Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Fighting Irish Kick Off Season Saturday Against Washington State

Sept. 1, 2003

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(#20 AP/#16 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0) vs. Washington State Cougars (1-0)

The Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 6, 2003, 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 168th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium (the first 130 coming at the old 59,075 capacity). The Washington State game marks the 216th home sellout in the last 217 games (dating back to 1964) and the 151st sellout in the last 174 games involving Notre Dame, including the first 10 games of 1998, the first 11 in ’99, the first five in ’00, the first nine in ’01 and all 13 in ’02.
The TV Plans: NBC Sports national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Pat Haden (analysis), Lewis Johnson (sideline), Jim Bell (producer) and John Gonzalez (director).
The Radio Plans: For the 36th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are broadcast on more than 200 stations in all 50 states nationwide by Westwood One with Tony Roberts (play-by-play), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis) and former Irish quarterback and 1956 Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung (pregame/halftime analysis). A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student station, WVFI, also is available through the Notre Dame athletic department web site at All Notre Dame football games are heard on WDND-AM (1620) and WNDV-FM (92.9) in South Bend with pre- and post-game analysis featuring Sean Stires, Andy Budzinski, Shawn Lewallen, Jack Nolan and Larry Williams. All Irish games also are carried live in the Chicago market on ESPN Radio 1000.
Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics are available for the Washington State game, via the Notre Dame ( and Washington State ( athletics web sites.
Websites: Notre Dame (, Washington State (

The 115th season of Notre Dame football is set to begin Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (EST) when the Irish play host to Washington State at Notre Dame Stadium. The game will be televised nationally by NBC and it will mark the 168th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium, a streak that dates back to Thanksgiving Day of 1973.

The Irish are beginning their second season under head coach Tyrone Willingham following a remarkable 10-3 record last year that included a trip to the Toyota Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day. Notre Dame has 38 monogram winners back from that squad, including 14 starters and currently is ranked in both of the major national polls (20th by Associated Press, 16th by ESPN/USA Today).

Among the returning players on this year’s Irish roster are a pair of preseason first-team All-Americans in senior linebacker Courtney Watson and senior cornerback/kick returner Vontez Duff. Watson, who also was a Butkus Award finalist in 2002 and is a candidate for the honor again this season, led Notre Dame with 90 tackles last year despite missing three games due to injury. Meanwhile, Duff is widely regarded as one of the most explosive all-around players in college football after becoming the first player in school history to return a punt, kickoff and interception for a touchdown last season. Like Watson, Duff is a candidate for postseason honors, having been named to the ’03 Jim Thorpe Award Watch List.

Washington State (1-0) kicked off its 2003 campaign last Saturday with a 25-0 shutout of Idaho in a game played at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle. WSU running back Jonathan Smith carried 16 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and kicker Drew Dunning booted four field goals as the Cougars won the debut game for new head coach Bill Doba. In the victory, Washington State rolled up 339 yards rushing, their highest output on the ground in 10 years, and finished the game with 466 yards of total offense.

The Cougars are one of three teams on this year’s Irish schedule that reached the ’02 Bowl Championship Series. WSU posted a 10-3 record last year and advanced to the Rose Bowl, where it lost to Oklahoma, 34-14. Saturday’s game will be the Cougars’ first-ever meeting with Notre Dame.

The Injury Update (as of Aug. 31)
Senior LB Mike Goolsby Shoulder injury, evaluated on week-to-week basis


  • Notre Dame and Washington State will be playing one another for the first time ever Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium. WSU will be the 134th different opponent in 115 seasons of Irish football.
  • For the second consecutive season, the Irish are opening up against a first-time opponent. Last year, Notre Dame blanked defending ACC champion Maryland, 22-0 at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., to win Kickoff Classic XX.
  • The Cougars are the only Pac-10 Conference team the Irish have never faced. Notre Dame is 68-35-6 (.651) all-time against Pac-10 schools, including a 38-12-1 (.755) mark at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish also have won their last six home games against Pac-10 teams, dating back to 1998.
  • Washington State is one of three teams on this year’s Irish schedule that played in Bowl Championship Series games last year the Cougars fell to Oklahoma, 34-14 in the Rose Bowl. USC and Florida State are the other two ’02 BCS qualifiers Notre Dame will face this season.
  • The Irish are 4-0 all-time against teams from the state of Washington, with all four victories coming against WSU’s archrival, the University of Washington. Notre Dame and UW last met in 1996 (a 54-20 Irish win at Notre Dame Stadium) and the teams are slated to resume their series next year in Seattle.


  • Notre Dame would register its 15th season-opening victory in the last 17 seasons.
  • The Irish would lift their all-time record against the Pac-10 to 69-35-6 (.655) and move to 5-0 all-time against the Pac-10 in season openers.
  • Notre Dame would win its home opener for the seventh time in the last eight years and the 13th time in the past 17 seasons.
  • The Irish would pick up their seventh consecutive home victory over a Pac-10 opponent, a streak that dates back to 1998 (began with a 35-17 win over Stanford).
  • Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham would earn his fourth consecutive season-opening win (second with the Irish) and improve to 6-3 (.667) all-time in season openers as a collegiate head coach.


  • Notre Dame would lose its season opener for just the third time in the last 17 years. The Irish also would drop their home lidlifter for only the second time in the past nine seasons.
  • The Cougars would be the first new regular-season opponent to defeat Notre Dame since Florida State handed the Irish a 19-13 loss on Oct. 10, 1981.
  • Notre Dame would see its six-game home winning streak against Pac-10 teams come to an end, while WSU would be the first Pac-10 team to win at Notre Dame Stadium since USC claimed a 20-17 victory on Oct. 18, 1997.
  • The Irish would lose consecutive regular-season games for the first time since Oct. 27-Nov. 3, 2001 (defeats by Boston College and Tennessee).


  • Notre Dame offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Diedrick held a similar post at Washington State for two seasons (1989-90), coaching the top pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, QB Drew Bledsoe (selected by the New England Patriots, now with the Buffalo Bills).
  • Irish offensive line coach John McDonell spent 12 seasons at Washington State (1989-2000), working with the Cougars’ offensive line throughout his tenure and adding offensive coordinator duties from 1994-2000.
  • Notre Dame running backs/special teams coach Buzz Preston mentored the running backs at WSU from 1994-97.
  • Diedrick, McDonell and Preston all served on the same coaching staff with first-year Washington State head coach Bill Doba, who has been with the Cougars since 1989.
  • Saturday’s game marks a homecoming for Doba, who grew up in South Bend. He was the head coach at three area high schools (Goshen, Angola and Mishawaka) from 1962-76 before entering the college ranks. Doba was inducted into the Mishawaka Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
  • Longtime Washington State play-by-play voice Bob Robertson worked on the Irish football broadcasts for two years (1955-56).
  • Notre Dame sophomore walk-on WR Mike O’Hara is a native of Bellevue, Wash., and graduated from Newport High School.


  • Notre Dame has won more than 65 percent of its games versus Pac-10 Conference opponents, with a winning series record versus each of the Pac-10 teams that the Irish have played and an overall mark of 68-35-6 (.651) in 109 games against Pac-10 schools including the 1998, 2000 and 2002 wins over Stanford, the ’98 and ’99 wins over Arizona State and the ’99, ’00 and ’01 wins over USC. Nearly 70 percent of those games (75) have come versus USC (42-27-5) while another 15 percent have come against Stanford (11-6-0).
  • Notre Dame has played a handful of games vs. California (4-0), Washington (4-0), Arizona (2-1), Oregon (1-0-1) and UCLA (2-0). Notre Dame and Arizona State met for the first time in 1998, while the Irish met Oregon State for the first time in the 2001 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Notre Dame has never played Washington State on the gridiron, although they are scheduled to meet for the first time on Saturday.
  • The Irish won at Washington in ’95 (29-21) and beat the Huskies at Notre Dame Stadium in ’96 (54-20), with the only other previous games in that series coming in ’48 and ’49. The most recent games vs. other Pac-10 teams are: a 16-13 home loss to Arizona in ’82, a 41-8 home win over California in ’67, a 13-13 tie at Oregon in ’82 and a 24-0 home win over UCLA in ’64.
  • Notre Dame is 13-8-1 (.614) in its last 22 games vs. Pac-10 schools (4-4-1 vs. USC, 5-3 vs. Stanford, 2-0 vs. Washington, 2-0 vs. Arizona State, 0-1 vs. Oregon State), starting with a ’92 victory over USC. The Irish also are 10-1 (.909) in their last 11 home games against Pac-10 squads, dating back to 1993.

Notre Dame and Washington State will be meeting for the first time ever when they square off Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. The Cougars represent the 134th different opponent in Irish history, and the third in the last two seasons (following last year’s premieres against ACC members Maryland and North Carolina State). During its 115-year history, Notre Dame has faced 63 of the other 117 teams currently competing at the NCAA Division I-A level.

Notre Dame has compiled a record of 96-13-5 (.864) historically in its season-opening games, including winning 14 of their last 16 games (only losses coming to Northwestern in 1995 and at Nebraska in 2001). Last year, the Irish opened the Tyrone Willingham era in grand style, shutting out Maryland, 22-0 in Kickoff Classic XX at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. It was the first season-opening whitewash for Notre Dame since Sept. 22, 1973, when Ara Parseghian’s charges blanked Northwestern, 44-0, before a capacity crowd at Notre Dame Stadium. Willingham also became the first Irish head coach in nearly half a century to begin his tenure at Notre Dame with a shutout win – Terry Brennan was the last to pull off such a feat, engineering a 21-0 win over fourth-ranked Texas in 1954.

One additional note: Notre Dame is 4-0 all-time when opening against a Pac-10 school, including a 41-8 victory over California in 1967, the last time the Irish debuted against a Pac-10 club.

Notre Dame has had tremendous success in home openers during its 115-year history, going 91-17-5 (.827) in its inital on-campus contest of the season (there were no home games in 1929 due to the construction of Notre Dame Stadium). Among Irish head coaches, Jesse Harper (1913-17) and Terry Brennan (1954-58) both won all five of their home openers, while Knute Rockne (1918-30) went 11-0-1 in his first home game of the season (only a 7-7 tie with Great Lakes in 1918 sullied his record). More recently, Notre Dame has won six of its last seven and 12 of its last 16 home openers, including a 24-17 conquest of Purdue to open the 2002 home slate.

At halftime of Notre Dame’s season opener vs. Washington State on Saturday, a contingent of former Irish football captains will be honored for their leadership and service to the program. In presentations earlier on Saturday, the captains will receive pins specially designed at the end of last season (the first recipients were last year’s captains Arnaz Battle, Sean Mahan, Gerome Sapp and Shane Walton, as well as the 2002 football banquet speaker, former Irish defensive end and 1984 captain Mike Golic). Continuing a tradition which began last season, Notre Dame will select its captains on a game-by-game basis in 2003.

The former Irish captains who are scheduled to be represented at this weekend’s festivities include (years as captain in parentheses): Ken Adamson (’59), Lee Becton (’94-95), Rocky Bleier (’67), Ned Bolcar (’88-89), Jim Carroll (’64), Phil Carter (’81-82), Dave Casper (’73), Lyron Cobbins (’96), John Dampeer (’72), Dave Duerson (’82), Al Ecuyer (’58), Terry Eurick (’77), Vagas Ferguson (’79), Tim Foley (’79), Tony Furjanic (’85), Tom Gatewood (’71), Mark Green (’88), Brian Hamilton (’95), Chuck Lanza (’87), Mike Larkin (’85), Bob Lehmann (’63), Ray Lemek (’55), Jim Lynch (’66), Greg Marx (’72), Derrick Mayes (’95), Jim Morse (’56), Jim Mutscheller (’51), Walt Patulski (’71-72), Allen Pinkett (’85), Myron Pottios (’60), Dick Prendergast (’57), Chuck Puntillo (’58), Tim Scannell (’85), John Scully (’80), Phil Sheridan (’65), Jim Stock (’75), Mike Townsend (’73) and Chris Zorich (’90).

Jim Gillis, a past president of the Notre Dame National Monogram Club and a three-year monogram winner in baseball for the Irish, will receive the Harvey G. Foster Award from the Notre Dame Alumni Association at Saturday’s season-opening football game vs. Washington State. The Foster Award is presented each year to a Notre Dame graduate distinguished for athletic endeavors and community service.

Gillis, who went on to play Major League Baseball with the Philadelphia Phillies, has teamed with his wife, Jane, for the last 40 years to assist in fund raising for Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, Calif. They also established the Jim and Jane Gillis Grant-in-Aid Scholarship for Notre Dame baseball last January. In addition, Gillis is an active member of the Notre Dame Club of Los Angeles, received the club’s Award of the Year in 1997, and was named a University Exemplar that same year.

Beginning with the 1988 Cotton Bowl, Notre Dame has been shut out just once in its last 183 games (a 10-0 loss at USC in the ’98 regular-season finale), including a current streak of 49 consecutive games without being blanked. During that time, the Irish defense has pitched 11 shutouts of its own, with eight of those whitewashes coming at Notre Dame Stadium (including a 42-0 win over Rutgers in the 2002 home finale).

One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success last season was its ability to capitalize on an opponent’s mistakes. In fact, the Irish wound up with nine returns (punts, kickoffs, fumbles, interceptions) for touchdowns in 2002, which tied North Carolina State for second-most in the nation behind Kansas State’s 12 returns for touchdowns.

Upon closer inspection, the return game has been a source of strength for Notre Dame over the past four seasons. The Irish have logged 23 returns for touchdowns in that time, a figure that ranks eighth in the country.

Senior Nicholas Setta will begin the season as the starting placekicker and punter for the Irish, marking the first time a Notre Dame player regularly has filled both roles since Craig Hentrich turned the trick from 1989-92. Hentrich is now an all-pro punter with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Setta is starting his fourth season as the Irish placekicker, having twice been named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List. He also was selected as a preseason honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith’s each of the last two seasons. This year, he has the opportunity to break several Notre Dame records, including career field goal attempts (Setta has 56, while John Carney holds the record of 69 from 1984-86), career field goal made (Setta has 37, while Carney is first with 51), and career points by kicking (Setta has 210, while Hentrich owns the top mark of 294). In addition, Setta has made 87 consecutive PAT kicks, the second-longest streak in school history behind Hentrich’s run of 136 straight PAT conversions from 1989-92. Setta’s last missed PAT kick came on Oct. 7, 2000 vs. Stanford.

While he has a wealth of experience as a placekicker, Setta comes into this season having only served as a backup punter behind two-time Ray Guy Award semifinalist Joey Hildbold. However, while filling in for the injured Hildbold against Boston College in 2000, Setta did punt four times for 160 yards (a 40-yard average), including a career-long 47-yard boot in a 28-16 Irish victory. Setta was one of 32 candidates named to the ’03 Ray Guy Award preseason watch list.

Senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson was a preseason first-team All-America selection by Street & Smith’s and The Sporting News. Meanwhile, senior cornerback/kick returner Vontez Duff was a preseason first-team All-American according to Street & Smith’s and a second-team choice by Athlon. The latter publication also named senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard to its preseason All-America third team. Senior free safety Glenn Earl, junior running back Ryan Grant and senior kicker/punter Nicholas Setta all were awarded preseason honorable mention All-America status by Street & Smith’s.

Athlon named the Irish linebacking corps the fourth-best unit in the country, while The Sporting News labelled them the ninth-best group in the land. In addition, Athlon selected the Notre Dame defensive line as the fifth-best unit in the nation.

Senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson has been named to the preseason watch list for the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year, the nation’s fourth-oldest individual accolade which is given annually by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Through a vote of the 117 Division I-A head coach and sports information directors, the list will be cut to 10 semifinalists in early November, with the winner to be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show. The official award presentation is slated for Feb. 14, 2004, at the Walter Camp Football Foundation national awards banquet, which will be held in New Haven, Conn., at the Yale University Commons.

Senior inside linebackers Courtney Watson and Mike Goolsby have been named to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, which is presented each year to the nation’s top linebacker by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando. The list of 90 candidates will be pared down to 10 semifinalists on Oct. 16, with the three finalists chosen on Nov. 13. The winner will be unveiled Dec. 12 at a banquet in Orlando.

Senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior free safety Glenn Earl have been named to the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association, based in Oklahoma City. Ten semifinalists for the award will be announced Nov. 3, with the three finalists selected on Nov. 24. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for Feb. 9, 2004, in Oklahoma City.

Senior quarterback Carlyle Holiday has earned a spot on the preseason watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top quarterback by the Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas. In November, the semifinalists will be announced and the three finalists will be selected later in the month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for February 2004 in Fort Worth.

Junior defensive end Justin Tuck has been selected to the preseason watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top defensive end by the Ted Hendricks Foundation in Chicago. In November, the semifinalists will be announced and the three finalists will be selected later in the month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation set for February 2004 in Chicago.

Senior punter/placekicker Nicholas Setta has been named to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which is presented each year to the nation’s top punter by the Greater Augusta (Ga.) Sports Council. Ten semifinalists will be announced in early November and the three finalists will be chosen later that month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show and will receive his award live during the broadcast.

Street & Smith’s tapped senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson for spots on its Butkus Award and Bednarik/Nagurski Award watch lists (as did Lindy’s). The former honor recognizes the country’s top linebacker, while the latter awards spotlight the nation’s best overall defensive player. In addition, Street & Smith’s placed senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior free safety Glenn Earl on its watch list for the Thorpe Award (which goes to the top defensive back in the country), and the publication named senior kicker Nicholas Setta to its watch list for the Lou Groza Award (presented to the nation’s top kicker).

Senior Courtney Watson was tabbed the fourth-best inside linebacker in the country by Lindy’s and The Sporting News, while senior Vontez Duff was rated the seventh-best cornerback and ninth-best all-purpose player by Lindy’s, and the nation’s 10th best as both a cornerback and kick returner by The Sporting News. Senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard was ranked the sixth-best defensive tackle in the nation by The Sporting News, while senior free safety Glenn Earl placed 14th among free safeties by The Sporting News and 19th by Lindy’s. Senior Mike Goolsby was rated 12th among the nation’s inside linebackers by Lindy’s, while junior Ryan Grant was 18th among running backs and senior Darrell Campbell was charted 19th among defensive linemen by the same publication.

IRISH Head Coach Tyrone Willingham
A veteran with 26 seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham is now in his second season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame after serving as the leader at Stanford University for seven seasons. Willingham used his years of service in the coaching business to reverse the tides of the Irish program in ’02, leading Notre Dame to a 10-2 regular-season record and a trip to the 2003 Toyota Gator Bowl. He became the first Irish head coach ever to win 10 games in his first season, and he 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 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 eight years as a college head coach, Willingham has compiled a solid 54-39-1 (.580) record and guided his charges 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 at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).

Line — The offensive line will be largely retooled for the Irish this season. Four of the five starters from last year were selected