Cincinnati once before — a 58-0 victory in South Bend way back in Oct. 20, 1900.


The way Notre Dame and Boston College have been matching up in recent years, their fans might not have any nails left to chew on.

For the fourth time in the last five years, the Irish and Eagles provided another heart-stopping finish, with BC coming out on top for the third consecutive year, 27-25, on Sandro Sciortino’s 26-yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining. It spoiled a dramatic comeback by Notre Dame, which had wiped out an 18-point third-quarter deficit and seemed poised to earn its first win in Chestnut Hill since 1998.

Freshman quarterback Brady Quinn put on a strong aerial display for the Irish in the loss, completing 23 of 39 passes for a career-high 350 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. It was the highest yardage total by a Notre Dame quarterback since Joe Montana threw for 358 yards at USC in 1978, and it was the first two-touchdown game of Quinn’s career.

The Irish came out firing from the opening snap, as Quinn connected with sophomore Maurice Stovall on a 51-yard pass play, the second-longest of the year for Notre Dame. However, in a precursor of things to come, the Irish had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by D.J. Fitzpatrick and a 3-0 lead.

BC came back late in the first quarter, as Quinton Porter directed the Eagles 63 yards in seven plays. David Kashetta capped the drive with a 26-yard reception from Porter to put the hosts in front.

Boston College added to its advantage early in the second quarter, as Horace Dodd scampered into the end zone from four yards away. Fitzpatrick countered with his second field goal, this one from 27 yards out, and the score was 14-6 BC at the half.

The Eagles looked to put the game out of reach in the third quarter, thanks in part to some excellent field position. BC started in Irish territory on back-to-back possessions midway through the quarter and parlayed that good fortune into 10 points and a 24-6 lead with 3:27 left in the period.

The Irish bounced back as Quinn guided his troops on a 10-play, 78-yard drive that included a pair of fourth-down conversions. The rookie quarterback finished off the march by tossing a high-arching touchdown pass to senior wideout Omar Jenkins, who just managed to get one foot down in the back of the end zone.

A bad snap on a BC punt helped the Irish creep closer in the fourth quarter. Eagles punter Jeff Gomulinski was tackled at his own 23-yard line and on the next play, Quinn and Stovall hooked up for the touchdown.

BC tried to sit on its lead, but Notre Dame wouldn’t be denied. Nate Schiccatano broke through the Eagles’ punt protection and blocked Gomulinski’s kick. Carlos Campbell scooped up the ball and raced 25 yards to give the Irish the lead with 3:34 to play.

That set the stage for BC’s last-gasp drive, which began with good field position following a 42-yard return on the ensuing kickoff by Will Blackmon. The Eagles then came up with two long third-down conversions and positioned themselves for Sciortino’s winning kick.


For the first time since the 1999 Gator Bowl, Notre Dame took the field for its matchup with Boston College sporting green jerseys. However, by the time night had fallen on Notre Dame Stadium, the Eagles had left the fourth-ranked Irish feeling blue.

Notre Dame turned the ball over a season-high five times and Boston College capitalized on two of those miscues, doing just enough to pull off a 14-7 upset before a record crowd of 80,935.

In spite of the turnovers, the Irish offense had one of its most complete performances of the year, rolling up 357 yards, including a season-best 235 yards passing. Quarterback Carlyle Holiday once again was efficient in the pocket, completing 16 of 32 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown.

Tailback Ryan Grant also continued to show his value in the backfield, rushing 27 times for 107 yards, carding his fourth 100-yard game of the season. Notre Dame also rang up a season-best 22 first downs and held the ball for nearly 34 minutes.

However, the Irish were crippled by seven fumbles, losing three of them, and five missed opportunities in the red zone. Coming into the contest, Notre Dame had converted on 14 of its previous 15 trips inside its opponent’s 20-yard line, but the Irish would find the going tough in early November.

Notre Dame appeared to be in fine form in its opening possession of the game, marching 54 yards in 13 plays to the BC 20-yard line. But, on fourth-and-one, the Irish elected to try for the first down and Grant was stuffed while trying to go over right guard.

Notre Dame’s defense forced the Eagles to go three-and-out on their next possession, but the Irish handed the ball right back to BC just one play later. Holiday and Grant botched the exchange on a handoff and Eagles linebacker Josh Ott was there to scoop up the loose ball at the Notre Dame 38-yard line.

Boston College quickly took advantage of the turnover, needing six plays to find the end zone. Quarterback Brian St. Pierre threw a 17-yard pass to Keith Hemmings on third-and-14, and tailback Derrick Knight followed with a 22-yard run around the right side to put the ball on the Irish three-yard line. Knight then darted up the middle for the touchdown.

Undaunted, Notre Dame marched back downfield, moving to the BC 11-yard line. However, the drive stalled, thanks to a nearly-disastrous fumble that Holiday alertly recovered and an incomplete pass to Omar Jenkins in the corner of the end zone. Still, Notre Dame sent out reliable placekicker Nicholas Setta to try and halve the Irish deficit. That attempt never took place, as holder David Miller dropped the snap and was tackled for a 12-yard loss.

BC added to its lead late in the second quarter after the Irish had driven to the Eagles’ 14-yard line. Backup quarterback Pat Dillingham tried to escape pressure and threw a shovel pass that was intercepted by Ott, who ran 71 yards for the touchdown. The Eagles tacked on the two-point conversion and led 14-0 at the half.

Notre Dame had three more golden chances in the third quarter, moving inside the BC 20-yard line. However, the Irish fumbled back to the Eagles twice and lost the ball on downs once, truncating each scoring attempt.

The Irish finally reached the end zone with just over two minutes left, when Holiday found wideout Maurice Stovall on a 20-yard scoring pass. The Notre Dame defense then managed to get the ball back for the offense with under 30 seconds left, but Holiday’s desperation pass fell incomplete as time expired, winding up the first Irish loss of the year.


One of the key factors in Notre Dame’s 5-2 start this season has been its play on both sides of the ball in the red zone (inside the 20-yard line). On offense, the Irish have made 23 trips to the red zone this year, coming away with 14 touchdowns (a .609 TD percentage). Conversely, opponents have visited the red zone 19 times against Notre Dame, but have just seven touchdowns (a .368 TD percentage).


One of the key (and sometimes overlooked) aspects of Notre Dame’s success this season has been its ability to maintain excellent field position. After starting 11 of 15 drives against BYU at or inside their own 20-yard line, the Irish have started 58 of their last 81 drives in “plus territory” — outside their own 20-yard line — with 18 drives that began in their opponent’s half of the field.


The Irish have caused 17 turnovers (11 FUM, 6 INT) this season and have made the most of their opportunities. Notre Dame has parlayed those takeaways into 55 points, which accounts for 31 percent of the Irish scoring (180 points) thus far in 2004.


Notre Dame came up with a Willingham-era record six turnovers (3 FUM, 3 INT) on Sept. 18 at Michigan State and followed up with five more turnovers one week later against Washington, marking the fourth consecutive week the Irish had at least two takeaways. That should come as no surprise to many — since the 2001season, Notre Dame has forced two or more turnovers in 30 of its 42 games, including 24 contests where they came up with at least three takeaways. Heading into this weekend’s game with Boston College, the Irish are 22nd in the country in turnover margin (+0.86 per game, +6 overall).


The Notre Dame run defense has been exceptionally sturdy since head coach Tyrone Willingham and defensive coordinator Kent Baer arrived on the scene in 2002. Over the last three seasons, the Irish have held 18 of 32 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, including four games this year (BYU – 22; Michigan – 56; Purdue – 99; Stanford – 67). In fact, Notre Dame opponents are averaging 3.0 yards per carry through the first seven games this season.

In 2002, Notre Dame was ranked 10th in the nation in rushing defense, followed by a No. 29 national ranking last year. Through their first seven games this season, the Irish are 21st in the country in rushing defense, allowing an average of 105.29 yards on the ground (both numbers were increased vs. Navy’s run-oriented attack last week).


Sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn continues to develop into Notre Dame’s leader on offense and is on pace to a record-setting season in his second yard with the Irish. Against Navy he compiled a solid performance by completing 11 of 20 attempts for 130 yards without an interception or a touchdown. Two weeks earlier, he turned in a career performance in a loss to Purdue when he completed 26 of 46 passes for 432 yards and one touchdown, rolling up the highest individual passing yardage total in Notre Dame Stadium history, the second-highest in school history (behind Joe Theismann’s 526 yards at USC in 1970) and the sixth-best total by any quarterback in the country this year. In addition, Quinn’s .565 completion percentage was the second-best of his career (minimum 15 attempts), topped only by his .590 mark (23 of 39) last year at Boston College.

Quinn was particularly sharp in outings against Washington and Purdue, completing 43 of 78 passes (.551) for 698 yards and five touchdowns with only one interception — good for a 148.89 pass efficiency rating. In fact, his three-game stretch against Michigan State, Washington and Purdue is the second-best in Notre Dame history for most passing yards in three consecutive games, as noted below:

    Player  Season  Three-Game Passing Yardage    Joe Theismann   1970    947 (272 - Georgia Tech; 149 - LSU; 526 - USC)    Brady Quinn 2004    912 (215 - Michigan St.; 265 - Washington; 432 - Purdue)    Steve Beuerlein 1986    828 (248 - Navy; 269 - SMU; 311 - Penn State)    Jarious Jackson 1999    814 (302 - Michigan; 267 - Purdue; 245 - Michigan State)    John Huarte 1964    783 (209 - UCLA, 300 - Stanford; 274 - Navy)    Terry Hanratty   1968    738 (202 - Oklahoma; 294 - Purdue; 242 - Iowa)    Ron Powlus  1995    716 (200 - Vanderbilt; 273 - Texas; 243 - Ohio State)    Joe Montana 1977    705 (260 - Navy; 273 - Georgia Tech; 172 - Clemson)

For the season, Quinn ranks 31st in the nation in total offense (233.6 yards per game) and 52nd in passing efficiency (127.26), while his 1,659 passing yards through seven games put him on pace to challenge Jarious Jackson’s school record of 2,753 yards in 1999. In fact, there have been only six 2,000-yard passing seasons in school history, listed as follows:

Player Season Passing Yardage

Jarious Jackson 1999 2,753

Joe Theismann 1970 2,429

Steve Beuerlein 1986 2,211

Rick Mirer 1991 2,117

Ron Powlus 1997 2,078

Joe Montana 1978 2,010

Brady Quinn 2004 2,607 (projected)


Senior wide receiver Matt Shelton produced another solid outing against Purdue with three catches for 61 yards. For the season, Shelton ranks fourth on the team with 13 catches for 344 yards (26.5 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. Shelton enjoyed a career day (of sorts) against Washington when he nabbed a career-best four catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns, including scoring catches of 27 and 24 yards. One week earlier at Michigan State, Shelton snared three passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, including gains of 53, 35 and 35 yards. A big-play specialist at Notre Dame, Shelton has averaged 39.4 yards on his five career touchdown grabs (27 and 24 vs. Washington, 35 at MSU, 46 vs. Michigan, 65 at Stanford in ’03).


After sitting out Notre Dame’s opener at BYU, freshman running back Darius Walker has provided a consistent threat in the Irish running game by averaging 77.0 yards rushing per game the past six contests (462 yards on 128 carries). Walker made a big splash in his home debut vs. Michigan, rushing 31 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-20 Irish win. He followed up with another solid effort at Michigan State, rushing for 98 yards on 26 carries, before running for 81 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries versus Washington. His Michigan performance was good enough for The Sporting News and Sporting News Radio to name the Lawrenceville, Ga., native as its National Player of the Week, and for to tab him as the National Freshman of the Week for Sept. 11.

Walker’s numbers in his debut game vs. Michigan also put him among some select company in Notre Dame history:

• First Irish freshman to rush for 100 yards in a game since Julius Jones had 146 yards against Navy on Oct. 30, 1999.

• First Notre Dame freshman to score two touchdowns in a game since Matt LoVecchio ran for two scores at USC on Nov. 25, 2000.

• First Irish rookie to score in a home opener since Sept. 29, 1979, when Tony Hunter caught a 14-yard touchdown pass in a 27-3 win over Michigan State. Walker also is the first freshman to score two touchdowns in a home opener since at least 1970.

• First Notre Dame freshman running back to score twice in a game since Nov. 18, 1995, when Autry Denson rushed for two touchdowns in a 44-14 win at Air Force. (Note: Julius Jones did score twice vs. Boston College on Nov. 20, 1999, but one of his touchdowns came as a punt returner).


Sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn has spread his pass completions around through Notre Dame’s first seven games of the 2004 season. Quinn has completed passes to 17 different receivers in those seven contests, a breakdown of seven wide receivers, five running backs, four tight ends and two passes to himself (caught off of deflections vs. Washington and Purdue). Junior wide receiver Rhema McKnight has been Quinn’s favorite target thus far, grabbing 26 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Junior tight end Anthony Fasano is next with 16 catches for 274 yards and two scores. Senior wide receiver Matt Shelton has 13 catches for 344 yards and four touchdowns while sophomore wide receiver Jeff Samardzija (12 for 185) and junior wide receiver Maurice Stovall (14 for 195) both have 10 catches to their credit this season. Quinn has tossed touchdown passes to four different players this season: McKnight, Shelton (four times), Fasano (twice) and senior fullback Rashon Powers-Neal.


Senior linebacker Mike Goolsby has made a resounding return to the Notre Dame lineup this season after missing the entire 2003 slate with an injury. Through seven games this season, Goolsby has been credited with a team-high 63 tackles (9.0 per game) while leading the team in four of seven games thus far. In fact, the Joliet, Ill., native rolled up career-best tackle totals his first two games of the year, tallying 11 stops at BYU and 14 tackles against Michigan. Goolsby also had 12 tackles last week vs. Navy.


Senior linebacker Brandon Hoyte has been a catalyst for Notre Dame’s physical play on defense thus far this season, making several big hits and tackles for losses. Hoyte enters the Boston College game with 45 tackles to rank second on the team, but his knack for making big hits has been a hallmark of his play thus far in 2004. Hoyte has forced three fumbles this season, collected one sack and has four tackles for loss (17 yards). Hoyte posted a career-best 16 stops vs. Navy last week, the most by an Irish player since Courtney Watson had 18 tackles at Nebraska in 2001.


With 22 career sacks, senior defensive end and All-America candidate Justin Tuck is on the verge of becoming Notre Dame’s all-time leader in that category. The Kellyton, Ala., native set a school record with 13.5 sacks last year and has added 3.5 sacks so far this season. With one sack vs. Michigan, he passed Mike Gann (1982-84) for second place on the Irish career list behind Kory Minor’s 22.5 sacks from 1995-98. Here’s a look at the Irish career sack leaders since 1982 (when Notre Dame began recognizing sacks as a separate statistic — prior to that, they were labeled “tackles for loss”):

Player Seasons Sacks

Kory Minor 1995-98 22.5

Justin Tuck 2002-04 22

Mike Gann 1982-84 21

Bryant Young 1990-93 18

Anthony Weaver 1998-01 17

Bert Berry 1993-96 16.5


Senior punter D.J. Fitzpatrick has shown considerable improvement this season. Fitzpatrick currently ranks 26th in the nation with a 42.5-yard punting average, a jump of almost six yards per kick from last year’s average (36.84), and he also has 10 punts of at least 50 yards, including a career-long 59-yarder vs. Purdue. In addition, the Granger, Ind., product has dropped 17 punts inside the opposition’s 20-yard line and is helping Notre Dame to hold its opponents to only 6.9 yards per punt return. Earlier this season, he had career-best outings in consecutive games, averaging 46.0 yards on seven attempts against Washington (including four punts of at least 50 yards and four punts downed inside the UW 20) and an impressive 49.3 yards on three punts against Purdue.


Including four close games this season, Notre Dame is 12-4 (.750) in “one-possession games” (decided by eight points or less) since Tyrone Willingham took over as the Irish head coach in 2002. The only times the Irish have not won a close ball game under Willingham’s guidance were against Boston College in 2002 (14-7) and 2003 (27-25), Michigan State in 2003 (22-16) and BYU in 2004 (20-17). The one-possession games in 2004 have been as follows: BYU (17-20 loss), Michigan (28-20 win), Michigan State (31-24 win) and Stanford (23-15 win).


The return game has been a source of strength for Notre Dame in recent years. The Irish have logged 28 returns (punts, kickoffs, fumbles, interceptions) for touchdowns during the past six seasons (1999-2004), a figure that is tied for seventh in the country during that stretch. Here’s a look at the national leaders in touchdown returns since ’99 (research courtesy of the University of Colorado):

    Team    1999    2000    2001    2002    2003    2004    Bowls   Total    Miami (Fla.)    3   13  11  5   9   5   1   47    Virginia Tech   8   6   7   7   10  4   0   42    Kansas State    9   5   2   12  5   3   0   36    Colorado    5   4   7   7   1   3   4   31    Nebraska    6   7   5   6   4   0   3   30    N.C. State  3   2   4   9   10  1   1   30    NOTRE DAME  4   6   4   9   3   2   0   28    East Carolina   7   5   4   5   3   0   4   28    Fresno State    5   5   3   5   4   4   2   28    Texas Tech  3   7   8   5   3   1   1   28


The Notre Dame football program reached a historic milestone with its Oct. 9 victory vs. Stanford, becoming just the second current NCAA Division I-A program to amass 800 all-time wins. The Irish currently rank second in NCAA history with 801 wins, trailing only Michigan’s 839 victories, although the Wolverines have played nine more seasons than Notre Dame.


• During the past 18-plus seasons (’86-’04), Notre Dame has produced 82 TDs via kickoff, punt, interception and fumble returns — with the most recent TD runback coming earlier this season on sophomore safety Tom Zbikowski’s 75-yard fumble return at Michigan State.

• In contrast, opponents in the past 18 seasons have combined for 25 total TD returns vs. the Irish.

• Here’s a year-by-year breakdown of the Irish return touchdowns since 1986:

Year    PU  KO  INT FUM Year    PU  KO  INT FUM1986    0   2   0   0   1997    0   2   1   01987    3   0   1   0   1998    0   0   2   31988    2   2   3   0   1999    1   0   2   11989    2   2   3   0   2000    2   1   1   21990    0   2   0   0   2001    0   1   2   11991    1   1   2   0   2002    2   1   4   21992    0   1   0   0   2003    1   0   0   21993    2   1   2   1   2004    0   0   1   11994    0   0   1   1   ND (82) 21  17  27  171995    1   0   2   1   Opp. (25)   7   4   9   51996    4   1   0   2

IRISH HEAD COACH Tyrone Willingham

IRISH HEAD COACH Tyrone Willingham A veteran with 27 years of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham is in the midst of his third season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame in 2004. Willingham has a record of 20-12 (.625) in two-plus seasons with the Irish, leading Notre Dame to a 10-3 record and a trip to the Gator Bowl in 2002 before a 5-7 campaign in 2003 and a 4-2 start in 2004.

In 2002, Willingham became the first Irish head coach ever to win 10 games in his first season, was named the ESPN/Home Depot College Coach of the Year, the Scripps College Coach of the Year, the Black Coaches Association Male Coach of the Year and received the George Munger Award College Coach of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia. In addition, he made history in 2002 as the first college football coach ever to earn The Sporting News Sportsman of the Year award. In nine-plus years as a college head coach, Willingham has compiled a solid 64-48-1 (.571) record and has guided his teams to bowl games on five occasions.

Willingham was introduced as the new Irish mentor on Jan. 1, 2002, following seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford. He compiled a 44-36-1 (.549) record during his tenure at Stanford, guiding the Cardinal to four bowl games, including the Rose Bowl following the 1999 season. Willingham was a two-time Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year (1995 and 1999), the only Stanford coach to earn that award more than once, and he was a finalist for national coach-of-the-year honors in ’95 and ’99. All told, Willingham spent 10 years at Stanford, initially serving as running backs coach from 1989-91.

Between his stints with the Cardinal, Willingham coached in the professional ranks for three seasons (1992-94) with the Minnesota Vikings, helping his team win a pair of NFC Central Division championships and reach the playoffs all three years. Willingham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Michigan State, in 1977, before moving to Central Michigan as the defensive secondary coach for two years (1978-79). He returned to MSU from 1980-82, working with the secondary and special teams units, and also served on the coaching staffs at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).


Senior linebacker Derek Curry has been named to the 2004 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team, the AFCA announced Sept. 15. Curry was one of only 11 football student-athletes chosen for the NCAA Division I-A Team. Another 11 student-athletes were named to the team representing schools from NCAA Divisions I-AA, II, III and NAIA.

Nominations for the Good Works Team are submitted to the AFCA by college sports information departments. Nominees must be actively involved and committed to working with a charitable organization, service group or involved in other community service activities and must display sincere concern and reliability, while also having made a favorable impression on the organizations with which they are involved. Athletic ability is not a criterion.

Curry is currently in his third season as a starting linebacker for the Irish. A three-time monogram winner at Notre Dame, Curry has distinguished himself as one of the team’s undisputed leaders. In addition to his prowess on the football field, Curry has been a three-year volunteer for the Student-Athlete Advisory Council Pediatric Oncology Christmas Party; has volunteered at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of downtown South Bend and the Robinson Community Learning Center; is in his third year of “Iron Sharpens Iron”, an interdenominational Christian group at Notre Dame that brings students together in worship, prayer and bible studies; has volunteered for two years at “There Are Children Here”; and is a huddle leader for the Notre Dame chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Curry is the third Notre Dame football player named to the squad over the past six seasons. Grant Irons received the award as a junior in 1999 and went on to be a rare five-year monogram winner and two-time captain with the Irish while playing at linebacker and defensive end. He served as president of Notre Dame’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council and was involved in numerous community service programs at Notre Dame and in the surrounding South Bend community.

All-America linebacker Courtney Watson received the honor in 2003. Watson was responsible for creating and developing the football team’s community service initiative entitled “Tackle The Arts”, an interactive approach that helps inspire children to explore different areas of the arts including reading, creative writing and poetry, drawing and music. Watson also installed a food drive dimension to the event and combined with current Irish players Brandon Hoyte and Dan Stevenson as hosts of a picnic for at-risk children in the South Bend area. He regularly made surprise visits to the pediatric floor at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, addressed the Jackson Middle School football team at its banquet and participated in the St. Joseph County City Bureau Youth Fest. On a campus level, Watson was nominated and then elected a member of the Notre Dame Student Senate in 2002-03 and served as a member of the Residence Life and Academic Council committees.


The Notre Dame ticket office received 52,179 ticket requests for the Oct. 2 game vs. Purdue, making it the fifth-highest requested Irish home game in history. The Notre Dame Stadium record of 59,368 ticket requests was set in ’01 when the Irish took on West Virginia. Demand for that game was based on parents of current Notre Dame students being guaranteed four tickets for that contest — plus contributing alumni having the opportunity to apply for four tickets instead of the usual two, based on its designation as an alumni family game. Heading into this week’s game vs. Boston College, the Irish have posted 177 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and 225 in their last 226 home games.

Here are the top 10 games in terms of alumni ticket demand at Notre Dame Stadium:

1. West Virginia 2001 59,368

2. USC 1997 57,048

3. Boston College 2002 55,482

4. USC 2003 54,244

5. Purdue 2004 52,179

6. Florida State 2003 51,051

7. Michigan 2002 50,883

8. Michigan State 2001 48,404

9. Nebraska 2000 47,865

10. Michigan State 1997 47,681


The four games remaining on Notre Dame’s 2004 football schedule comprise the most difficult slate in the country, according to NCAA figures released Sunday. Notre Dame’s four opponents yet to be played have compiled a 17-5 record (.772) against other Division I-A opponents. The Irish hold a lead in that category over Baylor (second at 21-8, 724) and Georgia Tech (third at 19-8, 703).

Here’s the top 10 listing for teams based on remaining games (team records in parentheses):

        Team    Opp. Record Pct.    This Week    1.  Notre Dame (5-2)    17-5    .772    Boston College (4-2)    2.  Baylor (2-4)    21-8    .724    Iowa State (2-4)    3.  Georgia Tech (4-2)  19-8    .703    Idle    4.  UCLA (4-2)  21-9    .700    at Arizona State (5-1)            Texas (5-1)     21-9    .700    at Texas Tech (4-2)    6.  Alabama (5-2)   16-7    .695    at Tennessee (5-1)    7.  Oklahoma State (5-1)    20-9    .689    at Missouri (4-2)            Texas A&M (5-1) 20-9    .689    Colorado (4-2)            Kansas (3-3)    20-9    .689    at Oklahoma (6-0)    10.     Rutgers (4-2)   17-8    .680    at Pittsburgh (4-2)


Notre Dame’s 11 opponents for 2004 have combined to form the nation’s toughest schedule overall based on a combined 42-17 mark (.711) by Irish opponents in games played to date, according to NCAA figures released this week. North Carolina stands second on that list with a 33-15 mark (.687).

Here’s the top 10 listing for teams based on their cumulative schedules (team records in parentheses):

        Team    Opp. Record Pct.    This Week    1.  Notre Dame (5-2)    42-17   .711    Boston College (4-2)    2.  North Carolina (3-4)    33-15   .687    Idle    3.  Baylor (2-4)    36-17   .679    Iowa State (2-4)    4.  Texas (5-1) 39-20   .661    at Texas Tech (4-2)    5.  Texas A&M (5-1) 37-19   .660    Colorado (4-2)    6.  Arizona (1-5)   36-19   .654    California (4-1)    7.  Georgia (5-1)   34-21   .618    at Arkansas (3-3)    8.  Arizona State (5-1) 35-22   .614    UCLA (4-2)    9.  Ohio State (3-3)    38-24   .612    Indiana (2-4)    10. Temple (1-6)    30-19   .612    at Connecticut (4-2)


The following is a look at Notre Dame opponents’ upcoming games. Since 1977, when the NCAA started rating strength of schedule, Notre Dame’s schedule has been rated the most difficult five times (1978, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995) and has appeared in the top 30 a total of 22 times in the last 27 years. The 2004 Irish ledger currently is the toughest in the nation, based on cumulative opposition.

Opponent (Ranking*) '04 Record  '03 Record  Oct. 23 Oct. 30BYU 3-4 4-8 at Air Force    IdleMichigan (12/11)    6-1 10-3    at Purdue   Michigan StateMichigan State  4-3 8-5 Idle    at MichiganWashington  1-5 6-6 at USC  at OregonPurdue (11/12)  5-1 9-4 Michigan    at NorthwesternStanford    4-2 4-7 Oregon  at UCLANavy    5-1 8-5 Rice    DelawareBoston College  4-2 8-5 at Notre Dame   IdleTennessee (10/13)   5-1 10-3    Alabama at South CarolinaPittsburgh  4-2 8-5 Rutgers IdleUSC (1/1)   6-0 12-1    Washington  at Washington State

* – current Associated Press poll ranking listed first, followed by ESPN/USA Today poll ranking

Notre Dame Opponents’ Combined Record in 2003: 89-49 (.645); Record in 2004: 47-22 (.681)


Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 167 of its previous 192 games, including 31 of its last 33 games dating back to the end of the 2001 season (the ’03 game at Stanford and last week’s game vs. Navy at the Meadowlands were not sellouts). At Michigan in 2003, the Irish and Wolverines helped bring in the largest crowd in NCAA history (111,726), marking the third time in the history of that series that an NCAA attendance record has been set. It also represented the sixth time in the last three seasons that Notre Dame has been a part of establishing a new stadium attendance record (at Nebraska and Texas A&M in 2001; at Air Force and Florida State, home vs. Boston College in 2002).


With the Boston College game slated to be televised nationally by NBC, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 144 straight games, a stretch that spans nearly 11 full seasons (1993-2004). The last time the Irish didn’t appear on one of those four networks was almost 12 years ago (Oct. 31, 1992), when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was shown locally in South Bend on WNDU-TV. Here’s a breakdown of the networks on which the Irish have played during this impressive streak:

YEAR    GAMES   NBC ABC CBS ESPN1992    4   3   1   --  --1993    12  7   4   --  11994    12  7   5   --  --1995    12  6   4   1   11996    11  6   2   2   11997    13  6   3   2   21998    12  7   3   2   --1999    12  7   3   1   12000    12  6   3   3   --2001    11  6   4   --  12002    13  7   4   1   12003    12  6   5   --  12004    8   5   --  1   2Totals  144 79  41  13  11


Notre Dame is 171-86-3 (.663) all-time when it is playing in front of a national television audience. The 2003 game at Michigan was another milestone for the Irish program — it was the 300th time a Notre Dame football game appeared on national or regional television.

During their 115-year history, the Irish have posted a combined 199-113-4 (.636) record in these national or regional TV games, beginning with a 27-21 victory over No. 4 Oklahoma on Nov. 8, 1952 in a game that was shown nationwide on ABC. Here’s a breakdown of Notre Dame’s success over the years when appearing on each of the various networks on both a national and regional basis (the current Irish win/loss streak on the four major networks is listed in parentheses):


NBC (won 1) 66-25-1 (.723)

ABC (lost 3) 44-35-2 (.556)

CBS (won 7) 23-11-0 (.676)

ESPN/ESPN2 (won 1) 20-11-0 (.645)

WGN 10-2-0 (.833)

SportsChannel 4-1-0 (.800)

Raycom 2-0-0 (1.000)

TBS 1-0-0 (1.000)

Katz 1-0-0 (1.000)

Totals 171-85-3 (.667)


ABC (lost 2) 24-25-1 (.490)

CBS (won 1) 4-2-0 (.667)

Big Ten Syndication 1-0-0 (1.000)

TBS 0-1-0 (.000)

Totals 29-28-1 (.509)


In addition to continuing its streak of consecutive games played on one of the four major television networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN), Notre Dame will be spotlighted on the small screen in several other ways during the 2004 season. Here’s a thumbnail look at each of the individual TV projects which are featuring the Irish this year:

• ESPN’s “College GameDay” is in its 11th season of live remotes from college football’s top games.

• College Sports Television (CSTV), the 24-hour cable channel devoted exclusively to college sports, once again highlights Irish athletics during a two-hour block on Sunday nights called “Notre Dame Primetime.” The show, which is co-hosted by former Irish split end Derrick Mayes, focuses on all 26 Notre Dame sports and the continuing growth of Irish athletics.

• Besides these features, Notre Dame is now in the 14th season of its unique relationship with NBC. All Irish home football games since 1991 have been televised on the network, with the current agreement slated to continue through 2010. Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis) are in their fourth full season broadcasting the action for NBC in ’04.


NBC’s coverage of Notre Dame’s 28-20 win over No.8 Michigan on Sept. 11 delivered a 4.0 national rating/10 share, making it the highest-rated season opener since a 5.1/14 on Sept. 5, 1998 for a 36-20 Irish win over fifth-ranked Michigan, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The 4.0/10 represents a 29 percent hike over last year’s opener — a 29-26 overtime win over Washington State that produced a 3.1/8. It’s the best rating for any Notre Dame telecast on NBC since a 4.4/11 vs. Boston College on Nov. 2, 2002.


In addition to its unparalleled television coverage, Notre Dame also has increased its radio footprint, announcing an agreement on Aug. 31 with SIRIUS Satellite Radio to become the official satellite radio partner for Notre Dame athletics. SIRIUS will broadcast every Irish football game this season, and also will air selected men’s and women’s basketball games, as well as other sporting events. In addition, SIRIUS will aid in the development of marketing initiatives with the University’s athletic department as a member of “Team Notre Dame.”

Notre Dame’s agreement with SIRIUS is one of the cornerstones in the formation of SIRIUS College Sports Radio, a partnership between SIRIUS and College Sports Television (CSTV) that includes 23 major universities around the country. SIRIUS radios for the car and home start at $149 and are available at major retailers nationwide. For more information, visit


According to an ESPN Sports Poll of nearly 7,000 college sports fans ages 12 and older taken from Jannuary to December 2003, Notre Dame is the nation’s favorite college football team, garnering 6.1 percent of the popular vote. Furthermore, the Irish were the only team to finish in the top 10 in all four regions of the country where the ESPN Sports Poll was conducted. Ohio State was the only other school to earn at least four percent of the vote, finishing at 5.3 percent.


Notre Dame athletics director Kevin White is the new president of the Division I-A Athletic Directors Association for 2004-05. His appointment became effective Sept. 27 at the Association’s annual meeting in Dallas.

White, who is now in his fifth year at Notre Dame, served as first vice president in 2003-04 under Gene DeFilippo, director of athletics at Boston College. In addition to his new leadership role with the Division I-A Athletic Directors Association, White also is the third vice president of NACDA, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, for 2004-05.


The first two seasons of the Tyrone Willingham era have produced some impressive semesters in the classroom for the Notre Dame football team. In fact, the Irish are coming off a 2004 spring semester in which the team’s 104 players combined for a 2.96 grade-point average that ranks as the program’s best semester GPA on record (dating back to 1992). The Notre Dame football program’s top six semester GPAs since ’92 all have been posted during the past seven semesters (prior to the fall of ’04), including the first three semesters of Willingham’s tenure (2.84 in the fall of ’02, 2.79 in the spring of ’03 and 2.82 in the fall of ’03). The football program’s second-best semester GPA of the past 12 years came in the spring of 2002 (2.90), followed by a 2.80 in the spring of 2001 and a 2.69 in the fall of ’01.

Upon closer examination, the 2004 spring semester saw 11 Irish football players post a Dean’s List GPA (sliding scale, based on major) while 21 turned in a semester GPA of 3.4-plus and more than half (53) had a GPA of 3.0 or better. In addition, two players — current fifth-year DE Kyle Budinscak and senior LB Brandon Hoyte — received Academic All-District V honors in 2003, marking Budinscak’s third selection and Hoyte’s second to the prestigious squad.


The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) annually honors the school with the highest graduation rate based on a particular entering freshman football class — and Notre Dame has won the award six times, most recently in 2001 with its 100-percent graduation rate (22 of 22 entering freshmen from 1996 earned their degrees within five years). The 2001 award followed Notre Dame’s previous honors in 1982, ’83, ’84, ’88 and ’91. Notre Dame also holds the distinction of producing the first 100-percent rate in a single years after 24 of 24 student-athletes earned their degrees within a five-year period out of the entering class of 1982 (and 16 of those 24 did so within four years). Only eight other times has a school registered a 100-percent graduation rate.

The 1988 award had special meaning, as it was the first time a school won the national championship on the football field — as Notre Dame did, finishing 12-0 after a Fiesta Bowl win over unbeaten West Virginia — and in the classroom. Including the special mention category, the Irish have received some sort of recognition in 23 of 24 years the award has been presented — with Duke next at 21.


The high graduation rate of the Notre Dame football program extends to the elite group of former players who have moved on to play in the National Football League. Notre Dame has seen 88 of its former players appear on NFL opening-day rosters during the past eight seasons (1996-2003) and 93.1 percent of those players (82) have earned their degrees from the University. In fact, Notre Dame’s own institutional research shows that 99 percent of scholarship football players who have entered the University since 1962 have received their degrees (896 of 905, based only on individuals who remained at the school at least four years). Those figures do not include players who transferred or withdrew before completing four or more years at Notre Dame.

The 93.1 percent graduation rate for NFL participants ranks even higher than Notre Dame’s most recent NCAA graduation rates for all student-athletes (87 percent), male student-athletes (85), female student-athletes (92), football student-athletes (81) and African-American student-athletes (78). Those numbers, released last fall, comprised all student-athletes entering Notre Dame from 1993-96.


Tickets are now on sale for the 2004 Notre Dame Kickoff Luncheons held the Friday prior to each Irish home football game. The luncheons feature Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham, Irish players and assistant coaches, plus special guests and other attractions.

Tickets are $18 each, with a handling fee of $3 (payment may be made with one check for more than one luncheon). There are 10 seats per table — and if you wish to sit as a group at the same table with other guests, please return all reservations in one envelope. Checks should be made payable to “University of Notre Dame” and mailed to: Athletics Business Office, 112 Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Telephone and credit card reservations are not accepted. A printed reservation form also is available on Notre Dame’s athletics web site at

The luncheons are held in the Joyce Center fieldhouse (north dome) on the Notre Dame campus, with a noon (EST) start. Be aware that advance reservations are required for tickets, and tickets are not routinely available at the door. This year’s remaining luncheon dates are: Oct. 22 (Boston College) and Nov. 12 (Pittsburgh).


All 2004 pep rallies will be held in the Joyce Center Arena (south dome) on Fridays before Saturday home games, beginning at 6 p.m. (EST). The Irish squad enters the arena at 6:30 p.m.


For years, the Joyce Center Fieldhouse has been the “pregame meeting place” for several thousand Notre Dame alumni. In an effort to add to this tradition, the Notre Dame Athletics Department is providing an interactive fan experience for each of the 2004 home football games. For the third consecutive season, the “Notre Dame Experience” will combine the Notre Dame Alumni Association Hospitality Center with interactive inflatables, photo booths, autograph sessions, football trivia and stage activities. Gates open three hours prior to kickoff and admission is free for all “Notre Dame Experience” events.


The NCAA statistical rankings for Notre Dame and Boston College in 2004 (top 50 only):

Team Rankings       Notre Dame  Boston CollegeRushing Offense     127.7       48th at 162.3Passing Offense     34th at 241.0   37th at 236.3Total Offense       368.7       42nd at 398.7Scoring Offense     25.7        21.2Rushing Defense     21st at 105.3   14th at 99.5Pass Defense        232.3       24th at 176.0Pass Efficiency Defense 50th at 127.38  46th at 129.41Total Defense       47th at 337.6   12th at 275.5Scoring Defense     34th at 18.9    4th at 11.5Net Punting     32nd at 38.1    33.3Punt Returns        8.9     45th at 10.1Kickoff Returns     18.8        2nd at 33.4Turnover Margin     22nd at +0.9    (-0.17)                (+6 overall)    (-1 overall)
Individual Rankings Notre Dame Boston CollegePassing Efficiency Paul Peterson 43rd at 129.68Total Offense Brady Quinn Paul Peterson 31st at 233.6 24th at 250.0Punting D.J. Fitzpatrick 26th at 42.6Punt Returns Will Blackmon 37th at 10.6Kickoff Returns Will Blackmon 1st at 35.3


For the first time this season, Notre Dame will get a well-deserved breather as it enjoys the first of two bye weeks on the 2004 schedule. During the past two decades (1984-present), the Irish have taken full advantage of their week off, posting a 23-2 (.920) record in their first game after a regularly-scheduled bye week, including a current 14-game winning streak.

Notre Dame will return to the gridiron Nov. 6 when it ventures to Knoxville, Tenn., for a matchup with No. 10 Tennessee at Neyland Stadium. The Volunteers (5-1) will play host to Alabama this weekend and travel to South Carolina on Oct. 30 before playing the Irish.