After starting the season 0-3, Notre Dame finished the 2001 season on a positive note by defeating Sun Bowl-bound Purdue 24-18 and closing the year with a 5-6 record. The Irish, who once again played one of the nation’s toughest schedules as nine opponents advanced to bowl games at the end of the season (Notre Dame was the only school in the nation to face nine bowl-bound teams during the regular-season), opened the 2001 campaign in Lincoln, Neb., against the #4 Cornhuskers. Ironically, Nebraska was playing its third game of the season, marking the first time in NCAA history a team went on the road to play a season opener after its opponent already had played two games.

After the events of Sept. 11, the Irish joined the rest of the college football world in postponing its road game against Purdue until Dec. 1. The Irish then suffered a fourth-quarter defeat to Michigan State before making a change at quarterback as sophomore Carlyle Holiday took over at the helm of the Irish offense against Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. After falling to the Aggies 24-3, the Irish regrouped by winning their next three games against Pittsburgh (24-7), West Virginia (34-24) and USC (27-16). After heartbreaking losses versus Boston College (17-21) and #7 Tennessee (18-28), the Irish beat Navy convincingly (34-16) at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish then lost another heartbreaker in the final minutes to #13 Stanford, before closing the 2001 season with the win over Purdue.

Senior defensive end Anthony Weaver and senior inside linebacker Tyreo Harrison were named Notre Dame’s 2001 National Monogram Club MVP and Nick Pietrosante Award winners, respectively, by vote of their teammates. Weaver finished third overall in tackles in ’01 with 59, to go with a team-high seven sacks and 21 tackles for lost yardage. One of four team captains, he started all 11 games in ’01 and 41 regular-season games in his career. Weaver also won the Lineman of the Year Award from the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.

Harrison earned the Pietrosante Award as the individual who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride shown by the late Irish All-America fullback. Harrison led Notre Dame with 97 tackles in ’01, including a career-high 15 versus Stanford.

Junior center Jeff Faine won the 2001 Guardian of the Year Award from the Guardian Life Insurance Company and Westwood One as the top offensive lineman. He led all Irish players in minutes played in ’01, starting all 11 games. He helped pace an Irish offense that averaged 188.2 rushing yards per game to rank 30th in the nation.

In addition to his team MVP and Lineman of the Year Award, Anthony Weaver also earned second-team ABC Sports Online All-America honors. Weaver, who ranked as the third-best independent player in the country this season, also had an interception, three pass deflections and three forced fumbles, leading an Irish defense that ranked 14th in total defense and 22nd nationally in scoring defense. A Lombardi Award candidate at the beginning of ’01, Weaver also was named an honorable mention All-American by Football News and earned all-independent accolades from Football News and

Irish junior Jeff Faine and seniors Tyreo Harrison and Anthony Weaver were named Football News honorable mention All-Americans for the 2001 season. Faine, Harrison and Weaver, in addition to senior offensive guard Jordan Black, senior outside linebacker Rocky Boiman and junior placekicker Nicholas Setta also were named to the 2001 Football News all-independent team.

Notre Dame had seven players named to the 2001 all-independent team including seniors Anthony Weaver and Tyreo Harrison and junior Jeff Faine. Others named to the squad were senior offensive linemen Jordan Black and Kurt Vollers, senior outside linebacker Rocky Boiman and junior kick returner Julius Jones.

Notre Dame earned the 2001 American Football Coaches Association’s Academic Achievement Award, which is presented annually by the Touchdown Club of Memphis.

Notre Dame recorded a 100 percent graduation rate for members of its football squad when all 20 members of its freshman class of 1995 earned a degree. Vanderbilt also recorded a 100 percent rate to share the 2001 award with Notre Dame.

Notre Dame won the award for the sixth time (previously in 1982,1983, 1984-tie, 1988, 1991). Notre Dame’s six awards are second most behind the 10 won by Duke University.

Notre Dame also has earned honorable mention status 14 times.

The 2001 AFCA Academic Achievement Award will be presented to Notre Dame and Vanderbilt at the AFCA Kickoff Luncheon during the Association’s 2002 convention in San Antonio, Texas.

In addition to the 2001 AFCA Academic Achievement Award, the 2000 Notre Dame football squad had its most successful semesters in the classroom in the history of the program, based on final grades from the 2001 spring semester and the 2000 fall semester. In the spring, Notre Dame finished with a combined team grade-point average of 2.75, the highest combined GPA on record, besting the previous high of 2.67 set during the 2000 fall semester.

Senior center/long snapper John Crowther and sophomore defensive tackle Kyle Budinscak were named to the 2001 Verizon Academic All-District V Football Team. To be eligible, a player must be a starter or significant contributor, at least a sophomore academically, play in 75 percent of the team’s contests and have a 3.2 grade-point average or higher. It was the first such award for both Crowther and Budinscak.

Crowther played in all 11 games for the Irish in ’01 as the snapper on field goals, PATs and punts. Also a 2000 nominee, Crowther was a key component in the success of junior field goal kicker Nicholas Setta, a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, and junior punter Joey Hildbold, who finished the season ranked 35th in the nation in punting average. Graduating from the Mendoza College of Business in May with a degree in finance, Crowther has a 3.677 grade-point average and has been on the Dean’s List five of six semesters while at Notre Dame.

Budinscak saw action in 11 games for the Irish in 2001, starting against West Virginia and Purdue. He recorded 13 tackles, including a career-high five against Purdue. Enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business, Budinscak has a 3.273 grade-point average.

Senior center John Crowther received the Knute Rockne Student-Athlete Award from the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley. He owns a 3.677 grade-point average as a finance major in the Mendoza College of Business. The senior from Edina, Minn., served as the Irish special team snapper in 2001.

Senior holder Adam Tibble earned the Westwood One/State Farm Student-Athlete of the Year Award. Holding a 3.918 grade-point average as a pre-professional major in the College of Arts and Letters, Tibble joined the 11 weekly winners announced during Westwood One radio broadcasts of Irish games in 2001.

One of the strengths of the 2001 Notre Dame squad was its play on the defensive side of the ball as the Irish ranked in the top 40 in the country in all five defensive statistical categories, according to the final NCAA rankings. Notre Dame was 10th in pass defense (172.64 yards per game), 14th in total defense (304.91), 22nd in scoring defense (19.55 points per game), 38th in pass efficiency defense (113.66) and 39th in rush defense (132.27). The Irish posted their best numbers in all categories since the 1996 season, Davie’s final season as defensive coordinator, when Notre Dame finished the season 11th in total defense, 14th in scoring defense, 24th in rushing defense and 10th in passing efficiency defense.

Senior ILB Tyreo Harrison was a force in the middle for the Irish in ’01. Harrison led the team with 97 tackles in 2001, including a team-leading and career-high 15 vs. Stanford (including 10 solos). The Stanford game marked the fourth time in ’01 in which Harrison recorded double-digit tackles and was the eighth time he was the leading tackler in the game for the Irish. Harrison’s 97 tackles were the most for an Irish defensive player since Bobbie Howard had 118 in 1998.

Junior PK Nicholas Setta, named one of 20 semifinalists for the 2001 Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award earlier in the season, was one of Notre Dame’s top offensive weapons in ’01, thanks to his accuracy from various distances. Setta went 38-of-40 on placement kicks (23 PATs, 15 field goals), including a perfect eight of eight on field-goal attempts from 40 yards or more. In addition, Setta has made 55 consecutive extra points dating back to a win over Stanford in 2000, the third-longest PAT streak in school history. Setta joined a select group of Irish kickers who did not miss an extra point during the season (1.000 percentage) including: Craig Hentrich (48-of-48, 1991 and 41-of-41, 1990), Bob Thomas (34-of-34, 1972), Ted Gradel (33-of-33, 1987), Stefan Schroffner (30-of-30, 1994), John Carney (25-of-25, 1984) and Setta (23-of-23, 2001).

And, with his 47-yard boot against Purdue, Setta now has a field goal in Notre Dame’s last 13 regular-season games, breaking John Carney’s record for the longest streak in school history. Carney kicked a field goal in 11 straight games during the ’86 season. Setta’s only two misses in ’01 were a 32-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter at Boston College, a kick that came into a stiff 15-25 mph wind, and a 36-yard attempt against Purdue that was just outside of the upright. Setta also just missed Carney’s record for field-goal percentage in a season (.895), by finishing the year at .882.

Setta also finished ’01 ranked 17th in the final NCAA rankings with 1.36 field goals made per game.

Junior P Joey Hildbold, named a 2001 Ray Guy Award candidate earlier in ’01, truly came into his own during the season. Against Michigan State and Texas A&M, Hildbold averaged better than 50 yards per punt, including a career-high 50.5 yards on six punts at Texas A&M. In both cases, Hildbold narrowly missed the school record of 51.6 by Joe Restic against Air Force in 1975. Hildbold’s season average of 42.23 (64 punts, 2,703 yards) was good for 35th in the nation in the final NCAA rankings.

In addition, Hildbold’s three-year average of 40.82 yards per punt (7,266 yards on 178 punts) puts him in fourth place on the Notre Dame career list, just behind Vince Phelan, who averaged 40.90 yards per punt in 1987.

Senior TB Tony Fisher finished his career in 17th place in Irish history with 1,849 career rushing yards. Fisher was third on the ’01 team with 384 yards rushing on 78 carries, an average of 4.9 yards per attempt.

Sophomore QB Carlyle Holiday has made only nine starts in his Notre Dame career, but already he is taking on the look of a grizzled veteran. He is 5-4 as a starter, guiding the Irish to wins over Pittsburgh, West Virginia, USC, Navy and Purdue, while directing a Notre Dame attack which averaged more than 300 yards of total offense over the last nine games.

Holiday did much of his damage with his legs, reeling off four runs of 30 yards or more, including a 67-yard touchdown scamper against Pittsburgh, the longest scoring run by an Irish quarterback since Arnaz Battle raced 74 yards late in a 48-13 win over Kansas on Aug. 28, 1999.

Holiday also posted three 100-yard games in 2001, including back-to-back 100-yard outings against Pittsburgh (122 yards) and West Virginia (130 yards), becoming the first Irish quarterback since 1980 to top the century mark in consecutive games. He later added 109 yards in a loss to Boston College. By contrast, Notre Dame’s top two career rushing leaders among quarterbacks – Tony Rice and Jarious Jackson – each ran for over 100 yards only twice in their careers. Holiday nearly made it four straight 100-yard games against USC, finishing with 98 yards on 18 carries against the Trojans.

For the season, Holiday finished second on the team with 666 yards rushing on 156 carries, good for third on the school’s single-season QB rushing chart. He also ranked among the top 10 rushing quarterbacks in the country this season.

Holiday also posted the third-best running season ever by a Notre Dame quarterback.

With three full seasons under his belt, Julius Jones is on pace to surpass Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown as the Notre Dame leader in career kickoff return yards. Jones has 1,435 yards on 59 runbacks, putting him within 178 yards of Brown for the top spot.

Not only did the Irish have success with their kicking game in ’01, but they also did well returning kicks. Notre Dame ranked 13th in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging a solid 24.28 yards per return, and 49th in the land in punt returns with a healthy 10.07 yards per runback. Junior KR Julius Jones was the primary return specialist for the Irish, ranking in the top 40 in the country in punt returns. Sophomore Vontez Duff also stepped in on kick returns during the second half of the season, averaging 29.8 yards per runback, with seven of his 12 returns for at least 30 yards, including a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown versus Purdue.

Junior TB Julius Jones was one of Notre Dame’s top all-around threats in ’01, whether it be in the backfield or returning punt and kickoffs. Despite suffering from an Achilles’ injury the second half of the season, the native of Big Stone Gap, Va., led the Irish in all-purpose yardage at 124.73 yards per game, good for 32nd in the nation according to the final NCAA statistical reports. He was a major threat as a kick returner, ranking 39th in the country in punt returns (10.67 yards per game) and 55th in kickoff returns (22.50), highlighted by his 53-yard punt return against Michigan State and 58-yard kickoff return against West Virginia, both of which led to Notre Dame scores. Jones also was solid in the Irish backfield, ranking first on the team with 718 rushing yards on a team-high 168 carries. He was especially strong in Notre Dame’s last seven games, before being limited to punt returns against Purdue in the final game of the year, recording his first 100-yard game of the 2001 season vs. Navy (117 yards) and following that effort with 106 yards in the first half against Stanford before having to leave the game with a sprained ankle. During those seven games, Jones averaged 78.85 yards rushing and scored seven touchdowns (six rushing, one receiving), leading the Irish to four wins. For the season, Jones finished second on the team with 42 points scored.

Senior SE Javin Hunter turned out to be a dependable outlet for Notre Dame in 2001, averaging more than three catches per game. All together, he had 37 catches, nine more than he had in his first three years with the Irish combined. Also, he came up with at least three receptions in Notre Dame’s first seven games in ’01, becoming the first Irish wideout in four years to have three-or-more catches in the first seven games of a campaign. Malcolm Johnson also turned the trick during the ’97 season.

Although hampered with injuries throughout 2001, senior FL David Givens had an outstanding year for the Irish, almost matching his career total by pulling in 33 catches for 317 yards, an average of 9.6 yards a catch. Coming into the season, Givens only had 39 catches in his entire career. Givens also was a multipurpose threat for the Irish, carrying the ball 10 times, completing a 29-yard pass and returning kicks at a 23.8-yards-per-return clip.

With all 11 of Notre Dame’s 2001 games shown on television, the Irish have been on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) in 111 straight games. That’s a streak that includes nine full seasons (1993-2001). The last time the Irish didn’t appear on one of those four networks was Oct. 31, 1992, when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was only shown locally in the South Bend area on WNDU-TV.

Line – The Irish returned three talented and experienced players on the offensive line in seniors Jordan Black and Kurt Vollers and junior center Jeff Faine. All three earned postseason honors as all-independent team selections, and Faine was an honorable mention All-America pick by Football News. Black opened the 2001 season as the starter at the left tackle position, playing in 31 games (including 22 in a row) and accumulating nearly 620 minutes of playing time. After starting the first seven games at left tackle, Black then moved to right guard, making four starts. Vollers and Faine started for the second straight year on the offensive line, with Vollers back at right tackle after playing two games at right guard, and Faine toiling at center. Vollers finished his career seeing action in 35 games, starting 25, while Faine has played in 23 games, amassing nearly 625 minutes of playing time.

Senior Sean Mahan started all 11 games at left guard, after playing in 11 games in ’00. Junior Brennan Curtin also was a solid contributor on the line, making his first two starts at right tackle against MSU and Texas A&M and starting at left tackle against Tennessee, Navy, Stanford and Purdue. Junior Sean Milligan also cracked the starting lineup in ’01 against Nebraska, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, USC and Boston College.

Backs – Sophomore Carlyle Holiday (144-73-784, 3 TD, 7 INT, 156 carries for 666 yards, 2 TD) made his first career start against Texas A&M, ended up the starter in nine straight games to end the season, and finished the year second on the team in rushing. He also tossed the first two touchdown passes of his career against Boston College and threw for a career-high 146 yards against Tennessee. Sophomore Matt LoVecchio (69-34-287, 1 TD, 4 INT in 2001) began the season as the starting quarterback for the Irish after winning his first seven games as a starter for the Irish in 2000. Sophomore Jared Clark briefly saw ’01 action at Texas A&M.

A trio of tailbacks – seniors Tony Fisher (78-384, 4 TD) and Terrance Howard (48-160, 3 TD) and junior Julius Jones (168-718, 6 TD, nine catches for 57 yards, 1 TD) – gave the Irish a talented and diversified running attack. Fisher, a 2001 Doak Walker Award candidate, was hampered by a hamstring injury most of the season and played more of a reserve role during the second half of the year. Fisher moved into 17th place on the Irish all-time rushing list (1,849 yards) and finished the ’01 season with 384 yards on 78 attempts. Jones also was limited by an Achilles’ heel problem most of the season, but battled through the injury. He scored seven touchdowns in Notre Dame’s last eight games (wins over Pittsburgh, West Virginia, USC, Navy and Purdue) and proved to be a potent threat as a receiver, catching a career-high three passes for 27 yards and his first career receiving touchdown against Boston College. He also carried the ball a team-high 168 times. Howard rushed for 160 yards and scored his second and third touchdowns of the season vs. Navy. Freshman Ryan Grant also gave the Irish faithful something to look forward to as he finished the year with 100 yards rushing, including 77 yards and a touchdown versus Purdue.

The fullback position included seniors Tom Lopienski (10-63), Jason Murray (2-3) and Mike McNair (5-15). Lopienski has played in 32 games in his career, carrying the ball 42 times (including a career-high 33-yard run vs. Navy) and catching 10 passes, while Murray saw action in five games in ’01, carrying twice for three yards against USC. McNair earned the first five carries of his career as the backup FB vs. Navy.

Receivers – Senior SE Javin Hunter and FL David Givens finished one-two for the Irish in receptions in ’01 with 37 and 33, respectively. Hunter (37-387, 1 TD) was the Irish big-play threat, averaging 10.5 yards a catch in ’01, and grabbing a career-high eight balls vs. Texas A&M. He also caught at least three passes in Notre Dame’s first seven games in ’01. Givens rang up a career-high nine catches for 99 yards against Tennessee and finished the season with 317 yards on 33 catches. Senior flanker Arnaz Battle (5-40) made his debut at flanker for the Irish against Nebraska, catching two balls, but suffered a fractured right fibula against Michigan State and missed the next four games. He return for the Boston College game and caught two passes for 17 yards against the Eagles. Sophomore receivers Omar Jenkins (7-111, 1 TD) and Ronnie Rodamer (1-7) also contributed, along with freshman Carlos Campbell (1-32). Jenkins logged a career-high four catches against Michigan State and pulled in a 47-yard pass vs. Stanford for Notre Dame’s only touchdown of the game.

The tight end position made an impact as the season progressed with senior John Owens (6-79, 1 TD) and junior Gary Godsey (2-50) getting more looks. Owens made two catches for 40 yards against Tennessee and had a touchdown reception versus Boston College, while Godsey led all Irish receivers with two grabs for 50 yards vs. Navy.

Line – The Irish defensive line was one of the most experienced and deepest units on the roster on ’01. Senior captain and four-year starter at left end Anthony Weaver (59 tackles, 21 for loss, seven sacks, one INT, three forced fumble) earned second team All-America and team MVP honors. Junior Darrell Campbell (26 tackles, seven for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble) filled in admirably at the tackle position. Junior Cedric Hilliard (27 tackles, eight for loss, two sack) also surprised people after replacing the injured Andy Wisne after the sixth game of the season. After making seven starts last season, senior end Ryan Roberts (20 tackles, four for loss, three sacks) returned to the starting lineup in ’01, beginning with the Pittsburgh game. He put together his best game against USC, rolling up career highs of nine tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks against the Trojans, before being lost for the year with a torn MCL vs. Tennessee. Senior captain Grant Irons (22 tackles, five for loss, two sacks, one INT in 2001), who missed most of 2000, started the first three games of 2001, before regaining his starting role after the injury to Roberts. Other key players included Wisne (16 tackles, two for loss), who moved into the starting nose guard position and recorded a career-best six tackles against Michigan State, but was lost for the remainder of the season with a concussion before the Boston College game, and sophomore Kyle Budinscak (13 tackles), who made his first career starts at defensive tackle against West Virginia and Purdue.

Linebackers – Seniors Rocky Boiman (sixth on the team in tackles with 41, including 10 for loss and three sacks in ’01) and Tyreo Harrison (team-high 97 tackles, 11 for loss, two sacks, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble in ’01) were the men in the middle for the Irish. Boiman recorded a career-high 11 tackles versus Texas A&M and chalked up a pair of sacks against USC, while Harrison had a career-high 15 tackles against Stanford. Junior LB Courtney Watson (76 tackles, 13 for loss, two sacks, one INT, one fumble recovery), who came into the ’01 season with 11 career tackles, recorded a team-high 18 tackles against the Huskers. He also chalked up his first career touchdown against Tennessee, returning an interception 31 yards for a score to give the Irish a third-quarter lead. Sophomore Derek Curry (two tackles, one for loss) backed up Boiman on the outside, while junior Justin Thomas and sophomore Mike Goolsby played behind Watson and senior Carlos Pierre-Antoine (six tackles) spelled Harrison.

Backs – Senior cornerback Shane Walton (43 tackles, seven for loss, two INT, eight pass breakups, one forced fumble, one blocked kick) anchored the Irish secondary in 2001. Walton completed his second season as the starting right cornerback and was one of Notre Dame’s most improved players considering he did not even play football his freshman season, instead starring on the Irish men’s soccer team. He tied his career high with seven tackles against Navy, while intercepting a pass and recording a sack. Sophomore Vontez Duff (25 tackles, three INT, six pass breakups) took over the starting right cornerback slot beginning with the Pittsburgh game, the first starting assignment of his career, and picked up interceptions against USC, Boston College and Stanford, the first thefts of his career. Duff also had three pass breakups squaring off against some of the nation’s best receivers at Stanford. At strong safety, junior Gerome Sapp (36 tackles), a Jim Thorpe Award candidate, started six of the last eight games for the Irish. He tied his career high with eight tackles against Tennessee and had an fumble return for a TD vs. Navy. Key reserves included junior CB Jason Beckstrom (13 tackles), who started against West Virginia and Boston College as part of the Irish nickel package, senior Clifford Jefferson (23 tackles, two for loss, two INTs, three pass breakups), who saw action at right cornerback in eight games, starting three (Nebraska, Michigan State and Texas A&M) and sophomore Preston Jackson at left cornerback. Senior free safety Donald Dykes (48 tackles, two for loss, one sack, two fumble recoveries) made his first start against Nebraska and had a career-high 13 tackles after recording only 18 stops all of 2000. Other key players included fifth-year strong safety Ron Israel (21 tackles, one for loss), who logged a career-best nine tackles in each of the first two games of ’01, but suffered a hamstring injury prior to the Pittsburgh game and saw limited action the rest of the season and junior FS Glenn Earl (33 tackles), who struggled with assorted injuries all season but returned against Purdue and made a career-high 12 tackles. Sophomore safety Abram Elam (29 tackles, two INT, five pass breakups, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble), who had an interception and fumble recovery against Pittsburgh and added another pick and forced a fumble against USC, became the playmaker of the Irish secondary in ’01.

P Joey Hildbold and K Nicholas Setta gave the Irish one of the best kicking tandems in the nation. Hildbold, a Ray Guy Award candidate, finished 35th in the nation at 42.2 yards per punt after averaging a career-best 50.5 per kick against Texas A&M. Setta, a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, had one of the best seasons on record for an Irish placekicker, converting on 15 of his 17 field-goal attempts in 2001 and matching his career long with 47-yarders against both Texas A&M and Purdue. Setta also handled all kickoff duties in ’01. In the return game, junior Julius Jones handled both kickoff (55th in the nation at 22.50 yards a kick return this season) and punt return (39th in the country at 10.67 yards per return) duties for the Irish, ranking second in school history with 1,435 kickoff return yards. In addition, sophomore cornerback Vontez Duff returned kicks, averaging 29.8 yards on 12 kickoff returns and going at least 30 yards on seven of his 12 runbacks, including 96 yards for a touchdown versus Purdue. After blocking four punts in 2000, Notre Dame was once again up to its old tricks when senior CB Shane Walton blocked a Nebraska punt, eventually leading to Notre Dame’s only touchdown of the game.

Notre Dame has played in front of capacity crowds in 137 of its previous 160 games. Besides 10 of the games being sellouts in 2001 (only Stanford was not), eight of Notre Dame’s 11 games this year came in front of stadium record crowds. The Irish played in front of 78,118 fans at Nebraska, welcomed Notre Dame Stadium-record crowds of 80,795 for the Michigan State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia , USC, Tennessee and Navy games, and took the field before 87,206 at Texas A&M, setting a Kyle Field, Big 12 Conference and state of Texas record in the process.

The first five games of 2000 were played before capacity crowds and nine of 12 overall, while the first 11 contests in 1999 and the first 10 in ’98 were played in front of a sellout crowd.

2001 Notre Dame Opponent UPDATE
Since 1977, when the NCAA started rating strength of schedule, Notre Dame’s schedule has been rated the most difficult five times in the last 23 years (1978, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995) and during the preseason, Sports Illustrated rated the 2001 Irish schedule – based strictly on regular-season play – the sixth toughest in the nation. According to the final NCAA rankings, Notre Dame’s 2001 schedule ranked as the 22nd toughest in the nation.


  • Notre Dame once again played one of the nation’s toughest schedules as it faced nine teams that will appeared in bowl games in 2002 (Nebraska, Michigan State, Texas A&M, Pittsburgh, USC, Boston College, Tennessee, Stanford and Purdue). The Irish were the only team in the nation to play nine bowl-bound teams in the regular season.
  • Four of Notre Dame’s 2001 opponents finished ranked in both the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls (Tennessee – 4/4, Nebraska 8/7, Stanford – 16/17 and Boston College 21/23). Three other teams (Texas A&M, Michigan State and Pittsburgh) also received votes in both of the major polls to close out the year.
  • Notre Dame’s five road opponents for ’01 finished with a combined 42-19 (.689) record – Nebraska (11-1), Texas A&M (7-4), Boston College (7-4), Stanford (9-2) and Purdue (6-5).
  • Prior to the 2001 season, the Irish schedule was voted the sixth toughest out of 116 schools by Sports Illustrated (No. 20/21 UCLA had the fifth toughest schedule according to SI, while Irish opponent USC had the toughest).

OLB Rocky Boiman, FL David Givens, DE Grant Irons and DE Anthony Weaver served as captains for the 2001 season.Three were first-time captains, while Irons became only the 13th two-time captain in Notre Dame history and the first since Ron Powlus did it for the 1996 and ’97 seasons. Other multiple-time captains for the Irish include: Edward Prudhomme (1888-1889), Frank Keough (1893-1894), Jack Mullen (1897,1998 and 1899), Louis (Red) Salmon (1902-1903), Leonard Bahan (1918-1919), Pat Filley (1943-1944), Bob Olson (1968-1969), Bob Crable (1980-1981), Phil Carter (1981-1982), Ned Bolcar (1988-1989) and Ryan Leahy (1994-1995).

Notre Dame had three football athletes who are two-sport standouts with the Irish:

  • Cornerback Shane Walton is three years removed from earning all-BIG EAST honors as a freshman forward on the ’98 Irish men’s soccer team. In ’01, Walton ranked fifth on the team with 43 tackles (second among Irish DBs) and led the squad with eight pass breakups. He also blocked a punt against Nebraska to set up an Irish TD, picked off a pass against Pittsburgh to help keep the high-powered Panther offense in check and tied a career-high with seven tackles, including an interception and a sack vs. Navy.
  • Walk-on Chad DeBolt made 73 special teams appearances and also charted one tackle against Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Boston College.DeBolt also starred for the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team which advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2001. The Waterloo, N.Y., native played in all 16 games for the Irish in ’01 recording one goal, while scooping up 60 ground balls. For his career, he has one goal and 118 ground balls.
  • Kicker Nicholas Setta, who finished sixth at the Illinois state track and field meet in the high jump and was the top hurdler in the state, competed for Irish head coach Joe Piane and the Notre Dame track and field program last winter. Setta ran middle distance for the Irish and competed at the 2001 BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championships. On the gridiron, Setta has connected on 38 of his 40 placement kicks in ’01 (15 FG, 23 PATs), stretching his streak of consecutive PATs made to 55, the third-longest in school history. He also tied his career best with a 47-yard field goal at Texas A&M and Purdue and made all eight of his field goal attempts from 40 yards or more in 2001.

All six of Notre Dame’s home football games for 2001 were sellouts, with demand for tickets to the Oct. 13 Notre Dame-West Virginia game ranking highest in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The sellouts are based on demand from contributing alumni (contributions to the University of $100 or more in the previous calendar year earn alumni the ability to apply for two tickets to any home or away contests), with approximately 33,000 tickets per home game available via a game-by-game lottery system.

The Notre Dame ticket office received requests for 59,368 tickets for the West Virginia game, breaking the record of 57,048 from the 1997 Notre Dame-USC game in the first year of the expanded Notre Dame Stadium.

Demand for the 2001 West Virginia 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.

Other high demand games for 2001 included Michigan State (48,404 requests – based on senior alumni designation that guarantees two tickets to all alumni out of school 35 or more years – third all-time in terms of demand), USC (47,127 requested, seventh all-time) and Tennessee (43,843 requests).

There also were nearly 17,000 requests for tickets to the Sept. 8 road game at Nebraska. Notre Dame received 4,000 tickets for that contest, which attracted a Memorial Stadium-record 78,118 fans.

The Irish have sold out 161 consecutive games at Notre Dame Stadium and the 209 of the last 210 home games.

Notre Dame ranked first and Florida State second in ESPN’s “College Sports Fan Favorite Football Team” Poll. The Irish pulled in top billing with 7.1 percent, followed by Florida State at 5.4 percent. Michigan (4.7%), Penn State (4.3%) and Ohio State (3.8%) rounded out the top five. Notre Dame and Florida State also were the only two schools named in all four regions listed in the poll.

The Naval Academy announced Oct. 10 that PSINet Stadium in Baltimore will play host to the 2002 Notre Dame-Navy game, and Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., will play host to the 2004 Notre Dame-Navy contest. It will be the first time the series will be played at PSINet Stadium, home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. Notre Dame and Navy have played five times at Giants Stadium, with the Irish winning all five encounters, including a 38-7 win in their most recent visit in 1992. The Notre Dame-Navy matchup is the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the country – the two teams squared off for the 75th time on Nov. 17, 2001, at Notre Dame Stadium.

Six Irish seniors will play in all-star games this winter. DE Anthony Weaver and OT Kurt Vollers were invited to play in the Senior Bowl. DE Grant Irons will play in the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic, the Gridiron Classic and the Hula Bowl. Irons will also be honored as the student-athlete of the year for the Blue team in the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic. FL David Givens also will play in the Blue-Gray game, while OLB Rocky Boiman is schedule to play in the East-West Shrine Game and the Hula Bowl. TB Tony Fisher and OT Vollers will participate with Boiman in the East-West game, while Vollers will also compete at the Hula Bowl.

Here is final regular-season playing time for members of the Notre Dame football team in 2001 (sp. indicates special team appearances, which do not count toward official playing time):

Offensive Linemen: Jordan Black 277:57 (started 11, sp. 2), Brennan Curtin 209:57 (started 6, played 11, sp. 19), Casey Robin 16:29 (played 11, sp. 41), Sean Mahan 302:06 (started 11, sp. 36), Jeff Faine 314:17 (started 11, sp. 41), JW Jordan (played 7), Kurt Vollers 264:36 (started 11), Ryan Scarola 3:28 (played 11, sp. 41), Ryan Gillis 7:57 (played 11, sp. 41), Sean Milligan 143:41 (started 5, played 9, sp. 5), Jim Molinaro 2:50 (played 1, sp. 20)

Receivers: Arnaz Battle 87:22 (started 3, played 7, sp. 4), Lorenzo Crawford 28:14 (started 2, played 8), Javin Hunter 223:23 (started 11, sp. 1), Omar Jenkins 77:32 (started 1, played 11, sp. 51), Carlos Campbell 14:39 (started 1, played 8), Ronnie Rodamer 14:47 (played 9, sp. 1), David Givens 210.13 (started 7, played 10, sp. 33), Gary Godsey 100:23 (started 1, played 11, sp. 1), John Owens 269:22 (started 9, played 11, sp. 39), Billy Palmer 2:01 (played 1)

Offensive Backs: Matt LoVecchio 48:08 (started 2, played 7), Carlyle Holiday 267:42 (started 9, played 11), Ryan Grant 29:27 (played 5), Tony Fisher 95:28 (started 4, played 9, sp. 1), Terrance Howard 64:01 (started 2, played 11, sp. 152), Julius Jones 172:50 (started 6, played 11, sp. 98), Tom Lopienski 138:04 (started 8, played 11, sp. 130), Mike McNair 8:58 (played 8, sp. 62), Chris Yura (sp. 91), Jason Murray 50:34 (played 9, sp. 60), Jared Clark 1:17 (played 1)

Defensive Linemen: Grant Irons 144:35 (started 6, played 10, sp. 3), Anthony Weaver 253:09 (started 11, sp. 3), Kyle Budinscak 83.13 (started 2, played 11, sp. 1), Ryan Roberts 94:54 (started 5, played 8), Andy Wisne 78:44 (started 6, sp. 1), Darrell Campbell 191:05 (started 9, played 11, sp. 2), Cedric Hilliard 164:22 (started 5, played 11, sp. 2), Greg Pauly 1:09 (played 1)

Linebackers: Tyreo Harrison 269:25 (started 11, sp. 3), Jerome Collins (played 3, sp. 32), Courtney Watson 231:25 (started 11, sp. 69), Justin Thomas 0:29 (played 4, sp. 3), Rocky Boiman 176:55 (started 7, played 11, sp. 68), Pat Ryan (played 3, sp. 4), Derek Curry 11:16 (played 11, sp. 49), Mike Goolsby (played 11, sp. 115), Carlos Pierre-Antoine 2:28 (played 10, sp. 81)

Defensive Backs: Jason Beckstrom 75:28 (started 2, played 11, sp. 60), Abram Elam 101:02 (played 11, sp. 160), Garron Bible (played 11, sp. 105), Donald Dykes 182:40 (started 8, played 9, sp. 55), Ron Israel 88:11 (started 5, played 8, sp. 20), Quentin Burrell (played 7, sp. 48), Dwight Ellick (played 10, sp. 122), Preston Jackson (played 11, sp. 135), Gerome Sapp 117:59 (started 6, played 9, sp. 108), Shane Walton 272:41 (started 11, sp. 112), Clifford Jefferson 142:09 (started 5, played 8, sp. 29), Dwayne Francis (played 2, sp. 8), Justin Smith 42:52 (played 11, sp. 63), Matthew Sarb (played 11, sp. 59), Chad DeBolt (played 10, sp. 73), Glenn Earl 79:09 (started 3, played 9, sp. 15), Vontez Duff 198:26 (started 8, played 11, sp. 131)

Specialists: Nicholas Setta (played 11, sp. 91), Joey Hildbold (played 11, sp. 66), Adam Tibble (played 11, sp. 41), John Crowther (played 11, pr. 107)