Sept. 14, 2004
The Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 18, 2004 at 7:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 p.m. EST in South Bend).
The Site: Spartan Stadium (72,027/Natural Grass) in East Lansing, Mich.
The Tickets: They’re all sold — with this being the 164th sellout in the last 188 Irish games and the 28th in the last 29 games involving Notre Dame, dating back to the end of the 2001 season (only last year’s game at Stanford was not a sellout).
The TV Plans: ESPN national telecast with Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit (analysis), Jill Arrington (sideline), Bill Bonnell (producer) and Steve Ackels (associate producer).
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 www.und.com. All Notre Dame football games may be heard in South Bend on WDND-AM (1580) and WNDV-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 Michigan State game, via the Notre Dame (www.und.com) and Michigan State (www.msuspartans.com) athletics web sites.
Web Sites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), Michigan State (www.msuspartans.com).
IRISH TAKE ON MICHIGAN STATE IN EAST LANSING
The 68th renewal of one of college football’s most entertaining series resumes Saturday when Notre Dame travels to East Lansing, Mich., to take on Michigan State in a 7:00 p.m. (EDT) contest at Spartan Stadium. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN, marking the 139th consecutive Irish football game to be shown on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN).
Notre Dame (1-1) enters the Michigan State game with renewed momentum following an impressive 28-20 victory over then-No. 7 ranked Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish erased a 12-7 fourth-quarter deficit by reeling off 21 consecutive points to take control of the game. Freshman running back Darius Walker sparked the Irish offense in his Notre Dame debut by scoring two touchdowns and rushing for 115 yards on 31 carries.
Sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn passed for two touchdowns while completing 10 of 20 passes for 178 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Matt Shelton and an eight-yard scoring toss to senior fullback Rashon Powers-Neal. The Notre Dame defense also was outstanding against Michigan, stifling the Wolverines’ rushing game (56 yards on 30 attempts) — the 16th time in the past 27 games that a Notre Dame opponent has failed to rush for 100 yards — collecting two sacks and forcing three turnovers. Senior linebacker Mike Goolsby had a career-high 14 tackles while senior cornerback Dwight Ellick made six tackles, intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble.
Michigan State (1-1) opened the 2004 season with a 19-14 loss at Rutgers before rebounding with a 24-7 win over Central Michigan last weekend in the Spartans’ home opener. Redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Reaves threw for 183 yards and one touchdown in the victory. Junior wide receiver Kyle Brown had six catches for 123 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown to start the scoring.
Notre Dame holds a 42-24-1 edge in the series, including a 16-13-1 lead in games played at Michigan State (14-11-1 at Spartan Stadium). The last five games of the series have been decided by 10 points or less, and in each case, the game-winning touchdown came from at least 40 yards out late in the fourth quarter.
NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN STATE SERIES NOTES
â€¢ Notre Dame leads the series with Michigan State by a 42-24-1 count, including a 16-13-1 edge in East Lansing (the Irish lead 14-11-1 at Spartan Stadium).
â€¢ Michigan State has won five of the last six games in the series, including a 22-16 victory at Notre Dame Stadium last season. Notre Dame’s only win over that span was a 21-17 victory at East Lansing in 2002.
â€¢ Notre Dame has won 11 of the last 18 games in the series and 18 of the last 26.
â€¢ The Michigan State rivalry is the fourth-most frequent in Notre Dame history. Only Navy (77 games entering 2004), Purdue (75) and USC (75) have faced the Irish more times than the Spartans.
â€¢ Notre Dame’s 42 victories in the series against the Spartans, the fourth-highest total against one opponent in school history behind Navy (67), Purdue (49) and Pittsburgh (43).
â€¢ The winner of Saturday’s game will claim the Megaphone Trophy, sponsored by the Detroit alumni clubs of Notre Dame and Michigan State.
IF NOTRE DAME WINS …
â€¢ Notre Dame will record its 43rd series win over Michigan State, tying for the third-most victories against one opponent behind their 66 wins over Navy and 49 wins over Purdue (the Irish also have 43 wins vs. Pittsburgh).
â€¢ Notre Dame will improve to 37-17-1 (.682) in its last 55 games against Big Ten Conference opposition and chalk up its second victory of the season against an opponent from that conference.
â€¢ Notre Dame will move above .500 for the first time since the first game of the 2003 season, when the Irish opened up with a 29-26 overtime win over Washington State at Notre Dame Stadium.
â€¢ Notre Dame head coach (and 1977 Michigan State graduate) Tyrone Willingham will rise to 3-1 all-time against his alma mater as a head coach (2-1 Notre Dame, 1-0 Stanford).
IF MICHIGAN STATE WINS …
â€¢ Michigan State will log its 25th series win over the Irish, easing past Purdue (24) for the second-most wins ever by a Notre Dame opponent (USC has 28 career wins over the Irish).
â€¢ Notre Dame will drop its sixth game in the last seven meetings with Michigan State.
NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN STATE SERIES HISTORY
â€¢ Notre Dame and Michigan State first met on the gridiron in 1897, with the Irish earning a 34-6 victory.
â€¢ The two schools played nine times through 1910, with Notre Dame winning the first eight of those encounters by a combined score of 222-6. Following a six-year layoff, Notre Dame won five of the next six games with the Spartans from 1916-21.
â€¢ The series then went on a 27-year hiatus until it resumed in 1948 when the top-ranked Irish downed Michigan State, 26-7, at Notre Dame Stadium. Since then, the series has been played continuously with the exception of breaks in 1953, ’58, ’95 and ’96.
â€¢ Notre Dame and Michigan State will be meeting for the 68th time, making it the fourth-longest series in school history behind Navy (77 games), Purdue (75) and USC (75).
â€¢ The last five games in the series all have been decided by 10 points or less, with the game-winning touchdown coming from at least 40 yards out late in the fourth quarter. Here’s a breakdown of those nail-biting heroics (* – indicates game played at Notre Dame Stadium):
â€¢ 1999 – Gari Scott 80-yard TD pass from Bill Burke with 5:11 left (MSU 23-13)*
â€¢ 2000 – Herb Haygood 68-yard TD pass from Jeff Smoker with 1:48 left (MSU 27-21)
â€¢ 2001 – Charles Rogers 47-yard TD pass from Ryan Van Dyke with 7:51 left (MSU 17-10)*
â€¢ 2002 – Arnaz Battle 60-yard TD pass from Pat Dillingham with 1:15 left (ND 21-17)
â€¢ 2003 – Greg Taplin 40-yard interception return with 6:55 left (MSU 22-16)*
NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN STATE CONNECTIONS
â€¢ Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham is a 1977 graduate of Michigan State, where he was a walk-on in both football and baseball and earned three letters in each sport. As a quarterback and flanker in football, he was named the team’s most inspirational player in 1976. In 1977, he was awarded the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor as the outstanding scholar-athlete in the league. In baseball, he received the 1975 sportsmanship award and was an all-Big Ten selection in 1977. Willingham spent one season (1977) as a graduate assistant coach at MSU under head coach Darryl Rogers, then returned to his alma mater in 1980, serving three seasons from ’80-82 as the Spartans’ secondary/special teams coach under head coach Frank “Muddy” Waters. In his head coaching career, Willingham is 2-1 against his alma mater, leading Notre Dame to a 21-17 win in 2002 and guiding Stanford to a 38-0 win over MSU in the 1996 Sun Bowl.
â€¢ Notre Dame defensive line coach Greg Mattison and Michigan State running backs coach Reggie Mitchell served on the same staff at Western Michigan in 1986.
â€¢ Notre Dame running backs/special teams coach Buzz Preston worked alongside MSU defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chris Smeland at Hawaii from 1991-93. The duo were part of the UH staff that paced the Rainbow Warriors to the 1992 Western Athletic Conference title and a win over Illinois in the Holiday Bowl.
â€¢ Irish offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Diedrick was on the same staff at Idaho with Michigan State linebackers coach Mike Cox from 1987-88, helping the Vandals to a pair of Big Sky Conference titles, two NCAA Division I-AA playoff berths and a trip to the national semifinals in ’88.
â€¢ Longtime MSU and Detroit Pistons broadcaster George Blaha is a 1966 graduate of Notre Dame, earning a degree in economics.
â€¢ Michigan State assistant athletics director for communications John Lewandowski is a 1984 graduate of Notre Dame, earning a degree in business administration.
â€¢ Notre Dame director of recreational services and fitness Sally Derengoski is a native of East Lansing, Mich.
FRIEND OR FOE?
â€¢ Notre Dame sophomore running back Jeff Jenkins is a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., and was the all-time leading rusher in Ann Arbor history (3,970 yards, 60 TD) while attending Huron High School from 1998-2001.
â€¢ Four players between the two teams have ties to the Tampa-St. Petersburg (Fla.) area. Notre Dame senior cornerback Preston Jackson (Tampa/Hillsborough HS) and senior cornerback Dwight Ellick (Tampa/Wharton HS) are from the Tampa Bay region, as are MSU redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Reaves (Tampa/Plant HS) and junior running back Jason Teague (St. Petersburg/Osceola HS).
â€¢ Irish junior wide receiver Maurice Stovall and MSU junior defensive end Michael Bazemore both are natives of Philadelphia. Stovall graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School, while Bazemore attended West Catholic High School.
NOTRE DAME VS. THE BIG TEN CONFERENCE
â€¢ Notre Dame has played more than three times as many games against Big Ten Conference opponents (328) as any other league. The Pac-10 (112) is the only other conference against whom the Irish have played at least 100 games.
â€¢ Notre Dame has won more than 66 percent of its games versus Big Ten Conference opponents, with a record of .500 or better against 10 of the 11 Big Ten teams (Michigan is the lone exception). The Irish have an overall mark of 210-103-15 (.663) in 328 games against Big Ten schools, with more than 52 percent of those games (173) coming versus Michigan (13-18-1), Michigan State (42-24-1) and Purdue (49-24-2), all of whom are on Notre Dame’s 2004 schedule.
â€¢ Notre Dame is 36-17-1 (.676) in its last 54 games against Big Ten opponents, highlighted by a 14-game winning streak from 1986-91.
â€¢ For the third consecutive season, Notre Dame is playing three Big Ten schools (Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue). In 2002, the Irish swept those same three Big Ten opponents, winning each game in the fourth quarter. In 2003, Notre Dame went 0-3 against that trio, but the Irish got off on the right foot this season, defeating then-No. 7 ranked Michigan last weekend.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND MICHIGAN STATE MET
Michigan State defensive end Greg Taplin returned an interception 40 yards for a backbreaking touchdown with 6:55 remaining, helping the Spartans hold off a late Notre Dame rally and defeat the Irish, 22-16, on Sept. 20, 2003 at Notre Dame Stadium. It was MSU’s sixth win in its last seven games against the Irish, and its fourth consecutive victory in South Bend, becoming the first visiting team in nearly 40 years to pull off that feat (Purdue, 1954-62).
The teams were even in virtually every statistical category, a trend that was apparent by the 6-6 halftime score. Notre Dame had a pair of golden opportunities in the Michigan State red zone, but the Spartans’ defense stiffened and limited the Irish to just two field goals. MSU then struck the first big blow of the game in the third quarter as running back Jaren Hayes raced 71 yards for a touchdown, putting his team ahead, 13-6 with 5:25 remaining in the period. Notre Dame countered with Nicholas Setta’s third field goal of the day just before the quarter ended, pulling the Irish within four points heading into the final stanza.
After MSU’s Dave Rayner added his third field goal, Taplin came through with his game-changing play, picking off an intended screen pass by Carlyle Holiday and going untouched to the end zone. After an exchange of punts, Brady Quinn came on to replace Holiday at quarterback and drove Notre Dame 85 yards in nine plays, capping the march with a 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rhema McKnight at the 2:29 mark. However, Drew Stanton recovered the ensuing onside kick by the Irish, sealing the win for Michigan State.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND MICHIGAN STATE MET AT SPARTAN STADIUM
Quarterback Pat Dillingham, subbing for an injured Carlyle Holiday, tossed a 60-yard touchdown pass to Arnaz Battle with 1:15 to play, propelling the 12th-ranked Irish to a 21-17 victory over the Spartans before a stunned crowd of 75,182 at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 21, 2002.
With the win, Notre Dame registered its first 4-0 start since 1993 and snapped a five-game losing streak against MSU. It also provided sweet redemption for a group of Irish veterans who had seen the Spartans knock off Notre Dame with similar fourth-quarter heroics in each of the previous three years.
As it did in its first three games of ’02, the Irish defense played a pivotal role in the win over Michigan State. Notre Dame held the high-powered MSU offense out of the end zone for the first three quarters and came up with some timely stops in the waning seconds to preserve the heart-stopping triumph.
For the second game in a row, the Irish got on the board quickly, scoring on their opening drive. A 30-yard trick pass from Battle to Holiday set up Ryan Grant’s six-yard TD run just 4:12 into the game.
MSU chipped away at Notre Dame for much of the first half, but could never land a solid blow. The Spartans had to settle for a pair of Dave Rayner field goal attempts, one of which he converted from 35 yards out with 55 seconds left in the first quarter.
Clinging to a narrow 7-3 lead late in the first half, the Irish defense provided a window of opportunity. Cornerback Shane Walton tipped a Jeff Smoker pass into the arms of strong safety Gerome Sapp, who returned it to the Michigan State 28-yard line. Notre Dame needed just four plays to cash in on the Spartan miscue. After a key pass interference call on third down kept the drive going, Holiday found wide receiver Maurice Stovall on a 15-yard scoring strike with 11 seconds left in the half.
Neither team dented the scoreboard in the third quarter, but Notre Dame still suffered a major loss when Holiday went down with a shoulder injury late in the period. In the fourth quarter, Michigan State finally got on track. Capitalizing on a short Irish punt, the Spartans moved smartly 56 yards in three plays, with Smoker finding Charles Rogers on a 38-yard scoring toss to cut the lead to 14-10 with 13:22 remaining.
The teams then traded punts before MSU came up with a crucial turnover, intercepting Dillingham’s pass at the Spartan three-yard line. Smoker then marched the hosts down to the Notre Dame 21-yard line, where the drive appeared to stall. Faced with fourth-and-11 and 1:52 to play, Smoker found Rogers in the back of the end zone and the MSU wideout managed to get one foot down, giving the Spartans their first lead of the afternoon.
That set the stage for Dillingham, a former walk-on, and Battle, a converted quarterback, to add their names to Irish lore. Their scoring connection put Notre Dame in front, but not out of difficulty. Michigan State made one last charge, getting to the Irish 42. However, Sapp ended matters by picking off Smoker’s desperation toss as time expired, locking up Notre Dame’s first win in East Lansing since 1994.
For the second time in the first three weeks of the season, Notre Dame will be playing at night when it visits Michigan State on Saturday. The Irish have won more than 63 percent of their all-time night games (40-23-2), with a large chunk of those contests coming on the road at Miami (Fla.) (6-2-1). Notre Dame’s lifetime record under the lights includes a 27-17-2 (.609) mark on opponent fields, following a 20-17 loss at BYU back on Sept. 4. All together, the Irish are 3-2 in night games during head coach Tyrone Willingham’s tenure, with all three wins coming on the road (21-14 at Air Force in 2002; 20-14 at Pittsburgh in 2003; 57-7 at Stanford in 2003).
ESPN’S “COLLEGE GAMEDAY” TO BROADCAST LIVE FROM EAST LANSING
The popular ESPN show “College GameDay,” featuring host Chris Fowler and analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit, will be on hand in East Lansing, Mich., this weekend when Notre Dame visits Michigan State. It will mark the 13th time the Irish have played in a game where “College GameDay” was on site, having posted a 5-7 (.417) record to date (3-3 home, 2-4 road). Notre Dame’s 13 appearances in “College GameDay” on-site games ties for fourth on the all-time list with Miami (Fla.), Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee — Florida is the current leader with 20 appearances.
FIVE O’CLOCK LIGHTNING
The 21 points scored by Notre Dame in the fourth quarter against Michigan were the most the Irish have tallied in the final period since Oct. 25, 1997, when they erupted for 21 fourth-quarter points in a 52-20 blowout of Boston College. On a related note, in its last two home openers, Notre Dame has scored a combined total of 44 points in the fourth quarter and overtime (20 in regulation/three in OT vs. Washington State last year; 21 vs. Michigan this season).
THE FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT
Notre Dame came up with three turnovers (2 FUM, 1 INT) last weekend vs. Michigan, marking the second consecutive week the Irish have had at least two takeaways. That should come as no surprise to many — during the past three-plus seasons (2001-04), Notre Dame has forced two or more turnovers in 28 of its 38 games, including 22 contests where they came up with at least three takeaways.
STOPPING THE RUN IS JOB ONE FOR IRISH
The Notre Dame run defense has been exceptionally sturdy during the past three seasons. Since head coach Tyrone Willingham and defensive coordinator Kent Baer arrived on the scene in 2002, the Irish have held 16 of 27 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, including stingy performances in the first two games this year (BYU – 22; Michigan – 56). In fact, Notre Dame opponents are averaging a meager 1.2 yards per carry through the first two 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 the first two weeks this season, the Irish are sixth in the country in rushing defense.
WALKER NAMED NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK BY SEVERAL MEDIA OUTLETS
After sitting out Notre Dame’s opener at BYU, freshman running back Darius 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. His performance was good enough for The Sporting News, Sporting News Radio and Rivals.com to name the Lawrenceville, Ga., native as its National Player of the Week for Sept. 11. Walker’s numbers also put him in some select company in Notre Dame history:
â€¢ First Irish freshman to rush for 100 yards in a game since Julius Jones had 146 yards against Navy on Oct. 30, 1999.
â€¢ First Notre Dame freshman to score two touchdowns in a game since Matt LoVecchio ran for two scores at USC on Nov. 25, 2000.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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).
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn has spread his pass completions around through the first two games of the 2004 season. Quinn has completed passes to eight different receivers in Notre Dame’s first two contests, a breakdown of three wide receivers, two tight ends and three running backs. Junior wide receiver Rhema McKnight has been Quinn’s favorite target thus far, grabbing 11 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Fellow junior wideout Maurice Stovall is next with eight receptions for 105 yards. Quinn also has tossed touchdown passes to three different players this season: McKnight, senior wide receiver Matt Shelton and senior fullback Rashon Powers-Neal.
BE LIKE MIKE
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 two games this season, Goolsby has been credited with 25 tackles (12.5 per game) while leading the team in both games thus far. In fact, the Joliet, Ill., native rolled up career-best tackle totals in each contests, tallying 11 stops at BYU and 14 tackles against Michigan.
HOYTE MAKING BIG PLAYS
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 Michigan State game with 15 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 two fumbles this season, collected one sack and has three tackles for loss (16 yards).
HOLIDAY IN THE OPEN FIELD
Senior wide receiver Carlyle Holiday continues to show his exceptional ability and versatility for the Irish. The fifth-year man, a former starting quarterback who has become an integral part of Notre Dame receiving corps, assumed the punt return duties for the Irish vs. Michigan and provided an instant spark. Holiday averaged 10 yards per punt runback against the Wolverines, including a long of 15 yards. In addition, he had an impressive 40-yard return wiped out by a penalty.
The Irish have caused five turnovers (3 FUM, 2 INT) this season and have made the most of their opportunities. Notre Dame has parlayed those takeaways into 21 points, which accounts for 46.7 percent of the Irish scoring (45 points) thus far in 2004.
PAPER OR PLASTIC?
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 three sacks so far this season. With one sack last weekend 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
FITZPATRICK SHARP IN THE PUNTING GAME
Senior punter D.J. Fitzpatrick has shown considerable improvement through his first two games this season. Fitzpatrick currently ranks 44th in the country with a 40.65 punting average, a jump of nearly four yards per kick from last year’s average (36.84), and he also has three punts of at least 50 yards, including a career-long 56-yard boot at BYU. In addition, the Granger, Ind., product has dropped four punts inside the opposition’s 20-yard line and he has helped Notre Dame rank 43rd in the country in net punting (37.72) with opponents averaging just 8.2 yards per runback.
THEY SHALL RETURN
â€¢ During the past 18-plus seasons (’86-’04), Notre Dame has produced 81 TDs via kickoff, punt, interception and fumble returns — with the most recent TD runback coming on senior CB Preston Jackson’s 38-yard interception return last weekend at BYU.
â€¢ In contrast, Irish opponents in the past 18 seasons have combined for just 22 total returns for scores.
FITZPATRICK, GIOIA AND SCHMIDT AWARDED SCHOLARSHIPS
Senior placekicker/punter D.J. Fitzpatrick, sophomore placekicker/punter Carl Gioia, and senior fullback Josh Schmidt all have been awarded scholarships for the 2004-05 school year at Notre Dame after serving the team as non-scholarship players, Irish head football coach Tyrone Willingham announced Aug. 26.
Fitzpatrick (Granger, Ind.) enters the 2004 season holding the starting position at both placekicker and punter after serving in both roles in 2003. The senior played in all 11 games last season, starting eight as the placekicker and punter, and made 12 of 17 field-goal attempts (70.6 percent), including a long of 50 yards against Syracuse. Against Navy, Fitzpatrick kicked the winning field goal on the game’s final play in a 27-24 Notre Dame victory. Fitzpatrick also averaged 36.8 yards per punt on 44 attempts, downing seven punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and posting a season-long punt of 50 yards.
Gioia (Valparaiso, Ind.) is Notre Dame’s designated kickoff specialist this season. He did not see game action as a freshman in 2003 after choosing to attend Notre Dame following an outstanding prep career in which he was a three-time all-state selection by the Indiana Football Coaches Association at Valparaiso High School.
Schmidt (Germantown, Tenn.) is a veteran fullback who emerged as a receiving threat out of the backfield in 2003. The recipient of the 2003 Knute Rockne Student-Athlete Award as the team’s top academic performer, Schmidt caught 13 passes for 125 yards last season while playing in all 12 games, including a starting assignment against Brigham Young. In addition to his duties at fullback, Schmidt has been a special-teams stalwart the last two seasons.
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 16-11 (.593) 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.
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 years as a college head coach, Willingham has compiled a solid 60-47-1 (.560) 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).
THE 2004 SCHEDULE
Notre Dame’s rugged 2003 schedule featured nine teams that advanced to bowl games, including three participants in Bowl Championship Series (BCS) contests. The 2004 slate figures to be just as formidable, although the Irish benefit from playing four of their first six contests within the friendly confines of Notre Dame Stadium.
In all, eight bowl qualifiers from 2003 dot the Irish schedule — Michigan (Rose Bowl), Michigan State (Alamo Bowl), Purdue (Capital One Bowl), Navy (Houston Bowl), Boston College (San Francisco Bowl), Tennessee (Peach Bowl), Pittsburgh (Continental Tire Bowl) and USC (Rose Bowl). This season, Notre Dame also will take on three Big Ten Conference schools — Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue — as well as three Pacific-10 Conference institutions — Washington, Stanford and USC. Other conferences represented on this year’s docket include the Mountain West (BYU), Southeastern (Tennessee) and BIG EAST (Boston College and Pittsburgh).
The strength of the 2004 Notre Dame docket is already evident. Through the first two weeks of September, Notre Dame’s schedule is ranked as the toughest schedule in the nation, according to NCAA statistics that compute the ranking based on the cumulative record of all Irish opponents this season (past and future).
Last year’s Notre Dame ledger was ranked third in the nation according to the final NCAA statistical reports, marking the 22nd time in 27 seasons that the Irish have had their schedule ranked in the top 30 in the country. In addition to nine ’03 opponents advancing to bowl games, four of Notre Dame’s first eight foes last year were ranked among the nation’s top 25 at season’s end.
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 163 of its previous 187 games, including 27 of its last 28 games dating back to the end of the 2001 season (the ’03 game at Stanford was not a sellout). 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).
WHEN THE EYES OF THE NATION ARE UPON THEM
Notre Dame is 167-85-3 (.661) 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 195-112-4 (.633) 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.
NOTRE DAME FEATURED PROMINENTLY ON TELEVISION THIS YEAR
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:
â€¢ ESPN’s “College GameDay” is celebrating its 11th season of live remotes from college football’s top games. “College GameDay” will be on site live this weekend in East Lansing, Mich., for the Notre Dame-Michigan State game.
â€¢ 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 will be co-hosted by former Irish split end Derrick Mayes, focuses on all 26 Notre Dame sports and the continuing growth of Irish athletics.
â€¢ 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.
NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS DEBUT ON SIRIUS SATELLITE RADIO
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 www.sirius.com.
TRIO FOR FORMER IRISH GRIDDERS JOIN ND SPORTS PROPERTIES’ RADIO BROADCASTS
Three former Notre Dame football players have joined the broadcast team this season for a pair of radio shows produced by Notre Dame Sports Properties (NDSP) in cooperation with the Notre Dame athletics department, plus U93 (92.9 FM) in South Bend and its parent company, Artistic Media Partners. Mirko Jurkovic and Reggie Brooks provide analysis during the Official Notre Dame Football Postgame Radio Show, which is broadcast on U93 immediately following Westwood One’s coverage of every Irish football game. The 90-minute show, which is presented by Boling Laser Center and hosted by Jack Nolan, also originates live from Gate 3 at the Joyce Center (across from Notre Dame Stadium) after each Irish home game.
Meanwhile, Bobby Brown serves as a co-host on the weekly Official Notre Dame Football Coaches’ Show, which airs live on U93 Mondays at 7 p.m. (EST) from Logan’s Roadhouse in Mishawaka (4225 N. Main Street). Brown is joined by Artistic Media Partners sports director Sean Stires each week for the half-hour show, which includes a weekly segment with Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham, a live appearance by a Notre Dame player or coach, and other features involving the Irish football program.
In addition to airing in the South Bend area, both NDSP shows can be heard live worldwide through the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com).
Jurkovic, who currently works as an account manager for Stryker Endoscopy in South Bend, was a four-year monogram winner as an offensive lineman at Notre Dame from 1988-91 and was a member of the 1988 Irish national championship squad. A native of Calumet City, Ill., Jurkovic started at right guard during his final two seasons and helped Notre Dame post a combined record of 43-7 over the course of his career, including three bowl victories (’89 Fiesta Bowl, ’90 Orange Bowl and ’92 Sugar Bowl).
Brooks, who now is an administrator of production systems in Notre Dame’s Office of Information Technologies, also earned four monograms with the Irish as a tailback from 1989-92, rushing behind Jurkovic in his final three seasons. Brooks was a starter in ’92, helping Notre Dame to a 10-1-1 record and a victory over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, a win that saw Brooks rush 22 times for 115 yards. The Tulsa, Okla., product finished his senior year with 1,343 yards on the ground, the third-highest single-season rushing total in school history, and he still holds the Notre Dame career record for the most rushing yards per attempt (7.6).
Brown, who is beginning his second year of studies at the Notre Dame Law School, garnered four monograms and started for three years as a flanker for the Irish from 1996-99. His best campaign came in 1997, when he caught 45 passes for 543 yards, tying for the 10th-highest single-season reception total in school history. Brown, a Lauderhill, Fla., native, also ranks second on Notre Dame’s single-game pass receptions list, catching 12 balls for 208 yards in a 1999 game at Pittsburgh.
THE 2004 NFL DRAFT
Five former Notre Dame players were selected in the 2004 National Football League Draft. Leading the way was running back Julius Jones, who went to the Dallas Cowboys in the second round (43rd pick overall). Jones was joined by linebacker Courtney Watson, who was taken 17 picks later in the second round (60th overall) by the New Orleans Saints. Safety Glenn Earl was chosen in the fourth round (122nd overall) by the Houston Texans, while fellow defensive back Vontez Duff joined him as a Texan when Houston tapped him in the sixth round (170th overall). Offensive tackle Jim Molinaro was the final Irish player taken, selected by the Washington Redskins in the seventh round (180th overall).
NOTRE DAME IS AMERICA’S FAVORITE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PROGRAM
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.
MAKING THE GRADE
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.
NOTRE DAME EXCELS IN THE CLASSROOM AS WELL AS ON THE FIELD
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 marked the first time a school won the national championship on the football field — as Notre Dame did, finishing 12-0 after a Fiesta Bowl triumph over unbeaten West Virginia — and in the classroom. Including the special mention category, Notre Dame has received some sort of recognition in 23 of 24 years the award has been presented — with Duke next at 21.
TAKING ACADEMIC SUCCESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
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.
“THE SHIRT” NOW AVAILABLE FOR 2004 SEASON
For the 15th consecutive year, Notre Dame Student Activities and Government are sponsoring a T-shirt that benefits scholarship funds, student groups and service projects. In each of the past two years, the initial run of nearly 50,000 shirts sold out prior to the start of the season. In 2002, a record-setting total of 130,000 shirts were sold, with that initial run of 44,000 selling out within six weeks of its debut (at the time, it was one of the earliest sellouts in the history of the project). As a result, Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham began labelling the Shirt-clad crowd as the “sea of green.”
Over the past 14 years, the venture has more than $2.5 million in net profit for worthy causes and serves the dual purpose of promoting spirit and raising funds. Some of the proceeds supported students and employees who have incurred catastrophic accidents, while others benefitted endowment funds and additional monies were given to support service projects for student groups on campus.
“The Shirt 2004” is kelly green for an unprecendented third consecutive year, reminiscent of the original 1990 Shirt, and features this season’s motto, “Onward To Victory.” The short-sleeve shirt is traditionally worn by Notre Dame students and fans at the first home game of each football season. The cost of this year’s shirt is $15 and it is available on campus to the University community and the general public at the Hammes Bookstore, the information desk at the LaFortune Student Center, the Varsity Shop at the Joyce Center and the Alumni Association at the Eck Center. Orders also may be placed by telephone (1-800-647-4641) or on-line through the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com).
TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR 2004 FOOTBALL KICKOFF LUNCHEONS
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 www.und.com.
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: Sept. 24 (Washington), Oct. 1 (Purdue), Oct. 8 (Stanford), 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.
“NOTRE DAME EXPERIENCE” RETURNS FOR 2004 SEASON
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, Notre Dame football trivia and stage activities. Gates open three hours prior to kickoff and will stay open until one hour after the game. Admission is free for all “Notre Dame Experience” events.
ORDER THE 2004 NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL PREVIEW MAGAZINE TODAY
This season marks the 11th edition of the Notre Dame Football Preview Magazine — an official publication by the University of Notre Dame athletic department. The 1994, ’95, ’96, ’97 and ’98 and 2000 editions were voted best in the nation in the special publications competition sponsored by the College Sports Information Directors of America. The preview magazine, published by Ave Maria Press, numbers nearly 100 pages, including game action shots of returning Irish players and coaches, position-by-position breakdowns and a feature on head coach Tyrone Willingham. It’s a collectors item perfect for autographs — with an emphasis on outstanding color photography unavailable in any other publication. The yearbook is priced at $10 (plus $5 for postage and handling) and can be ordered by calling 1-800-647-4641.
NEXT WEEK: WASHINGTON
Notre Dame kicks off a three-game homestand on Saturday, Sept. 25, when it welcomes Washington to Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish and Huskies will be meeting for the fifth time ever, with Notre Dame having won each of the four previous encounters. UW also will be coming to South Bend for the third time, having bowed to the Irish in 1948 (46-0) and 1996 (54-20) — the latter game was the most recent matchup in the series.
Washington (0-1) was idle last weekend, following a 35-16 loss to Fresno State in its season opener on Sept. 4 in Seattle. The Huskies trailed by just four points entering the fourth quarter, but FSU scored three touchdowns (two defensive) in the final 15 minutes to pull away for the win. UW will try to even its record this weekend when it plays host to UCLA in the Pac-10 Conference opener for both teams.